Another weekend, another spelling bee. This one in Штип (Shtip). This is not a big city and the hotels do not look particularly nice when we started looking so Susie and I decided on an Air BnB. I did some checking and I found one that sounded quite nice and it was close to the city and close to the outdoors. Perfect! Two days prior to arriving, the proprietor called me to find out what time we would be arriving as she would pick us up and take us to the Air BnB. Wow! This is service! No taxi worries. I didn’t have an exact address so a taxi might have been a bit difficult. We arrived in Штип on time and within five minutes Alexandra was there. So were her sister and her mother. Okay we can all fit in the car and off we go.
As we start down the road, they tell us the BnB is about 10 km out of town. Wow! That might make it difficult to walk to the spelling bee the next morning. Well we’ll just call a taxi. It’s at about this time that we also find out there is no wi-fi at the house. Well, I have my phone and it has a data plan. We keep going and going into a more and more rural setting. Susie and I are looking at each other from the corners of our eyes. Finally we turn down a gravel road and are stuck behind a horse and cart. Oh boy!
We pull up to a gate and drive down a long driveway. Hmmm chickens roaming around. Okay. They open the house/cottage and we go in. We are apparently the first guests they have ever had here. Looks fairly decent. So we ask, where is your house? Oh it is in town. Who else is staying out here? Just the two of you. By ourselves?! Yes. It is so peaceful. You will love it. But first let me show you around and make you a cup of coffee and show you the sweet treats I have made for you. Oh, and here is dinner–corn on the cob and a nice big bowl of salad fixings. Wow! Neither one of us knows what to say. At least there is food for us as we have not seen a grocery or convenience store anywhere near here. There are also freshly laid brown eggs for breakfast along with a big bowl of fruit, bread, coffee and tea. Okay. We are set. And they tell us that a taxi will come in the morning to fetch us to take us to the spelling bee. And by the way..will you latch the chicken coop after they all go in at evening time. Well, this is a new one.
We had been sitting outside near the coop
and had not seen the chickens. We were assured that Perro the rooster would herd them in. No sign. Well, let’s go in the house, build a fire and then make our dinner. Let’s also figure out how to lock this place up. No one is out here, no one knows exactly where we are–including us, better safe than sorry. But let’s check on the chickens again–no sign.
Okay, dinner is done and darkness has set in. Susie decides one more check of the coop. She turns on her iPhone flashlight and starts down the driveway to where the coop is. Sure enough they are in there in one little corner. All six hens and one rooster. So we can now go to bed and be assured that our charges are also tucked snug in their beds. Next morning, I’m up bright and early as I usually am. I hear roosters in the neighborhood crowing so decide to go down and open up the coop to let “our” chickens out. I opened that door and they were out like a flash and followed me right up the driveway. Looked rather comical to me. I didn’t have any food to feed them so I don’t know what they expected. They had plenty in the coop. However, Perro stood outside the house and just crowed and crowed until Susie finally woke up. He was quite the alarm clock.
Next morning, we receive a phone call from Snezana to let us know that a taxi will be there to pick us up at about 0900. Sure enough–2 minutes till nine and it was there. We did the faux gate lock thing and off we went to the spelling bee. We got a peek of downtown Штип when we went to get lunch but we were pretty much locked in the school listening to students spell words all day. Snezana had told us to give her a call when we were done and we would figure out the rest of the day. She called a taxi for us and he took us to her house. Enjoyed a nice cup of Turkish coffee and some Schweppes and discussed taking them out to dinner. Ah, but first they wanted to show us Isar. It is the hill on which their home is built. There is a lovely church nearby and then steps going up, up, up. Once we got to the top we saw the remains of a fortress (seem to be a lot of those here in Macedonia.) and an incredible panoramic view of the area. It truly was amazing but as one might imagine with my bruised and battered body, I was in pain when we came back down. The knee did not like that activity. Went and had a lovely dinner and discussed going back to the “ranch”. We have chickens to put to bed, remember? So they took us back, we locked up the chickens and just crashed.
9.30 AM Snezana is back and brings three bags of groceries. Huh? She is going to prepare us a Macedonian lunch and then take us to see Bargala while it cooks. Bargala is really amazing and not far away. We didn’t have much time there as we had to get back in town so we wouldn’t miss our bus back to Skopje. We had to travel a bit earlier than we normally would have as a result of restrictions placed on PCV’s as a result of the presidential pardons and the resulting protests. (Because I live on the opposite side of the city from the bus station, I had to make sure I was past the city center before 16.00) Interestingly enough, there is very little information on this site and excavation has been halted for some unknown reason. However, we saw the executioner’s pedestal, the wine making spot and the heating system of the city. It truly was fascinating. Below it was a beautiful little church and one of the rivers that runs through the area with plenty of people “taking a rest”. The hills surrounding the area were the most beautiful green you can imagine. It looked like a travel poster. Alas, we couldn’t go down there as we had to go back and have our lunch. Lunch was indeed delicious. It consisted of meat, rice, peppers and some wonderful herbs and spices. We said good bye to our chickens and the family and headed back into town to catch our bus home. It was quite the weekend. We have been adopted by a new family.
In other news of Macedonia, we have travel restrictions in and around Skopje because of daily protests. Protests are also now in a number of cities throughout out the country including Штип where we just spent our weekend. An opinion article to read written by one of Nikolai Gruevski’s former ministers is very telling. We get daily press updates from our safety and security manager so I am not worried that we are being kept in the dark. We are safe. Never fear.