[Northern Macedonia, D+90, 3 229 km, 8-12 June 2022]
Initially we didn’t think we would be cycling here, but the road took us to the Republic of Northern Macedonia for a few days!
New currency (the most beautiful banknotes we have ever seen), language, architecture and new alphabet!
We took the opportunity to have a little history lesson on North Macedonia
In 1991, the country declared its independence from Yugoslavia as the Republic of Macedonia. Greece REALLY didn’t like it, and for almost 27 years it was a real semantic war between them!
In 2018 the country capitulated, changed its name and became the Republic of North Macedonia!
In fact, the name Macedonia, refers to the region of Ancient Greece carried by the powerful Alexander the Great (the famous king of Macedonia)! Greece obviously couldn’t stand to see its neighbour take over this part of their common history! Oops. 💔
And it goes on until the most basic element of language: to say NO in Macedonia one simply says “nè”. And where it gets tricky is that to say YES in Greece you say… “nè”. Alexander the Great left some traces and some absurdities (seen from the outside, anyway!)
Easy border crossing with a splendid view on the Ohrid lake, one of the oldest in the world! The sky is getting cloudy. For a change, the big question is: when will it rain? It’s the one that comes up most often these last few days!
We notice with amusement policemen more or less well hidden behind trees, sitting on benches in the shade, on cafe terraces, behind dustbins, between two cars… every 100 meters! The game is to find them, which keeps us entertained for a good ten km! Well, we learnt later that we were not in the middle of a game of hide and seek or “where is Charlie” just to entertain us, but that an important political congress was being held in Ohrid on that very day, bringing together the heads of Balkan states: less fun!
Ohrid. After our Albanian crush, far from the tourist trails, here we are in a particularly touristy city. The contrast is striking! That said, we understand why, this small seaside resort is full of charms. Between two showers, we go to soak up its old town, its medieval churches and its monasteries. Even if the bicycle is a slow way of transportation (even if you pedal at full speed), the transitions are sometimes brutal! We smile because the thought that emerges in our heads is that we have the feeling of being “in Europe again”.
On the way to Bitola. Here comes THE day we’ve been afraid of for weeks: THE summit at 1,200 m altitude. Enough to make our newly muscled calves tremble! After a good night’s sleep, commando preparation and a champion breakfast before setting off for what promises to be a tough day. The road is pleasant, little traffic except for 5 garbage trucks that pass us at full speed.
Found: A large and beautiful open-air dump in the heart of the mountain 😀 Below, the giant burner is in charge of making the frequent arrivals disappear.
It’s 12 o’clock. We arrived at the summit YAHOU. We realized while laughing that we had made a whole “mountain” of this day but that finally, it was really nothing compared to what we had already climbed in Albania, because we were already quite a lot in altitude! Barely time to breathe from this hillock when here come some wild dogs.
We quickly start a nice descent to Resen in the rain! We decide to continue anyway and book a dry room in Bitola!
Bitola. After a night of rest, we book a second night in another guesthouse: it’s still raining and obviously for a while! We push the bicycles in the streets of the city centre, trying to find the address of our host! A man comes out of a restaurant and kindly offers us his help. As we talk, he asks us if we had tried to contact a Warmshower in Bitola. The answer is yes! What did he say to you?” “He explained that he had moved and was now living in the mountains. “Well, hello, it’s me, Goce!” So improbable, that you come face to face with Goce in this tiny street, in a town of 75,000 inhabitants! He was visiting the city for a few days to spend some time with his friend Mihail from Skopje (the capital). They invited us to join them to share a bürek (delicious)!
The lunchtime bürek was transformed into a café, discovery of the city between two showers, an inspiring and incredible exhibition of works by talented children from all over the world (the “Little Montmartre of Bitola” competition www.smallmontmartreofbitola.com/), tasting of food, each more delicious than the last, and finally a waterfall of wine in the rain! A very nice and unusual meeting from which it took us several days to recover!
We take again the road with a notable physical laziness, under a threatening sky, in direction of a new country: Greece (and the region Macedonia).