Barely Time to Breathe!

I barely arrived home from France than I had to unpack my bag and then re-pack it for arrival of Steven.  This time he wanted to see some of Macedonia. Wouldn’t you know that it is the hottest time of the year? To say that he doesn’t  do well in the heat is a bit of an understatement. However, we started at  Lake Ohrid

Old Town Ohrid
Old Town Ohrid

and it was cooler than in  Skopje. But make no mistake–it is still mighty warm.  And of course the guest house I selected is not accessible by car. You have to walk up an uneven, cobblestone, steep hill. That is the point at which he decided to buy a back pack and put some clothes in the pack rather than lugging his gi-normous suitcase to the room. That was a good decision on his part. I guess all that education paid off at long last!

We hiked all over town and ate on the waterfront. To say that the food was less than spectacular is an understatement. But when you have what seems like a million tourists in town, quantity will usually be more important than quality.  These people, literally from all over the world, need  to be fed and that does not leave time to make those exceptional dishes one hopes for. Steven indicated the trout was excellent, but not being a big fish eater, I had to take his word for it.  I had a momentary thought I could open a restaurant there and make a fortune with food that is properly seasoned and not over cooked. But I’m sure it is far more work than I want to undertake and I would succumb to the needs of the masses.

So we are done with Ohrid and set out on the road to Bitola. Have I mentioned that roads are not well marked here and maps don’t seem to be very detail oriented. We see a sign that says,”Bitola” and we follow it. Steven decides that this doesn’t seem right–we are headed into the mountains. Since we are close to the border with Greece we re-examine our options and end up headed back to Skopje. Nope! This is isn’t right either. Back to Plan A–follow the sign.  We probaby drove 40 miles before we saw another sign that indicated we were on the right road. When we hit Bitola, we decided to go to Heraclea Lyncestis first since it is about a mile from the center.

Climbing around the ruins
Climbing around the ruins
Grape vine covered patio

No sense walking in this heat if we don’t have to. I think Steven was suitably impressed with the ruins. Then we explored the city and sat down to have a cold drink. I decided to be brave and order my standard summer fare–a margarita.  Never again!  I think it was nothing but diluted lime juice and tequila. Does not quite make a Margarita.  So we went into the supermarket, picked up some crackers and cheese and a bottle of wine and went back to our guest house and enjoyed it on the covered patio.

Up and away to wine country. I had no idea if they do wine tastings here as they do in the US.  Quick answer–they don’t! It is so much more elegant.  However, before we could taste, we had to find it.  Fortunately we kept seeing signs for Stobi Winery.

Stobi--newest winery in Macedonia
Stobi–newest winery in Macedonia

And find it we did. We got a personal guided tour and tasted some amazing wines.  The local varietal here is Vranec (pronounced Vran-ets) and it turns out to be the local version of Primitivo which is the Italian version of Zinfandel. Made me a very happy girl. Now we are going to Popova Kula–a winery with a hotel and restaurant.

Looking down into the vineyard early morning
Looking down into the vineyard early morning
The  main building--amazing
The main building–amazing

The map was not particularly detailed so we were going blind. I knew it was east of Negotino so we headed that direction three times. Steven, we should be headed east–we are headed west. Turn around and go the other way.  Nope that doesn’t look right, turn around and do it again….and again. Finally I saw a sign for Demir Kapija and I knew then that we were headed the right way.  We got there and settled in for a bit and then went to do a tour of the winery and another wine tasting.  Macedonian wine tastings are an event!  You get very hefty pours, bread and cheese to go with it, and individualized attention–a seat at a table and not just another person standing at the bar. At the moment we were the only ones tasting so we had our own waiter explaining the wines to us and how this region is so perfect for wine. We learned that the stanushina grapes, an ancient varietal, which apparently are unique to this part of the world and winery are exceptionally hardy and well suited to the hot summers in this area. I  really learned a lot from both the people conducting the tour and our waiter.

And now we are back in Skopje and tent city is gone (which was established back in June with the political crisis).  All of this travel did not even use a full tank of gas even with the AC running and some serious mountain climbing!  It’s still hot and will remain this way at least through next weekend. I report to camp on Tuesday and remain there until the 31st. Then I’m putting my feet up and doing nothing until school starts! (I think!)

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A 60 something woman who has run off to faraway places with the Peace Corps.

4 thoughts on “Barely Time to Breathe!”

  1. Sounds like you both had a good time. The wine tastings sound like great fun! The countryside over there is really gorgeous. When does school start? Hope you have a few moments to rest.

  2. I’ve loved the photos that Steven has posted to Facebook! What a beautiful area and what a combination – from ancient ruins to brand new wineries!

  3. Even with the heat it was an amazing week. Not long enough though. Macedonia is a beautiful country with several different regions. Lake Ohrid was beautiful and the trout was excellent. Loved the ruins in Bitola. And it would be hard for France, USA, and others to produce wines any better than Macedonia. I highly recommend the region as someplace to vacation.

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