Easter Trip to Macedonia+Greece
Христос воскресе aka Christ has risen, or Happy Easter! in Macedonian. Our most recent trip was the most spontaneous of all of our trips so far. We finished school on the Wednesday before Easter, bought our train tickets that night, and were on the train the next morning at 5am. We slept some, played some games, read, and observed the people around us. One couple made a lunch entirely of a can of olives and bread roll. After some sixteen hours on the first train we had to get off and find our next train in Belgrade. Although the memories of that train are not pleasant, they are still very distinct. There was a pair of American girls who, unfortunately, were the type who made us wish we were not American. They were speaking so loudly about their private lives that a Serbian man said “You should not get too personal because we can all understand you.” Another young guy nearby said, “Why did you have to tell them that, I needed something to pass the time.” It was terrible.
After about twenty four hours of traveling we finally arrived in Skopje, Macedonian, most notabaly known for being the birthplace of Mother Theresa. A friendly local named Nikolovska helped us find our hostel and from there we explored the entire city. It didn’t take long to realize that just about everything in town was closed for the holiday so we began contemplating a change of scenery.
The next morning we left for Greece. It was a four hour train ride and at the train station we met a man who overheard us talking. He asked if we were from the states and when I said yes he inquired further. I told him I was from Ohio and he said he was too. He was just coming back to Macedonia because he had a rental there. Kind of a coincidence, but then we found out he was also a vegetarian. A pretty big coincidence now, right? Then he started asking about our astrological signs and I told him that I was on the cusp so it didn’t apply to me and he said, September 23? YES. So we met a vegetarian from Ohio with my birthday. Just crazy.
Thessaloniki was pretty amazing. The first day we were there we walked to the water and the market and explored some of the streets closer to the sea. We found out that most people in the city are Greek Orthodox and would be going to their Easter church services at midnight. We were excited to take part of this celebration with them, but unfortunately, we fell asleep at 9pm and didn’t wake up until the next morning. We did see some very authentic Greek life on Easter though. We walked the route of a tour bus through the city and saw all of the main highlights including my favorite, the highpoint of the city.
As we walked through the city, we were accompanied by various dogs. They would meet us, apparently approve of us, and walk with us for some amount of time. My favorite was a big shaggy brownish dog who walked with us for about an hour. He walked with us through both the big streets and the pedestrian paths where the locals lived. We quickly noticed a pattern: every family was out having lunch: fresh tomatoes, lamb on a spit, and loud music. One robust character was even dancing and invited us to join. They are a loud culture, and definatly loveable.
We spent most of the next day seeing the last sights of the city and trying to soak up the sun. We hung out by the White Castle near the water where all of the peddlers work. Africans selling watches and sunglasses, Indians selling electronics, and Chinese selling various tchotchkes abound. Undoubtedly their business was illegal and sadly the Chinese took the brunt of the scolding because they could not just fold up a briefcase and walk away as the others did. They tried to repackage and pack up all of their trinkets before the police would come and tell them to vacate the area. The bolder of the merchants waited in hiding for a while in hopes of pouncing on the most coveted selling spot. We left before we saw the entire event play out, but we wondered how often did the police men make this sweet through the boardwalk? Weekly? Daily? Hourly? About an hour later we saw three women walking through the park with their large bags of goods to sell… the police fifty meters behind them.
As the end of the day approached, we got back on the train and made it as far as half way to Skopje, but then the train broke down. We waited at some stop for about three hours before getting a new engine and traveling on. As we learned from the way down, the farther south you get, the more likely the trains are to be late. We missed our connection in Belgrade so we spent the next twelve hours exploring the city. I was especially happy because Burke told me he never wanted to go to Serbia (win) and Belgrade is a surprisingly beautiful city (double win). It was a very rainy day so we explored for an hour and then spent two hours in a cafe, explored for an hour, spent two hours in a cafe, etc. In one cafe, Caffe Padre, I had the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life. FInally we made our way on to Budapest where we killed about three hours in a mall that was not technically open for buisness. We were very entertained by the window washers though:). And finally, almost fifty hours later, we were home in Banska Bystrica!