Share Six: November 2022: Nature

Nature for me is the wetlands. I haven’t been a lot lately because Friday has become my Luka day and it’s been too hot to take him in the wetlands until recently. However, it is our get out time, before sleep time. I cannot carry my big lens and push the stroller, so I have had to stick with the 70-300mm. Maybe next time I will give it a try. In addition, every time I stop, he grumbles. Our last walk we had to stop halfway around to have breakfast, and then a bit later for his bottle of water. Overall he is so good. Walking past someone I got the comment “he sure looks chilled”. There is Luka resting his feed up on the food tray. Gotta love this boy!

Woodpecker at the bird feeder with food in it’s mouth
Wood pecker back for a second round.
I’m loving the fall colors.
A red winged blackbird letting me know that I was too close.
An Anhinga looking for breakfast.
More fall colors
A Spoonbill in flight.
I love the defused colors in the background of this image.
A male grackle.
Waterdrops on a Palm branch.

Nature is everything that has life around us. It is getting away from the bricks and mortar and breathing in life. It’s the smells, the fresh air, the wildlife, the scenery that always captures my attention. Working on this blog makes me want to get out and go for another walk.

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 of @wiredtothemoon_ 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 to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_nature

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

30 Minutes in the Life: October 2022

I am interrupting the Macedonia blogs to cover our newest event. Our baby boy turns 1. Where did time go? 2021 was a crazy year, and I really thought things would slow down a bit this year but they have not. We are rushing to Christmas like we are on a bullet train. Life has it that virtually all our birthdays fall from September to November. It as busy and sometimes expensive couple of months if you add Christmas into it. However, it’s really hard to not spend money on our little monkey. One year ago we looked at this tiny face and fell in love. Suddenly a year has passed and so many changes have happened in this little man.

Amy had decided to do a Wild One birthday party theme and so I said I would make the cake. Please note that I am not a baker and I have never made a birthday cake before but I planned to challenge myself. What I discovered is that working with fondant is fun. It is like playdough for adults. Baking on the other hand is not that much fun. I hate it when you buy brand new non stick pans and they end up sticking and the cake breaking. I also learned that rolling out fondant and covering cakes is not that easy either. I made plenty of mistakes that I could fortunately hide under a bright blue waterfall. The fun part for me however was making all the creatures and their bits and pieces.

Lesson learned – do not ever use glitter fondant again. It does not set. I made the elephant and lion using a glitter fondant. The lion landed up in the garbage bin and I used the elephant on one of his smash cakes. Oh yes, he had two. One for the day before his party as Amy had friends come down for the weekend to celebrate his birthday but were unable to stay for his party. I can safely say he was not too impressed with the smash cake idea.

I started out with a concept (excuse the animals but I knew what they were). I had searched through a number of ideas. Loved the idea of a waterfall. Decided a hippopotamus would languish in the bottom pond and a gator in the upper pond. I had this wonderful idea of palm trees holding up a happy birthday banner. That said the trees looked great but the fondant never set and so in the end I cut the happy birthday off and ended up stretching it across the waterfall.

Next came the actual animals. As I said making them is like playing with playdough and following a lot of tutorials. First I made an elephant (who never hardened), then a giraffe. Then I made the hippopotamus and a zebra. After that I made the lion. I was never really happy with him. I made a leopard, who was a touch too orange, but it was only after that, that I found color mixing charts. I am holding onto those because this cake making story could become addictive. Just close your eyes when you add up the costs.

The monkey was fun and adding the banana’s seemed to make him so much better. Last but not least I wrapped a snake around a candle.

The grass was made in a mold as were the butterflies. Each rock was a blend of colors to make them look more interesting. Flowers were made from tools I purchased or by hand. Below is the final result.

Our little man turned one today. It has been a year of abundant love, baby giggles, sloppy open mouth kisses and those heart warming cuddles. Oh, but how my heart smiles when I think of all those wonderful moments. Even yesterday we sat and he would giggle and I would laugh and then he would giggle again. My heart just melts.

Amy had created a beautiful setting for his birthday and we got to barbecue and enjoy lunch while Luka was actually sleeping. He did sit a the party table for a while but got a little cranky.

When he woke up it was cake time. We got to sing happy birthday and he got to wonder what the heck we were all doing. Amy & Daniel got to celebrate him too.

Then it was time for the smash cake (number 2). He did not seem too interested in getting his hands dirty. He pushed at the zebra a bit before granda came along and showed him how to get his hands deep in the cake. The look of horror on his face at his dirty fingers makes me laugh – get it off, get it off!!! 🙂 🙂

Last but not least he got to tuck into his presents, or rather his mom did. I look forward to the age where he just rips the paper off to get to what is underneath.

He was certainly spoiled by all and we were tripping over toys everywhere. Roll on Christmas when he gets more toys. I remember that feeling of having way too many toys. I have tried to limit mine to educational toys and clothes but there is just so many cute things out there.

Next stop is Halloween, and Luka will be Peter Pan, Amy is dressing as Wendy, Daniel is dressing as Captain Hook. Cameron and Kathryn are John Darling and Tinkerbell. Cody and Carter, the service dogs are dressed as a crocodile and a skunk. Yours truly is dressing as Smee. Hopefully we are going to have fun with this.

Then we are into November, and Richard and I share a birthday, and I am going to attempt to make a topsy turvy cake. I am not holding my breath on what it will look like but I have been reading up on how to make them

Then it is Thanksgiving and a weeks vacation. Then 2 more weeks of work and it’s Christmas and 2 weeks of vacation. We are excited to have Daniel’s mom join us for Christmas this year. Finally the embassy has opened up again and she was able to get her visitors visa. It is hard to believe how quickly 2023 will be here. But since this blog goes live on Halloween, it just leaves me to wish you all a very spooky night and enjoy the fall weather, I know that I am.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. I always love looking at the sneak peaks and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what Kristina of Hello Olivia Photography has for you this month, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: October 2022: Moody

{Moody} is the theme for this month and when I picked my images I have to be honest moody was kind of where I was at.

That morning I had attended the funeral of a colleagues husband who had passed away of cancer. I felt sad, down and frustrated. But this funeral also felt very close to home. You see Richard, in February 2021, was diagnosed with melanoma, and for a while we did not know which way things would go. It’s such a lot to process and it is hard to know what to say to the person who has been diagnosed. Then things seemed to turn for the better for Richard, and we hope and pray that it continues that way. In the September 2021, my colleagues husband was diagnosed and the following September 2022, he was dead. Sitting there, reminded me that life is so fragile, it could have been me sitting in that position.

I went home that day and posted the following on Facebook “Life is short. I was feeling philosophical last night. I am sure the wine helped. I had spent time with a friend whose husband had passed away. He was so young. Today I attended his celebration of life. It’s these moments that remind me of how grateful I am for my family and friends. It is also a reminder to tell those I love, how much I love them. Give them the hugs they may not want because I don’t know whether I will be able to hug them again. Don’t let those moments slip away. Life is short and time waits for no one.”

Life is precious and the unexpected can happen at the drop of a hat.

My mood remained moody and reflective. We have recently had a lot of bad weather. Wet, overcast, depressing, rainy weather. I am fortunate that I work from home but sometimes I still end up driving in the rain. That kind of weather makes me stressed and somewhat moody. Tuesday’s pre-hurricane Ian weather was a fine example. We knew there was a hurricane coming in. Wednesday the office was going to be closed, as were the clinics. So Tuesday I decided after my morning zoom meeting to head across to the clinic. Mmm, here comes the rain again. It was so dark, and moody, and heavy that you could barely see in front of you. Even driving home it was not great. Already we were feeling the effects of the incoming hurricane’s outer bands.

You sit waiting for the path to become clear, then you sit and watch to see whether the path will change. Hurricane Ian did not change it’s direct path but it did wobble to the south. Had it gone a little further south, I think we would have felt a bigger impact.

From 8:30pm Tuesday evening the emergency sirens on the east coast of Florida kept going off. It went off 4 times between 8:30pm and 5am. I have to confess, hurricanes we have been through, tornado’s not so much. We have a couple of safe spots in our house – our laundry, our downstairs guest bathroom. and under our staircase. None have space for more than 1 person. I have to confess – I went downstairs for the first siren, stayed downstairs until after the second siren, and then I went upstairs to bed, only to be rudely awakened by the next two sirens. I could not see myself spending the entire night down in the bathroom or laundry.

It’s 5am and your mind is foggy. You walk to the bathroom and switch on the light and it is a huge relief that you actually have power. The wind, rain, lightning and thunder through the night was hectic, and it was only the outer bands of the north east quadrant of the storm that we were experiencing. Then you turn on the TV and discover that the tornado touched down 20 minutes away from where you live. In fact, halfway between where we live and where both kids now live. The touchdown was actually on the main road they turn off of but a little way away from them. The first thing you see is the damage to the communities where the tornado came down. It hit a big retirement community, possibly the one next door and the Home Depot. It hits home that it could have been you while you were sleeping. And while the emergency notice said “go to your basement of safe room” the reality is that no one in South Florida has as basement in their home.

This was a first hurricane for Daniel, and he said it was loud and scary. Little does he know what it is like when it actually hits you. 2005 we were hit by Hurricane Wilma, and it was bad. That was our first and last hurricane season without shutters. I watched Richard stand, with a towel wrapped around his head, a thick jacket on and jeans, pushing the bowing glass doors outwards against the wind. The eye hit us on both sides of our property.

That said you walk around in a fog. 5am is way to early for me. Luka was coming down. I was worried about what the weather would be like. Turned out that other than light showers, the day was okay. And then we waited and watch the storm go in on the West Coast of Florida and said a prayer of gratitude that it was not coming in to us. I have a photographer friend who lives in that area and she said this was the scariest thing she has ever been through and hopes never to go through it again.

