Your Daily Trivia

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Oct 23, 2009

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Flag of Macedonia  ,
Monday, September 28, 2009

Here I am back in Skopje for the night so I can get over to Sofia for my flight to Cyprus.  Usually I don't repeat places but travel in the Balkans is not always the most direct route on earth and even going 150 miles as the crow flies can take ten hours.  Yep, ten hours.  Ten long, long hours on one of those buses that people in Western Europe retired decades ago.   The roads are not always in the best shape and the area is very mountainous.  On the bus from Sarajevo to Pristina there were times when the bus crept along around hairpin turns about 20 mph for an hour at a time.  Trains are also limited here and if people can afford the bus, they pass on the trains.  Evidently trains here are unreliable, break down enroute and run hours late. 

I was here not even a few weeks ago, right?  I can't believe how much a city can change in that short a time.  I had gone to a grocery store and it was shut down.  Roma gypsies had taken over the vacant space next door and were tearing it up as only their nasty living can.  They had even broken through the walls to the store and were stealing food from what I was told at the hostel.  When I walked past it several little fires were going in the parking lot and they were tearing out the insides of the vacant space and burning it. 

In just a few weeks a gang of these lowlifes has invaded Skopje and were out and about harrassing everyone for some money.  Roma gypsies are are found all over the area and if you encounter them, run.  I ran into some in Sarajevo yesterday as well.  Seriously, turn away because they will pickpocket you blind with their schemes.  One will distract a weary person and the others will reach into pockets or purses.  I immediately put my hands in my pockets to protect my stuff and turn away without even making eye contact.  It's a shame these con artist freeloaders are such a problem all over Eastern Europe.  So you are warned if you happen to come across one.

Finding another store wasn't much a challenge but buying the appropriate food evidently is here.  I mistakenly thought going to the grocery store was as easy as anything else in life.  You know...brightly lit, large selection in those brightly lit wide aisles packed floor to ceiling.  A step above the street markets really and a bit of Publix or Kroger right amidst Stalinist highrises.

I was hungry for some tuna and I found a display of anchovies so I knew I was getting hot.  Strong smelling salty fish filets didn't really appeal to me and I searched further down the shelf and found little square tins with pictures of fish, chicken, etc.  These little helpings of pate type spreads looked promising and cheap since I had bought something similar in Poland just a few weeks ago.  Even the packaging had the same inviting look that just makes you want to put a few in your basket.  Why not stock up at 33 cents a pop?

I settled down on a bench greatly anticipating the tuna I was for whatever reason craving.  I carefully peeled the flimsy lid off one of the tins and started dipping my roll into the pinkish colored spread.  The look of horror on the folks across from me made me put my food down a second and of course turn around to see what had gotten their attention.  Obviously it couldn't have been me.  They were now giggling and looking at me so I figured I must have something wrong with my appearance so I brushed my face off.

I took a bite of what I thought was tuna and man did it have an oily and strong fishy taste.  I am all about new tastes and just figured the Balkan tuna spread must have a different assortment of uncharted spices for the American palate.  I took another bite and one of the girls across from me came over and said something in Bosnian.  I responded in English and she said, "sorry.  that is food of a cats."  Now how in the world was I supposed to know that catfood is stacked next door to the anchovies and other people food products?  Don't these people know this type of crap is supposed to have its own 200 foot pet food aisle so it's safely quarantined away from the rest of the grocery store???  Or better yet it should be inside some million square foot pet superstore away from where I shop.  This store devoted maybe two feet of shelving to pets between the olives and anchovies which leads me to believe that either A) Americans have a sick obsession with pets or B) Macedonians don't give a crap about Fluffy.

I guess the cartoon fish on the lid should have tipped me off, but nowhere on it was a picture of a cat.  Come to think of it, the tin was identical to that Fancy Feast crap back home minus the prissy looking cat but again, in Poland people food comes packaged the same way.  Yeah, I ate half the tin before that horrified chick stopped me so I am anxiously waiting for my coat to get all shiny and to start purring in my sleep.  And yeah, cat food is a vile and nasty mess, and I don't believe for a minute anymore any of that anecdotal evidence of old ladies eating this crap.  Well, not unless taste buds die when we slide downhill past 80.

A stray calico cat at the train and bus station later gladly accepted my offerings.  She thanked my largesse by rubbing against my legs and passing some foul smelling gas that about knocked me out.  In fact, she devoured both remaining tins of it and I think I made a friend for life.  Taste truly is in the eye of the beholder.

In my last entry I included a pic of some guy who has a statue in downtown Pristina and someone had even laid flowers at the foot of it.  You know I am all about digging up the obscure and unknown and I learned something today about my journey into Kosovo.  Use this at your Tuesday night trivia contest...

The guy's name is Adem Pajaziti and was a leader of what I think was the Kosovar terrorist group leading the opposition to Serbian forces in the 1990s.  I say terrorist because I got the info from someone partial to Serbs since he is from there.  It's all a matter of perspective here in the Balkans.  Pajaziti was killed in one of the battles against them and the newly formed government in Kosovo pardoned him for any wrongdoings since they could find no proof somehow.  And now he has a statue all to himself right on Mother Theresa Blvd.  How ironic.

I will let you know what I find on the road to Sofia, Bulgaria.  I am sure it will be interesting.

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