Share Six: August 2022: Travel

I chose the them {Travel} this month because I knew I would only be arriving home from 12 days in Macedonia four days before we were due to go live.

Travel plans to Macedonia started way back in 2019, but circumstances kept postponing it. In December 2018, Amy & Daniel got married in our back garden, however, none of Daniel’s family could be with us. So Amy & Daniel planned to go to Macedonia and have a reception there for his family in 2020. Well we all know that covid happened and that put paid to any traveling. 2021 was the year from hell, and Richard’s health played a big role in us doing anything. In addition Amy was pregnant and was not able to travel. So 2022 comes around and the kids are determined to go back home to Daniel’s family and they wanted us to go with. This would be the time to have his family celebrate their wedding and also have Luka baptized. We would spend almost a week in his home town before heading out on a road trip to see the rest of Macedonia as best we could.

Below is a short synopsis of the traveling we did. Details will follow in additional posts.

There is nothing worse than a cellphone pic, through a tinted glass window at the airport. But I had to take it to start off our travel plans. We were flying Turkish Airlines out of Miami, to Istanbul, Turkey, and then on from Istanbul to Skopje, Macedonia. Travel time was 11 hours to Istanbul, with a 1.5 hour layover (which did not quite happen) and then a 1.5 hour flight time to Skopje. Seeing the kids and my little man, Luka, was a huge relief and such a pleasure. Luka had been gone for 10 days and I missed him. Driving through the countryside traveling to Vinica reminded me of the Natal midlands that I had grown up in.
With just a short time to unpack and a quick shower, I kicked off the afternoon with Amy at a bridal bread making ceremony. From what I understand, traditionally the brides family make a round loaf of bread which is broken by the two families. Since Amy’s family only arrived that day, Daniel’s mother gathered her family and they did the bread making at their home. Of course, chef Luka was in the middle of it. A coin is placed in the bread, and when the bread is broken the person receiving the coin is declared to have good luck for the year.
Vinica is a small town with some history. At the top of the hill is a the ruins of a fortress known as Vinicko Kale and dates back to the Neolithic times. On another hill is a giant cross that overlooks the town. We opted to walk up to the ruins on Friday. Kuddo’s to #babgyjogger stroller. It did some heavy duty all terrain traveling. One thing about getting to the ruins is it is all uphill. It seemed to go on forever. It is then when you realize just how unfit you are and that you cannot actually breathe. I would love to blame the change in climate, and I am sure that contributed a little bit, but unfit is a good word to use for me. The ruins were interesting and the view of town gives a good idea of the size of it. On a side note, I opted to skip the climb to the cross, but Richard did it.
Friday afternoon, after recovering from our hill climbing, Amy, Richard, Luka and I went through to Kochani, which is a slightly bigger town than Vinica. We found an Irish Pub, that really did not have much Irish going on, but the atmosphere was nice and the staff were friendly. The one lady I spoke to was a teacher, but said that jobs were slim and so she was working in the pub. From there we walked around the town, and climbed another hill to a church I had spotted. Lunch was calling and we headed to a small tavern like restaurant for a light snack and some “fan” time to cool down. Luka was really overheated with all the activity so he got to spend the night in air conditioning with his Nuala and Granda.
Saturday was the start of the wedding ceremony. Traditionally the groom steals the bride from her family early in the morning and takes her to his family home where the celebrations begin. Daniels mom had set up an outdoor area of high tops under umbrella’s. The ladies had made a huge amount of food. There was fridges filled with drinks. She had hired a group of musicians who came and played music for 4 hours while the celebrations took place. It was a time of celebration. Everyone enjoyed themselves.
Moving on from the home party we headed to the valley of the mountains where the actual reception would take place. We opted to get dressed there, which in hindsight was probably a mistake. The temps were 103F and there was no air conditioning at the venue, and I was dying just getting strapped into the bustle of my dress. Amy & Daniel had to stand at the entrance to the event and have a photo taken with every single guest. I on the other hand got to hang out with Luka and keep him busy. The evening was wonderful. For the first few hours the guests danced the Horo. There was a short break into contemporary music and then it was back to traditional music. Their groomsman had organized a beautiful fireworks display. The wedding went on until 1am and then we had to drive back to their hometown.