The rose amongst all of these moody moments is Luka. We had him Wednesday to Friday afternoon. Amy was in Spain on business and Daniel is a teacher and so once the storm was passed, school theoretically would start, but the day care was closed. So he came to Granda and Nuala which turned out perfect in that our offices were closed Wednesday and Thursday and I don’t work Fridays. Each day we thought school would start again. Daniel did end up going in on Friday but they had no air conditioning or electrical power, so he came back home. Luka being in our home brings joy. His laughter and giggles are a blessing. Even those whiney moments are blessings. And when you try to put him to sleep and he is not tired (or even overtired) he is up and down on the bed like a crazy child. Just when you think he is about to go to sleep the cat jumps up on the bed and off he goes again. Eventually he will go to sleep with me almost asleep next to him on the bed. I shift him to the crib and then 1am his is awake and wanting comfort. So into the bed he comes. Richard did that one night and then complained that Luka sleeps like a starfish and he moved to the spare room. But to watch Luka wake up and see the smile on his face chases away the cobwebs, the moody feelings and brings a smile to my face.

And while we smile, our heart breaks. Our heart breaks for those who were severely impacted by Hurricane Ian. For those who have lost everything, – their businesses, their homes, their vehicles, and some, even their lives. Hurricane Ian has left devastation on the West Coast of Florida. One of the best ways to help is to find a reputable organization to donate to. We cannot go in there but we can financially help those who can. This is not a quick fix, this is going to take a long time to repair, rebuild or replace that which has been lost.

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 of @wiredtothemoon_ 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 to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_moody

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

30 Minutes in the Life: September 2022

For this month’s 30 Minutes in the Life, I am going to continue to share our trip to Macedonia. This is more than 30 minutes but I am sure the bloggers will understand. Once again these photo’s are a mix of camera pics and cellphone pics. Often it was hard to maneuver a camera in such tight spots. Added to that was the red and green reflection of the awnings.

In fact, today’s share is the whole reason we went to Macedonia. As I mentioned before Amy and Daniel were married in 2018 in a very small wedding in our back garden. Daniels family was unable to attend. So it has always been Daniel’s desire to go back home and have a reception for his family and friends. Today is Saturday in our time away and it is the day that the party will happen.

The way I understood the traditions, Daniel said that in normal situations, the groom would go to the brides house early in the morning and steal her away to his home, where there would be celebrations before the actual wedding. Of course, Amy’s home is a long way away from Macedonia so there was not stealing the bride.

The wedding party was split into two events. The first would take place at Daniel’s mothers home. When we arrived in the morning they were busy setting up the awnings and tables and chairs. There were two huge shop fridges outside filled with soda, water, beers, various forms of alcohol and their national drink, rakija.

In addition they had hired traditional Macedonian musicians to come and play music. One of the instruments looked vaguely like bagpipes

Poor Lukie was not quite sure what was going on. He had never heard such a loud noise before. But before long that little boy was the life and soul of the party and was past from one person to another. Here Daniel tried his best to block at least one of his ears.

It was good for Daniel to be back with his family and friends. He thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the celebrations. His two best men were awesome and really helped Richard and I to fit in. Both of them spoke English well and so we were able to communicate a learn a little more about Daniel.

As guests arrived, Luka got to meet and greet everyone of them. This event was relatively small, about 50 people who were either family or very close friends.

Bride and Groom are expected to dress up, but with temps of 105F, I suggested to Amy that she wear the dress that she was originally married in, and change into her new dress at the venue for the actual wedding reception.

Luka got to meet Daniel’s uncle, who seemed to fall in love with him.

Daniel’s mom went to so much effort to make not only this party, but also the wedding reception as special time for Amy and Daniel. She was so grateful to have them there to celebrate with.

Luka seemed to enjoy getting a little closer to the musicians.

Once or twice I ventured inside with him just to cool him down in front of the fan or to let him rest from being passed around. But before long he was back outside again.

This picture melts my heart. In the beginning of 2020, I was not even sure that Richard would be alive to see this little man, let alone get to enjoy every moment he can with him. I am so grateful to my God that he is. I am grateful that he was willing to travel that far to be a part of this event.

For these two special people, this three hour event was just the beginning of what would be an amazing day. It would also be a very long day. Look out for the evening part of the celebration in the next blog.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. I always love looking at the sneak peaks and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what  Kristina of Hello Olivia Photography has for you this month, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Kocani, Macedonia

We had climbed Vinicko Kale, and now it was time for us to head to Kocani for the afternoon. Kocani is about 15 or so minutes from Vinica and we had the most interesting ride. When we got to the house, the car was already decorated in wedding finery in preparation for Saturdays event, and the main reason we were in Vinica. While everyone was working on wedding plans, Amy, Richard, Luka and I were playing tourist.

Kocani, on first impression, is much larger than Vinica. Reading about Kocani that impression was confirmed The population is almost 3 x more than Vinica, the number of people living there is around 28 000. The population is made up of about 90% of Macedonians, 5% Roma, 3% Turks, 0.5% Vlachs (I added a link because I have not heard this terminology before), 0.2% Serbian, and 0.1% other.

