Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mishaps and Misdirection-Our Trip to Macedonia

It began at 5am on Friday morning when we got to the Albania boarder. We had been travelling for an hour with no major inconveniences so far, only rain. As we gave our passports to the Albanian customs official he said "Montenegro, no problem, America, no problem, Serbia, problem!" Meaning that the 7 people with Montenegrin documents, and the two of us with American ID were okay, but the one person in our group with Serbian papers would be trouble. It took awhile (and potentially some money) to convince the guard that we weren't planning on causing any disturbance in Albania but were just passing through.

A few hours later we had to back track for quite a distance because our driver had been given some incorrect directions. We did pass by Lushnje (where we had been in November), but didn't get to stop there. Once we got on the right road, we climbed steeply into the mountains and came to the boarder of Macedonia. By now it was maybe 1:00 in the afternoon. Those in our group with "new" passports had to pay an "insurance" fee to cross through.
As we approached the city were we would lodge, Bitola, our host met us at a gas station to direct us to his home.
Originally four of us were going to stay in the home of an American couple who were currently in the States. After the first night of our two night stay however, their landlord decided that we should either pay him (as we would a hotel) or move out. So we quickly packed our stuff and moved into the home of our Macedonian host.
Saturday we toured Ohrid, and ancient city, where King Samuel ruled most of the Balkans at one time. We visited his castle, and also the ancient ampitheater. Ohrid (pronounced oak-rid) is also well known for "Ohrid pearls" which aren't actually pearls, but a white pearl-like substance from which they produce beautiful jewelry. Laura got some lovely earrings. We also visited a place where they make handmade paper using centuries old techniques and tools, and have a Gutenburg printing press.
Our return journey was also crazy. I'll post about it tomorrow.


Davene said...

Ah, border crossings! I remember lots of those, with more and more "fees" that kept popping up along the way. Argh! But what can you do?

I'm glad you all made it back in one piece and look forward to reading about the rest of the adventure!

Laura and Steve said...

There's even more border crossing fun in part two!