Sunday was a lazy day of rest for everyone. Clean up for the family, but for us we headed to the Park for a beer and downtime. Monday was Luka’s baptism in their family church. Tradition has it that the godfather is the one who presents the baby to the priest, so Zlatko was the person to hold Luka, in his good mood and in his tears. The ceremony was interesting although I did not understand a word of it, but he was anointed with oil and had 3 strands of hair cut and he was dipped in the font of water. He was not too happy with the last part.
Tuesday we began our road trip. We headed to Ohrid via Tikvas Winery. We did a tour, and then stopped for a lunch of meats, cheeses, and salads and of course a bottle of very nice wine.
The drive to Ohrid was through some beautiful mountain scenery.
Ohrid is a lake town. On the other side of the lake are the shores to Albania in certain places. Our hotel was 5 minutes from the town area and we were able to walk along the promenade to the city area. Exploring the downtown area was interesting, walking the town was tiring. Lots of ups and downs, and some straight up’s and steps galore, all different shapes and sizes.
Sunset from the promenade was beautiful and at the tip of the land is the beautiful Church of St John the theologian, something that we would visit in our three day stay.
Wednesday we headed down towards the town of Naum and very close to the Albanian Border. Three quarters of the way down we visited a place called the Bay of Bones. The is an authentic reconstruction of the pile dwelling settlement. It was very interesting to visit, and I took a lot of photo’s of the living style.
From there we headed to the campgrounds at Ljubanishta Beach where we were able to swim in the lake setting below the gorgeous hills. The water was chilly but the day was hot, and I waded in to cool down. We spent a couple of hours there before heading further down the road.
While the Monastery at St Naum was extremely beautiful, I found the walk to the monastery very commercial and a little disappointing. This was an active monastery and so I was expecting more solitude and a time of reflection, not a busy restaurant, a hectic beach and a road full of souvenir sellers. That said the design of the church, and the architecture is stunning and I want to spend some time reading up on the different styles of building over the centuries. The monestary is just a short way away was the Albanian border, but we did not cross it.
On our full second day in Ohrid, we planned to visit the city. I had made a list of 18 places to visit. Some we had done the day before but some I still had to do. We literally walked the town starting out at the Church of St John the Theologian, then heading up to Samoil’s Fortress, then down to the ancient Macedonian theatre, passed the Church of St Sophia, and back into the city. Now that may not sound like a lot but it was a good 4 hours of walking along boardwalks, climbing steps, meandering pathways, and climbing sheer hills to get to the fort. Coming back down had me thanking God, that we had not chosen to go up that way because the road was a steep downhill to the bottom, which meant it would have been a steep uphill to the top. The ladies went back into town to do some shopping in the afternoon. Dinner was an interesting affair. Since Amy, Richard, Luka and I were ready, we walked into town arriving at our restaurant just before the rain started. The rest were behind and got stuck at the hotel we were staying in. The rain was crazy and we ended up feeling like we had just been hit by a freak tropical storm. The wind ripped off the awning, turned over chairs, and tables, there was broken plates and glassware on the floor. Everyone had rushed to the back of the restaurant and the rain was coming in sideways and we were being hit with hail. What an experience. Suffice to say we had dinner there because we were stuck until the water on the road subsided and the rest of the group had dinner at the hotel.
Friday was our day to leave and we detoured through Struga on our way out. Another pretty lake town at the top end of the lake. It had a very attractive river walk. It was fun to see people swimming in the river and diving off the bridges. In one place there was a young guy canoeing in the river.
As we ventured more into the town of Struga we came across an umbrella walkway. After lunch, we began the next leg of our journey through the mountains to the House of the Miyaks in Mavrovo. The house is built in the style of Miyak construction which is stunning. The staff were impeccable and accommodating and that went a long way to a very enjoyable overnight stay. This was down time from the hectic trip. Other than visiting the monastery there was nothing else to do.
The active Bigorski Monastery St John the Baptist was set up on the mountainside higher than the House of the Miyaks. It is a a Byzantine monastery originally built in 1020, it was partially destroyed by fire in 2009. Work began in 2010 to restore the buildings as close to their original style as possible. We had access to walk through the monastery but we were not able to take photo’s in the sanctuary. However, I will say that the paintings on the wall were stunning and I really wish I could have taken them. This was truly one of my favorite parts of the visit. More about this monastery later.