I noticed a lot more apartment complexes around the town.

The Kocani River runs through the center of town and creates a beautiful river walk. One block of buildings back from the river is a peaceful outdoor entertainment area, coffee bars, restaurants, shops, and a children’s play area.

I loved this – Life is too short to wear boring clothes. I also think life is to short to not be exploring everything around us. There is a whole world out there.

Below, the story of our vacation. Carrying the stroller up and down stairs, hills, walkways etc. Luka did not complain at all. I let them do the carrying and I took photo’s lol.

I loved this image below of Marilyn Munroe on the walls of what appears to be a restaurant in Gadsby style.

We were heading to an Irish Pub that Amy had been to a couple of times. The look was somewhat Irish but the beers and menu were not. We had the standard Macedonian beer Skopsko IPL. One of my favorite finds was the beggars in Macedonia. They came with four legs and were all feline. There is a huge population of what I assume are feral cats and they are the restaurant beggars. I loved them.

I got to chat with the waitress at the restaurant. She was an English teacher but she said there were no jobs so she was working as a waitress.

When we were leaving the Irish Pub I spotted this church in the distance and asked if we could make our way to it. Little did I know we were going up and down hills again.

Below is one of the views of the housing in Kocani. We walked the streets to the church because the sidewalks have cars on them.

I was fascinated by this tree growing up the wall of this shop. Turning around to take a fuller image I realized that this was a grape vine that had grown up the side of the building and the leaves and grapes formed the awning.

Back up hill and making our way to the church I had spotted. Like Vinica, I saw piles of wood stacked against walls and houses. This wall is the external wall to the church.

Church St George, is situated just outside of the main riverwalk area, slightly up on the hill. I could find little information on this church but from what I did find it was apparently built in 1915 on original foundations.

Church St George, is an orthodox Macedonian church. I loved the design of the building with stone and plaster and traditional red style tiles on the roof. The grounds were immaculate, and we were able to walk around without anyone stopping us. We did not, however, go inside.

One of my favorite things that I saw in Macedonia with the churches was that quite often there were miniature replicas in the gardens.

Lastly we stopped in at Restaurant Kaj Pace for a late afternoon meal. We were all hungry. This was a great restaurant, some of it undercover and some areas had a more garden feel. My favorite part, I have to confess, was that the wait staff moved a giant fan over to us. Phew, with 104F temps we were dying. That fan was a blessing.

Of course, it was back to beer again. For food we ordered shopska salad which is made of cucumbers, tomatoes, mixed in olive oil and covered with a salty cheese, not unlike feta but looked very different. This appears to be a staple salad in Macedonia and we would eat it many times in the days to come.

Amy also wanted cheesy chips, which sounded great. The first taste of the chips was a bit of a shock as the cheese was salty. Amy tells me there is two types of cheese in Macedonia, a gouda type cheese which they call white cheese, and salty cheese. In addition we shared ribs as well which were excellent. What I loved about eating in Macedonia was that we could order a number of plates of food, and all share that food.

We headed back home in the wedding car, to a wonderful evening of meeting new family members, Daniels brother, sister in law and niece. It was a great day, busy with the climb and then the tour of Kocani. It felt good to stop and chat and learn a bit more of our new extended family.

Heading back to the hotel and the air conditioning, we took a little bundle of love along with us. Luka was dealing with a heat rash and Amy thought it would be good for him to sleep in the cooler temps. I made him a bed on the couch and placed chairs along the edge so that he could not roll out. He slept like a log, through the whole evening.

Saturday is going to be a busy day. Rich and I took Luka for a walk in the lower side of Vinica, then we got to celebrate for 3 hours at the house, before heading to the wedding venue. If I thought Friday was a long day, Saturday was going to be even longer.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Vinica, Macedonia, Hiking to Vinicko Kale

Today is Friday, the second day of our trip. The family is busy getting ready for the events that will take place on Saturday. Today Amy is going to be our guide and show us around Vinica. This morning we are going to walk to Vinicko Kale.

I learned about Vinicko Kale some years ago when Amy took some of her photography students up to the ruins to do light painting one evening. She also has a photograph of herself taken standing in part of the ruins and honestly it looked like she was standing in the map of Africa. So many overlaps to our growing up in South Africa and what we saw in Macedonia, although I will say I never spent time in ruins in South Africa.

Vinicko Kale sits above the village of Vinica. I am a bit of a romantic, with an appreciation of a blood thirsty battle. I love reading history of the Scots. Stories of the way they lived, and the battles that took place fascinate me. Stories such as Troy, 300, Braveheart, King Arthur, I love them all.

So when I think about Vinicko Kale, I think about a fortress built to defend a city. A beacon on a hill in a country where life could be threatened at any given moment. I think about men and women, living through these times. And I think about how much of a privilege it is for me to walk through these ruins and ruminate on life gone by.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, most of the walk was uphill. Aside from a short detour downhill to get to the road that went up to the ruins, it was an uphill climb. And I confessed, I am unfit!. I come from a family of asthmatics, and while I do not have asthma, this kind of exertion honestly makes me feel like I do. Add allergies and altitude and my breathing is the pits. So along the way, I would stop and take photos of the scenery, and the flowers and catch my breath. We passed some stairs and I gave thanks that we would not be climbing those but rather walking the road.

This was where we were heading – up to the ruins of Vinicko Kale. Reaching the top we were rewarded with the spectacular view of the town of Vinica. I mentioned previously that there are about 10, 800 or so people living in Vinica. Walking around the town, I would not image that many people, but the view from here makes it much easier to understand those numbers.

To be honest I wish I had a drone. What we saw is not the full picture of the ruins, they are far bigger. Vinicko Kale is situated at an altitude of 400m. The ruins themselves are about 250m x 150m, and spread across the hillside and onto the surrounding hills.

So what is the story with Vinicko Kale. According to what I have read, Vinicko Kale was discovered in 1954. Around 1978, 5 fragments of terracotta Christian icons were discovered. These icons dated back to Neolithic times, and through to the Middle Ages. This has sparked a real interest in the ruins.

The findings of the icons has sparked archaeological excavations since about 1985. What was found was the history of these ruins which they believe began around Neolithic times and stretched through to the Middle ages. It appears that various identifying features were found in amongst the ruins, such as “benches”, plumbing installations, walls of what appears to be a church.

There was a great site on the web that gave a lot more information on the ruins than I had found. You can learn more if you go here.

I read a number of sites that mention tombs and the excavation of a female tomb. In the excavation process they found glass and bronze gilded bracelets and bronze rings. Some of the icons found appear to have been mounted of the walls of tombs

Looking from where we stood, I believe we could see the town of Kochani, which we would visit later in the day.

As you look over the town of Vinica, the church that you see in the middle, is the church where Luka would be baptized on the Monday.

Above the hill of Vinica, and in fact many towns that we visited stood a tall Cross. Macedonia is made up of a number of religions. Most Macedonians traditionally follow the Macedonian Orthodox Christianity. However, the Albanians, Turks, & Roma are typically Muslin. One of the observations that I saw was there were many small Orthodox churches, and there were also many mosques. Since I managed to get a photo of the cross from the ruins, I opted not to climb another hill just to see the cross.

While we marveled at the beautiful ruins, this little man slept through. I was so amazed at how well he adapted to the busy schedule that we had. He was a real trouper. And his baby jogger was the best investment Amy made before traveled. Oh and the cheap octopus like battery operate fan that she could attach to his stroller to cool him down

Heading back down, I thought Richard and Amy would take the road. I optimistically thought I would take the stairs and meet them as they came around. But no they decided it would be quicker to carry the stroller down the flights of stairs. Below is an example of just a short section of the stairs heading up and down the hill, if you opted not to take the road up to Vinicko Kale.

Heading back into town, I was dragging, simply turning around and taking photos along the way. This always happens and before I know it Richard is way ahead of me. Amy is like her father. They do not walk slow. Me on the other hand, I want to take in what is around me.

One of the best moments of this morning, was right before I headed up the short hill back to the hotel. I was taking photos, and these two men below asked me to take their photo. I do not know them, I could not speak their language other than to say hello, but I got the message that they would like me to take their photo. These are the moments I love. They are spontaneous, they are moments that bring joy.

Vinicko Kale, in my mind, was the first line of defense for the ancient dwelling place. A place where the hustle and bustle of people made the fortress a thriving place of industry. Lying on one of the busiest economic roads, Vinicko Kale would see many travelers, and perhaps many who would want to subdue all and take over the fortress. In my mind, battles took place, and men and women rose up to defend, but, of course, that is all in my mind.

If you find yourself in Vinica, definitely take the walk up to Vinicko Kale, embrace the ruins of history, allowed your mind to imagine what it was like back in the day. Then go down to the village and enjoy the history that is found within this town.

Next blog we head to Kochani, a slightly larger town than Vinica, which was about 15 minutes away from where we were.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: September 2022: Intentional

Liz from It’s Still Life Photography by Elizabeth Willson chose our theme {Intentional}. This was going to challenge me. I had to really sit and think about it. I have not had a lot of time to myself this past 2 weeks. Aside from my Luka days which always seem to be more than Friday (and I am not complaining), I have had a change in job description. I have been asked to take over two areas that our ex Finance Officer was handing, insurances & employee benefits along with HR. I may loose the HR later but right now it is on my plate. It has been a learning curve. So I had to go back and look at what I had been intentional about recently.

Macedonia was so different to what you see in South Florida. South Florida is so manicured that it is virtually impossible to see a weed. Whereas in Macedonia there was a wildness to the flora on our walk we were taking, and also plenty of wildflowers. On our walk to Vinicko Kale, the ruins of the fortress that sits on top of the hill, I was intentional about looking for the beauty that surrounded us. That and stopping every so often to breathe. The walk up hill was a killer. I am unfit, that goes without saying. However, while I am not asthmatic, I come from a family that does suffer from asthma. My allergies tend to play up when I hit dry climates and the altitude affects my breathing. So I would stop and take photos, and catch up on my breathing at the same time. As a result Amy and Richard were always way ahead of me on the hike.

