Stopping over in Skopje

Trip Start Feb 04, 2011
Trip End Nov 04, 2011

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Where I stayed
Super 8 Hotel

Flag of Macedonia  ,
Thursday, April 7, 2011

The train from Belgrade arrived on time at Skopje station which is not the prettiest station in the world. Oh, what the hell. Let's be honest - it's awful, but I'm getting used to false first impressions. The hotel wasn't right near the station but as I had a few hours up my sleeve and as it's not a big city, I decided to walk. The taxi drivers thought I was crazy and clearly I was. The streets are not designed for suitcases, as I found out. I was also noticing how heavy my suitcase had become. One of the wheels had broken so I was in effect, dragging the suitcase for a kilometer without realising. I found the hotel easily and was given some unexpected news when I arrived.

"We're having problems with the plumbing and some of the rooms are flooded so we can either keep your suitcases here until the problem is fixed this afternoon or we can move you to another of our hotels". I actually wasn't expecting to be able to check in so early but I chose to be moved to another hotel which meant I could check in straight away. That meant I could freshen up and shower before meeting Richard at 10am. The hotel was walking distance any way, so it was no problem.

Richard is another polyglot who speaks an extraordinary number of languages. I'm not sure how many to be exact, and I'm not sure if he knows either. Twenty? He's been interviewed by newspapers, TV and radio about his language abilities and now I was going to get to meet him and hang out with him in his new home of Skopje, far from his hometown of Chester in England. He's a fantastic host and we spent some time walking through the older parts of the city, chilling out in cafes and sampling some really tasty Macedonian cuisine in a hidden restaurant that only a local resident would be able to find. I'm really grateful that he was able to give up a whole day for me and later that day we picked up his gorgeous little three year old daughter, who of course also speaks several languages. How impressive!

My next destination was Greece and unfortunately, Greece and Macedonia don't get along too well so it was no surprise that my plans to travel from Skopje (Macedonia) to Thessaloniki (Greece) were to be foiled. Due to budget cuts, Greece had suspended the train from Skopje and tomorrow was the only day that there were no buses running to Greece. Richard had an idea. His brother-in-law could drive me to Thessaloniki as it was only three hours away. Perfect! Of course I would pay as this was not down the road. I was so happy when Richard decided he would join me to Thessaloniki as well. That next morning the three of us set off for Greece and I was like a small child with excitement as we got closer to the border.

Why the over-excitement at arriving in Thessaloniki? I come from Melbourne which is the largest Greek city outside Greece and most of Melbourne's Greeks come from this part of Greece (Makedonia). Greek TV programmes, baklava, orthodox churches, moussaka and Greek Easter are as familiar to someone from Melbourne as they are to someone from Thessaloniki. Melbourne's Greek culture is what makes it unique as an Australian city and any Australian can guess where they are in Australia if they're drinking frappé in a cafe' and eating spanakopita before heading off for a late night souvlaki. Thessaloniki is like home for me!

Richard and Mario spent the afternoon with me in Thessaloniki and although there's not much to see in this city, we had a great time eating and drinking along the promenade overlooking the Mediterranean. As for the hotel - I chose well. It was right on the water and there was a roof garden which served the most amazing breakfast with a killer view of the sea. And there it was on the table. Saganaki (fried cheese). I'm home!     

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