I went to bed early last night so I’d be up and at ’em this morning, but the bed at the hostel was so hard that I only slept fitfully. 🙁 That meant that, at least, I was able to get up without an alarm clock and was ready to head out at 7:45, with the bus being at 9:00. I hoped for breakfast again so I hung out for a bit to finish some online stuff, but there was no one in the lobby. I left around 8:10 and it was about a 15-minute walk to the bus station.
There was a dearth of signage there, but I finally found the main building where you can buy tickets and a guy who had enough English to understand my questions, but not enough to answer in it. He surprised me by using Serbo-Croatian rather than Albanian. I was able to understand that I had to go to platform six and buy the ticket from the driver, so thank goodness for that!
I bought a snack for the ride and then went to platform six. It was only about 8:30, but the bus was already there and the driver motioned for me to climb aboard. I was happy to have first pick of a seat and a bit of time to have my breakfast and just chill.
The ride out of Prizren was nothing to write about or show off, just a lot of construction and untended properties. We went through a few towns, but don’t ask me their names! This one had an interesting arch over its main bridge.
I love the contrast of the classic architecture of the mosque and all the power lines.
The landscape gradually became rural and more scenic.
The Balkans aren’t really that different from North America when it comes to roadside services…
Garbage is a problem in the Balkans, the way it is in Mexico.
Houses seemed to be neater the closer we got to the border with Macedonia.
The US showed strong support for Kosovo’s independence and is therefore well regarded. There is a Bill Clinton Boulevard in the capital, Prishtina.
This is Ferizaj where we, mercifully, got a pee break before the border!
Interesting boat-shaped building.
We still weren’t at the border and had almost 1.5 hours left to go!
What a beautiful scene, right?
Here’s a hint of the horror around the corner…
Here’s the horror. 🙁
While waiting for the Kosovan exit “interview,” I found a Kosovan entry stamp on the very last page of my passport! I was stupidly pleased, and even more so when I got the exit stamp as well.
The Macedonian portion of the exercise did not go smoothly as they opened up some luggage under the bus and apparently caught a smuggler! We were there for about 30 minutes more than planned. I have been surprisingly relaxed at these crossings and just played Scrabble on my iPad until we were cleared to go. I was happy to find a Macedonian stamp in my passport when I got it back. So I just missed the one for Albania.
Fun fact, it’s MaKedonia, not MaSSedonia. And hurray for being back in a country that uses Cyrillic! I never did learn the pronunciation for all (just some) of the Latin Serbo-Croatian characters, so it’s sometimes been hard to say things as I wasn’t sure how they were pronounced. It’s so funny that the Cyrillic feels less “alien” to me now than do Latin letters with accents I’m not familiar with!
We stopped for fuel after the border. The driver paid with Euro and this guy had to pull out a calculator.
Denari (currency), litres, 1L/denari.
This was my first sight in Skopje!
There is a massive fortress I hope I can explore.
Otherwise, downtown Skopje looks like Las Vegas without all the lights. So kitschy! I will explain why when I do my city tour post.
This is a government building.
We drove around in circles for a bit dropping off people before finally landing at the bus station 45 minutes late. I found the bathroom before an ATM and asked the attendant if I could pay in Euro. She stared at me for a second, then fished into her pocket and pulled up a 20 cent coin to show me she’d accept that as payment. Thankfully, I had a matching coin handy!
I pulled 2000MKD (just shy of 50CAD) out of an ATM and will try to make that last. I should have tried to pull out about 80CAD worth to make sure I have enough for the taxi ride to the airport on Monday. We shall see. Skopje seems quite cheap and I’ll be working, so I might be able to stretch out the denars that I have.
I took a cab to my apartment (with the driver kindly calling my host to let him know I was running late), where my very gracious host was waiting. My place is lovely and has not only a proper desk and chair for work, but a washing machine! I’ve been at a critical point for laundry since I got to Kotor, but I haven’t had anywhere to dry anything and I did not look forward to washing my fleece or jeans by hand. So what a bonus!
My host took the time to explain the apartment for me, including showing me a few basic groceries he’d bought for me! There’s coffee, milk, cereal, fruit, and a few other things. Fresh milk for my coffee will be a treat! He also helped me orientate myself and told me that a nearby bakery was my best bet for a fast lunch. So once he left, I headed there.
The bakery was hopping. If it had been four months ago, it would have been too much for me. But the lineup was long enough for me to have time to read all the labels and pick out a roasted chicken and cheese sandwich on a croissant that seemed like the most hearty thing there. I pointed to what I wanted and said “chicken croissant,” as that’s what I could read quickly off the label. I added, “Not here,” in Bulgarian (Ne tuk) and the woman held up a bag to make sure she’d understood me that I wanted takeaway. So it does seem that Macedonian is similar to Bulgarian.
I then popped into a little grocery store to get a few things I was missing for breakfast and also a small quantity of laundry detergent. I found sachets good for two loads that looked promising and was happy to find Romanian on the back that confirmed I was holding detergent and not fabric softener. Spain is going to be so linguistically easy after this that my brain is going to turn to mush! 😀
I need to wrap my brain around the currency. I basically have to divide by forty, which shouldn’t be too difficult…
By the time I got in, I conceded that I needed a nap! I put on the laundry, crawled into the rather comfy bed, and was out like the proverbial light. I woke up after about an hour feeling a bit better and actually went to work. It was payday for one of my clients and I got a job in under the wire that was worth a whopping 40CAD for a mere hour of work (I don’t get these often!). So that meant a nice little paycheque came in a few minutes ago, making it a little less scary to look for accommodation in Barcelona. But not by much… I’ll be glad to stop the financial bleed for seven weeks but, really, the last three weeks or so of gallivanting have been incredibly affordable and I have managed to earn decent income to offset the expenditures. I crunched some numbers the other day and was happy with what I saw. I’ll share some of those numbers when I get to Spain.
The plan for the weekend is to work tomorrow and try to get all my projects done so that I can take a three-hour walking tour on Sunday. Worst case scenario, I don’t need to leave till noonish on Monday (flight is at four), so I can keep an early job for the morning. This is the reality of being a digital nomad — balancing work and tourism!
It’s now 8PM and, of course, I’m not sleepy (which is why I hate napping). I just made a rather good dinner on my single burner hot plate and am thinking of venturing out to the bar around the corner for a nightcap. Oh, wait. My clothes are still wet. Scratch that. 🙂 So I guess it’ll be a movie and a night in. I might even have a soak in the tub! It feels so nice to be in my own place for a few nights. I had fantastic stays at the hostels, but I’ll probably have to hostel it in Spain, so it’s good to get some solo time in between.
I don’t think I’m mentally ready for Skopje to be my last stop in the Balkans. What an amazing nearly four months it’s been out here…