Macedonia’s topography undulates. We were constantly going up and downhill. We had to go downhill to get to the point where we could go uphill to Vincko Kale. And then it all went uphill. While for many, the sides of the road may seem overgrown, I loved seeing all the wildflowers. Some of them may have been weeds, but they were beautiful flowering weeds. Nature has so many beautiful specimens to offer and I was seeing a good few of them here in Vinica as we walked.

About halfway up the hill I stopped to breathe again, and to breathe in the beauty of our surroundings. Florida is so flat that it is so amazing to be able to look around and see hills, valleys and mountains again. It reminded me so much of the countryside we used to explore in South Africa.

I have no idea of any of the names of the flowers sadly, but they definitely captured my attention. The image below is the ruins of Vinicko Kale, a fortress set on top of the hill that dates back to the Neolithic times. This is where our uphill walk was taking us.

No only were the flowers stunning but I was blown away by the spiderweb below. It appeared that the spider created this tunnel through to where it waited.

After huffing and puffing my way up the hill, with all my {Intentional} stops to breathe and seek beauty, the view from the top was spectacular. It was of the city below. Now while the walk downhill may not be bad, the last little stretch uphill had me huffing and puffing again.

Doing things {Intentionally} is not a bad thing. I intentionally plan before we go. I like to know where I am going and what there is to see. When I am there, I am intentionally looking for the beauty that is around me. Intentionally trying to connect with what the country has to offer. I loved our trip to Macedonia and a journey into an area of the world I have never been before.

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 Katherine of Cobert Photography 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.

If you want to learn more about the Fortress Vinicko Kale, then look out for the next blog due to go live later this week.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_travel

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Macedonia: Vinica

Vinica was the town we would be in for the next 5 days. Today we are going to explore some of the town and a little bit of the history. We often have preconceived ideas of what to expect.

Like most of Europe the cities are full of history. I had already used my google man to do some exploring but Vinica was too small to explore. The town was so interesting, we loved meeting family but, best of all, the welcome in Vinica exceeded my expectations. Like most countries that originally formed part of the Soviet block there is not a lot of infrastructure and the income level is not high. Vinica is found in the north east of Macedonia about 1 hour from the capital Skopje. Vinica is also the center of the Municipality of Vinica.

Vinica is a small town with a population of 10, 863 inhabitants. Broken down the town is made up of predominately Macedonians, but there is also a small group of Roma, Turks and Aromanians as well. It is located between the Golak and Obozna mountains and at the foot of the Plachkovica mountains.

The name Vinica is derived from the word vine, and Daniel tells me that Vinica was at one time well known for it’s vineyards. Walking around the town you will see vines growing on awnings outside of the houses.

This morning we walked up the street above to Daniel’s family home to meet up with Amy. We were heading to the Park Hotel for breakfast. Breakfast was good. We had omelets that cost us about $4 each. Coffee was good and they accommodated my milk and hot water request. I drink tea but only certain teas. The coffee was strong for the most part, mainly Turkish.

Luka ate some tomato’s at breakfast and had a bad reaction to them so Amy rushed off to the pharmacy to get an anti histamine to settle the reaction down. Looking back she feels like the blotchy face may have been the second time he had a reaction to tomatoes. We later walked up to the fort so he slept most of the way.

What was interesting for me, and to some degree worried me, but I am sure that up north USA you will see the same thing in winter. The amounts of firewood stacked in the streets and against the houses is incredible and I am sure that in winter this is all used. But I have to confess I kept thinking fire hazard. Oh me, of the state (Florida) of eternal heat. And if I am confessing, I have to be honest and say “hats off” to anyone who can live for months in snow.

Vinica has fallen under a number of different times. Neolithic times, Byzantine times, the Ottoman empire and the Yugoslavia times. Neolithic times is defined as the Stone Age, in around 4500BC. Byzantine times was apparently when the Eastern Roman Empire split in about 395CE until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in about 1453. Last but not least Yugoslavia from 1929 after the war until the 1980’s when the federation broke up.

There are three schools in Vinica, 2 primary and 1 high school. Amy taught English, through the Peace Corp at one of the schools, over a 27 month period. I had hoped to travel over while she was there but that did not happen.

In preparation for traveling I pulled up a map of Vinica and plotted out what to do and see. I will be honest, there is not a lot of “sights” to see in Vinica but on my list of things was St Arhangel Michael (where Luka would be baptized), the school where Amy taught, the St Apostal Luka, the Mosque, the Fortress, known as Vinicko Kale, the City Museum, St Pavale. To be honest we did not get to all of them, but Vinica was about family and we did a lot of that. There is also a cross on top of the hill, but after hiking to the fort, I was not up to hiking to the cross. I am unfit, the altitude affected my breathing and it was just so hot. Temps were sitting around 103 F. However, walking around the town, there were many things of interest, parks, coffeeshops, general shops etc.

