- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
I know… just some six hours of travel - and we were already bored with it!
That was quick! It was Ivana who started moaning first: “I am tired. I am thirsty. I am hungry. I need to stretch. I want to go to toilet. When will we be back home? Do we have to visit all these places? When will we set up the camp? Will I find friends there? I am going to be bored!”
The questions and comments were never-ending! And Dario, poor soul, he was just hot. No requests expect the one to free him from forced fruit diet (He eats only those things that are pink, red and white; no green, no yellow and no any other colour!).
Alen started getting on my nerves when he remembered that he had stopped nagging me about overloading the car, so he continued with loud expressions of his concerns about the car not making it a) in one piece, b) to the final destination, and c) both.
The easiest way for me to bring them all back to a happy state was to tell them that we would skip some of the visits, so we would done sooner with the sightseeing and travelling. It was not a very easy decision to make, but I decided to skip both the Niš and Macedonia sight-seeing tours.
Nis was interesting because of the Tower of Skuls (Ćele Kula), and in Macedonia I really wanted to show the kids the Church of St. Salvation (Sv. Spasa) in Skopje and the Skopje’s Fortress.
Thanks to our frequent travels to Skopje, I was sure those places would be easy to include in the first visit to come. Needless to say, I managed to convince them and to make them interested in the travel again.
Dario took the Holiday Kit I made for them and started reading about the places we were going to visit. Ivana drifted back into her own world, probably thinking about one of the boys she fancies, and Alen started singing along the play list he made the night before.
Pay tolls and borders were crowded, as I expected, knowing that the Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Turkish, Greek and Albanian diaspora was going home for the holidays, but it was better than previous years as more booths were put up at each point. We entered Macedonia at Tabanovce, welcomed by the road works almost all the way to Kumanovo.
We had a driving row with a couple of cars, and then took the ring road around Skopje, to take us towards Tetovo. This was the first time I did not drive through Skopje. I didn’t even know this road existed, and it was quite a surprise for me.
As the night was already falling, the Millennium Cross up on the Vodno Hill was visible and after explaining to Dario what it was (others needed no explanation as they already knew about it), I remembered the discussions I had with some of my Macedonian friends about it.
I believe that positioning any religious symbol in such a visible spot, during a time of turbulence, was nothing else but a provocation, a marking of territory and calling for unrest. On the other hand, I do understand those more spiritual reasons, but I have never been convinced in the existence of those in this particular case.
Still, regardless of that, I do like seeing it as I approach Skopje. It tells me the “home” is nearing and I will soon be surrounded by friends.
We passed Tetovo, Gostivar and Kicevo, and the night surrounded us completely by the time we reached Ohrid. At that moment, we had already spent about 14 hours in travel (including breaks, of course) and were quite tired. I knew that a room would be found the moment we enter the centre of Ohrid and put on silly expressions on our faces. I was right.
An elderly man on a bike spotted us instantly. He came and asked if we wanted a room and then he took us to his place. Driving behind him, about five km/hour, we realised Dario was far more excited about this particular part of our visit than we thought.
He opened up and told us the whole story: “I have always wanted to come to Macedonia because you have never taken me. I want you to teach me how to speak Macedonian and then I think I will want to come here and live with you”.
Mind you, Ivana and I lived here for a few years and moved back to Tuzla in 2004. Ivana’s language abilities in Macedonian are much higher than those in Bosnian, which is understandable since her first contact with a literary language was in Macedonia. She went to kindergarten here and completed the first year of her primary school, so she frequently speaks Macedonian at home and she goes for long holidays to Macedonia, almost every summer.
We often think about moving back to Macedonia, as we love it dearly. Alen, who travelled with me a few times to Macedonia, is also on this line; he would not mind moving here with us.
It is understandable now, with this short background info, why Dario was so interested in seeing Macedonia and learning the language. Ivana had to write some basic phrases and sentences for him so that he could learn them, and I felt sorry for skipping Skopje from the tour.
So, we got settled for our first night away from home; nothing fancy, just a three-bed room, clean toilet and a small balcony where I could have a “goodnight” cigarette. Dario was reluctant to go to sleep, thinking he would miss something. Ivana and I had stinky feet, and Alen was very eager to start doing the photos he had taken during the day. He took out all his photo and IT gear out and started working, while the rest of us slowly went to sleep.
Although we planned to wake up at around 9.00, it happened much earlier. It is the usual thing; when I need to get up early in the morning, there is nothing that can really wake me up, but when I am all determined to sleep as long as possible, my brain decides it was enough the moment the sun comes up.
Still, getting up early was not a bad thing on a travel with such an ambitious itinerary as ours. We got up and quickly went down to the centre of Ohrid (or at least, the part I consider to be the centre – the one next to the lake).
While waiting for the miniature McDonalds to open (we really got up rather early!), we went for a photo session. Alen was teaching Dario to take photos and they went along a small pier where some people were fishing.
Ivana and I stayed behind, walking along the lake, frequently being approached by lake-sailors who offered us a ride on their little boats. Ivana, showing off with her knowledge of the language and the accent which is of pure “skopski” (of Skopje), thanked them and said we would come another time.
The boys finished photographing and then I took them along the little stone-paved streets of Ohrid. Dario was amused at the site of old houses, old streets and especially the Solomon’s Tower, up on the hill.
The opposite end of his amusement scale was shown to the choice of menus and complaisance of staff of the Ohrid’s McDonalds.
Not only that the tall and corpulent lady behind the counter did not understand a word I said, but she was also impolite, rolling her eyes and openly showing her impatience with the four of us trying to order.
I have not met many rude Macedonians and I don’t know what her reasons were, but the impression she made on me led me into guessing that she thought I was an Albanian, for my accent when speaking Macedonian resembles of the accent of Macedonian Albanians, and that she was just plain rude.
Mind you, this would not be the first time people had been rude to me, thinking I was Albanian; it also happened once at the border, when they thought my registration plate was a Kosovar one (there is a small difference: BiH has one letter between two sets of three numbers, while Kosovo has two letters, KS, in the same setting).
But still, I love the country and don’t really see the flaws, for all nations have them and express them one way or another. I simply don’t care.
It may be a transit zone for truck drivers right now but Savamala was once the beating heart of Belgrade - and will be once again if a group of artists have their way.
Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin…