Don't Call Me Chinky!!!

Trip Start Jun 22, 2012
Trip End Jul 30, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel Pamela

Flag of Macedonia  , Negotino,
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A cold snap gripped Thessaloniki today, with a predicted high of only 29 C - better break out the parkas!  Though still toasty, sub 30 C temperatures are a nice respite from the heat of the past couple of days in Greece, making strolling around town a far more pleasant experience.  However, one thing to keep in mind in the Balkans is the strength of the sun's rays, as 29 C here feels a hell of a lot hotter than 29 C in Calgary!

Of course, the heat here can be a good thing, as it makes the excellent Greek coffee taste even better, when it served over ice.  Plus, this type of weather makes watching all the **pretty Greek girls (of which there are many) an even more enjoyable activity. 

** If Benita asks, I do not know this personally, as this was only discovered through discussions with male tourists and locals.  I do not enjoy girl-watching, nor condone the chauvinistic practice of gawking, glaring, or ogling such nice young ladies.  The objectification of women is wrong, and men that participate in this practice are all disgusting pigs!. 

Thessaloniki's port area is an interesting one, with cinema and photography museums, and an art gallery, in addition to the massive Kitchen Bar.  You could see this becoming a very desirable place to live, if they were to expand outwards and erect housing - waterfront property close to all the action, with spectacular views, at least for homes facing away from the ugly industrial section of the port.

During initial planning of this trip, Greece wasn't even on the radar - the two nights spent here were originally earmarked for Kosovo, but the flight from Barcelona to Pristina was both expensive and inconvenient, with a connection in Switzerland.  The idea of arriving there just before midnight and flying out again at 6:30 AM wasn't appealing, either having to sleep at the airport or check into a hotel for just a few hours.  But ... a flight into Thessaloniki was just over half the price, and involved a fairly decent daytime connection through Athens.

It was a good excuse to check out Greece, a country high on my list for a number of years, but never convenient to visit and fully enjoy all that it has to offer during my preferred months of travel.  The heat during July and August would be brutal, and what's the point of visiting during winter when you can't swim in the ocean or enjoy the beaches?  But having had a nice little taste of the country, it's making me think of coming back next summer ...

The border crossing into Macedonia was a pain, taking nearly 90 minutes to go through customs on both sides - the checkpoint wasn't particularly busy, making me wonder if it was a result of animosity between the two countries, with the controversy surrounding the name Macedonia.  Historically, "Macedonia" encompassed regions of Bulgaria, Greece, and the FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), the most widely-accepted name of the country I'm crossing into. 

When the modern nation of Macedonia was born in the early 90s, Greece protested the name, fearing that it implied a claim on the Macedonian region in Northern Greece, resulting in international usage of the name FYROM.  But even after all this time it's still a sore point in the region, with Greece not wanting to accept FYROM, which they considered to be only a provisional name until a more suitable one could be chosen.  In situations like this, with such a complicated and bloody history in the region, it's impossible to know who is right, if anyone is even right at all.  But until it's resolved, the name Macedonia remains taboo, at least in Greece ...

The location of the border crossing leads smack dab into the middle of Macedonia's wine country (betcha didn't know it even had one, did you?).  Similar to Bulgaria's long and storied history of wine production, it was something I only discovered during trip planning and decided that the Tikves wine region was a must see, despite it not being at the top of most Macedonian itineraries.

Coming from Greece by public transport, the easiest first stop is Negotino, a small little town that is big on wine.  The population is somewhere around 20,000, but you wouldn't know it on this evening - it seemed like the entire town was out on patios tonight, watching Spain vs Portugal in the Euro Cup, even though the game played until past midnight.

Negotino had a great buzz tonight, but sadly, I did come across some racism as I ate dinner - though Asian tourists are fairly common in Greece, and there is even a relatively sizable Chinatown in Thessaloniki, I doubt there are many Asians seen in Macedonia.  The family next to me kept saying "chinky, chinky" - normally, it would've been offensive, until I remember that in the Balkans, "cinki" means pancake or crepe.  They were discussing what kind of dessert they wanted!
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