One thing I did notice about Vinica, which we are just not used to anymore, was the overhead power lines. I have to think it would be an American Electricians nightmare. Daniel’s brother told me that the power system was sold to an Austrian company and they are required to only use that form of power. As you will see in other images, in winter wood is their main source of fuel, and they have big stoves in the basement that heat up the houses.

Amy showed us the apartment above that she lived in for at least 18 months. It was the lower right apartment of this building. It was perfect for the quick walk to school.

Hotel Central was the hotel that we stayed at and I will say in all honesty that it was well worth the stay. Not only was the room comfortable, but they provided a breakfast for us each morning. They also offered a gym and a spa. As much as I wanted to get a massage, trying to fit it in with all that was going on was not happening. Below the hotel was a shop where we could go and buy water and any other items we may wish to snack on. It was very convenient given that the temperature on most of the days. I also loved that our hotel had air conditioning. It was good to be able to go and cool down when the temps got to high. I think Luka and Amy loved it as well. We are so spoilt. I forget that growing up in South Africa we didn’t have air conditioning either. That said I am not sure I could live without it now.

There are apparently three major hotels, but I only found the two, Hotel Central where we stayed, and Hotel Aleksander Park where we went for breakfast a couple of times. There are lots of shops, bars and restaurants. Very often in the mornings the coffee bars were full. Mostly men drinking coffee. We drank beers at the Park, and I will tell you that those beers were far bigger than the standard size you get in the US. Skopsko IPL was the beer we seemed to order most of the time. We also ate at one of the pizza restaurants one evening, but again most of the time was spent with family. More on the lower part of town in another blog.

The main farming production around Vinica is rice, which also explains the high population of mosquitos in the area. Nasty biting mean machines :). In addition to the rice farming, there is also is known for their textiles and wood furniture production.

There appeared to be two sides to Vinica, the slightly older side and then the more modern newer looking side. This we came across as we walked to the Vinicko Kale later in the day. What interested me was the solar powered water heaters on the roof.

In addition I noticed that while the buildings may be older, the owners loved adding colorful flowers to the balconies and walkways to beautify the area. They did a really good job of making the area around their homes look pretty.

While Vinica is a smaller and older town, we had a wonderful time there. We were welcomed by the family with open arms, some tears and a whole lot of hugs. Despite our language challenges we were able to meet all the family, and to see some of this historical town.

If you are looking for a place to stop over, then the Hotel Central is ideal. Take time to explore, visit the churches, climb to the Fort, and the Cross if you can, sit at the beer garden and try a Skopsko, do early morning Turkish coffee. Breathe in the smells, experience the beautiful culture, love what you see. That’s the only way to travel – with an open mind, and an open heart.

Next blog will be my Share Six blog, then we will be heading up to the Fort. Join me if you can. If you want to see the other blogs on Macedonia click on the blog tab and scroll down

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

30 Minutes in the Life: August 2022: Macedonia Day 1

In the last blog I gave a short synopsis of our trip to Macedonia. Check it out if you have not read it. I arrived home tired, and found that the jet lag was just crazy. We struggled for at least 10 days to get our bodies back in sync. Sometimes I think poor Luka is still struggling. For these blogs, the images are going to be a mix of not so great quality cellphone pics, as well as camera pics. It was just easier sometimes to grab my cell and take the pics.

Macedonia has been on the cards for a while, but Covid stopped it in 2020, and Richards health and Amy’s pregnancy stopped it in 2021. 2022 Amy and Daniel decided that they had waited long enough and they were going. Daniel really wanted us to go with so that we could meet his family. I plotted and planned, researched, and jotted down notes. Pulled up maps and made key references to places of interest. I am a planner. I probably over plan, however, I am also the kind of person that does not have to get to everything. I just want to know if I am missing out on anything.

11 days before we were due to leave, Snow and Rory, (Amy’s two cats) moved to our house. 10 days before we were due to leave we drove Amy, Daniel & Luka to Miami airport. Oh man, my heart was going on an airplane and I was not going with. I was going to miss that little man.

Finally D-day arrived and we were set to head out. I left Simba in charge of Moo, Snow and Rory. My good friend from down the road was willing to come in twice a day and take care of all 4 of them. Bags were packed and we were ready. We agreed to leave early. You never know what the traffic is going to be like driving to Miami and we had a good hour and a half to drive. Going through customs was quick and easy and then it was the coffee and breakfast while we waited. Our flight was through Turkish airlines and we were on board and ready to go fairly quickly. Amy warned me that they feed you pretty quickly once you are up in the air, but then don’t feed you until about 4 am Turkish time which is 10 pm our time. So a meal at noon and then nothing until 10pm is a long time. What I did find out flying back is there is food at the back that you can snack on but being up front I had no reason to go to the back. Talking food, I was pretty impressed with the food we were given on the flights.

The best part of our flight was that I had booked isle seats. I had two people sitting next to me and Richard had 3 seats to himself, so I shifted across to the free seat and my seat companions were forever thankful that they then had a seat between them.