Saturday, and we are in the last stretch. Leaving the monastery we visited another favorite, the Sunken Church called the Old Mavrovo Church. Originally known as the St Nicholas Church, this church served the village of Mavrovo. However around 1952, the government built a hydroelectric power station and an artificial lake and the church got submerged under water. I had seen numerous pictures, some of the with the water to the roof, some with water halfway up the building. It so happened that the day we visited the water level was low and we were able to walk inside the damaged church.
Moving on from the Sunken Church we headed to Matka Gorge. This was a must on Richard list. The gorge is beautiful. Getting there a little more difficult. The Gorge is situated just outside of the capital Skopje. Arriving there you quickly realized that there was chaos with regards to parking and no clear direction on which way to go to get to the various areas of the gorge. However, once we got our direction correct, we made our way to where we could catch a ferry boat that would take us into the gorge. We decided to stop and have a bite to eat at what was an expensive restaurant. Another interesting experience was the toilet situation. I have seen some interesting toilets in my lifetime, but never have I experienced an eastern toilet on a hot sticky day wearing jeans and needing desperately to use the bathroom. Some gymnastics came into play during that experience.
The boat trip took us deep into the gorge where we were able to go into a cave to view stalagmites and stalactites. I am not a cave person. I find them claustrophobic. I went down the first flight of steps and up the second flight and then I turned around and left. I managed to get enough images to satisfy me. That aside, I could climb up and down those uneven steps without someone hovering behind me as I exited the cave and made my way back down to the boat.
The last stop of our trip was the capital Skopje. Very much a city Skopje seems to have two sides outside of the suburbs. Our hotel was situated on the main square of the city, and so we had easy access to both sides. There is the more modern side of the square, and if you crossed the stone bridge, you came to old town Skopje. This is made up of narrow streets of shops and restaurants. Beyond that is the bazaar which we walked through. It had a huge food market and I bought some kerrie (or as I know it curry). There curry is very different to the South African curry, both in color and spices. South African curry is typically hot while the Macedonia curry was flavorful but not hot and spicy.
We decided in the late morning we would head up to the Millennium Cross that over looks the city of Skopje. Getting up to it was by cable car. Once at the top we were able to walk around, and then sit and have a beer. When we went down, we picnicked in the gardens for a short while before heading back to the hotel. I have to be honest that by Monday afternoon I was tired. My feet ached and all I wanted to do was take a siesta. We chilled while Luka was sleeping and when he woke up at 7pm, we headed out to find some food.
Walking back to the hotel after a very pleasant dinner at Gino’s, we were able to see the square all lit up in the Macedonian colors. It was very pretty and I am glad that we were out late enough to see that.

Macedonia was a beautiful experience that we may never have done if it was not for Amy and Daniel asking us to go with. I am grateful that we got to meet Daniel’s mom, brother and sister in law, and their daughter, as well as extended family on both his mothers and father’s side, his groomsmen and friends. We also got to experience some of his culture and understand Daniel a little better. Added to that we got to see a fair bit of the countryside. Hopefully Daniels mother will be able to come out later this year and we will be able to reciprocate the hospitality. Today I get to try to make two different macedonian dishes, kebapi and borek.

Travel rounds out your understanding of the world and life as it is lived by others. It gives you a better sense of knowledge and helps you to be more tolerant of different ways of life. Travel broadens your horizons and gives gives you the opportunity to meet new people, taste new foods, and drink new drinks. Travel is something I wish I could do more often. Next on the list is a visit to family, part of my family history and a place we have always wanted to visit, Australia.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Janet Douglas is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_travel

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

One Comment on “Share Six: August 2022: Travel

  1. Pingback: Share Six: August 2022: Travel | SHARE SIX

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