After what felt like was forever on the flight, which in theory was 1am our time, we landed in Istanbul. Little did we know how big the airport was.

I feel like we landed on one end of the airport and had to work our way through to the furthest point of the airport to catch our connecting flight. The challenge that came was the flight was not showing on the board, and by the time we actually found out what gate we were leaving from we had 20 minutes to navigate this huge airport. Little did we know that there were walking escalators on the upper level. We really did not have time to take in the beauty of the airport, because we were rushing to catch our flight.

I needed a bathroom pitstop and so we found some signs that indicated there was a bathroom entry. I told Richard to stay exactly where he was and not to move. I then found myself entering the bowels (sic) of the airport. I felt like I walked forever before I found the ladies rest room. Navigating my way out, I come out at the entrance only to find that Richard is not there. I was so annoyed. I started walking knowing that I had to go down the walkway. As I started recognizing landmarks and I quickly discovered that the entrance I went in and the exit I came out of were not the same. Thankfully I found Richard standing exactly where he was supposed to be. Frustrated, I might add, because I had taken so long. Of course he is now on a mission to get to where we have to depart and we are virtually running to get there.

Flying from Istanbul to Skopje in Macedonia was on a much smaller plane. Initially I thought that we were going to be on a very roomy flight but that idea was quickly squished when a connecting flight boarded. I had two traveling companions next to me, a guy around my age, traveling with his mother. Richard had a mother and child, and the grandmother. The flight was uneventful until just before we were going to land. The wheels of the plane kicked out and then man next to me nearly jumped out his seat. He did the sign of the cross 3 times and then grabbed his mothers hand. He sat in this rigid position until we hit the tarmac with a bump, after which he gave thanks for the safe landing. Exiting the customs area was quick and hassle free.

And there he was, my heart, back in my arms again. I had missed this little face so much. I missed the cuddles on my Friday. I missed his smiles and his laughter. What a sweet moment it was to be able to just hug this little body again. Daniel, Amy and Luka came through to fetch us at the airport. My first impressions driving through from the airport to Daniel’s home town, was that it was similar to the Natal midlands in South Africa. A place we visited a lot growing up.

Macedonia covers an area of 25,713 km². It is not huge. Towns are scattered across the countryside, with Skopje being the capital. We were traveling an hour to a town called Vinica, where Daniel grew up. Most of his family live there. I will share more about the town in another blog.

We arrived at the hotel, had time to unpack, have a shower and then head up to Daniel’s moms home. What a sweet welcome with had, with hugs and tears. Our biggest challenge was language, with us not speaking Macedonian and Daniel’s mom not speaking English but the hugs made up for the difference. What a sweet, sweet time.

Aside from the greeting I was there with a purpose. Daniel was taking Richard for a beer, while Amy, Luka and I were joining the traditional bread making ceremony. Traditionally the family of the unmarried bride host a bread making ceremony. However, in this case, Daniel’s mom hosted the ceremony. The bread is shape in a round circle to symbolize something that has no beginning or end. Daniel’s young cousin, was the lady who made the bread. First the dough is made and kneaded, then it is patted in to the round dish, then Luka (who it appears is the star of the show) had to give his foot stamp of approval. While we were not looking a coin was placed in the bread mix, then Daniel’s cousin and his aunt created a beautiful design on the bread. and finally Daniel’s mom placed butter and oil onto the top of the bread.

The bread making ceremony was not just about making bread, it was the gathering of the women, the dancing of the traditional dance the Horo, and the drinking of rakija which is the traditional Macedonian drink. I have to confess it was a little strong for me, and I stuck to the giant beers 🙂 A little bit more information on the Horo. This is a traditional dance where the guests link hands and do this intricate little step (which I mastered at slow speed, and caved as it sped up) and they go around in a circle celebrating the event. This was a beautiful time of learning their traditions and hugging and smiling at everyone. The only word I knew was “Stravo” which means “hello” and I said that quite a bit.

Of course, the whole happening was about Amy and Daniel’s second wedding reception and Daniels family wanted to do this as a traditional wedding. Amy and Daniel got married in 2018 in the USA with just our immediate family and a few friends. Daniel’s family was not able to attend and it has always been their intention to have a ceremony in Macedonia for his family. So this was Amy’s bread making ceremony.

After the bread making ceremony Amy, Luka and I headed down to the Park where we joined Daniel and Richard for what must have been the largest beer I have ever drunk, and would continue to drink over the coming day.

We ended our evening off with the family gathering for dinner along with the two groomsmen. There was an enormous amount of food, lots of translations, and plenty of the bread that was baked earlier in the day. I did not tell you that the person who gets the piece of bread with the coin in it, is said to have luck for the coming year. That turned out to be Daniel’s mom. Hopefully she will be lucky and the embassy will grant her a visa to visit the USA in December.

Tired and weary we did our five minute walk back to our hotel. It had been a good day. My next blog I will share a bit about Vinica and the town itself.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. I always love looking at the sneak peaks and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what Kristina of Hello Olivia Photography has for you this month, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

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.