Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Macedonia Macedonia, Macedonia Greece

I definitely found a temporary home here in Ohrid, Macedonia. After turning up on Monday I didn't leave until Saturday, the second longest time I've spent in one place after Geneva, partly because the town and lake were so nice and relaxed after the bustle of Tirane but mainly because the hostel was so chilled out and welcoming (and the breakfast was suitably large, my main requirement). I've got to say thanks to Gjoko who runs the place for his hospitality and welcomingness (must be a word). The same goes to Claas and Lira in the hostel in Tirane and the girls in Kotor too - along with the people staying there they played a big part in the trip for me.

And speaking of the people I met, I've finally parted ways with my traveling companions after almost 2 weeks together, but only temporarily as I spent a few hours today with Megan and Becca from Portland, OR, who I also met in Kotor. A few of us will hopefully be crossing paths again in Istanbul within the next couple of weeks.
And even the days in between have seen some company (quickly becoming my highest valued commodity, after chocolate and bananas). Whilst waiting for the owner to arrive at the guesthouse in Bitola, my last stop in Macedonia before Greece, I was shown some great hospitality by the guys from Video Club Dju opposite. Rather than see me wait on the steps I was fetched a chair and given coffee whilst I waited, and invited to hang out with them rather than spend my Saturday night alone - after a couple of beers, the obligatory rakija, some football (El Classico) and the best burger I've had I got to bed at about 1am. Thanks guys for leaving me with a great impression of Macedonia.

The scenery approaching the border with Greece was pretty similar to back home with rolling hills and rapeseed fields, quite a relief to be on some flat ground for a while.

Despite having no trouble at all in the Balkans there was a distinct feeling of breathing easy once I crossed the border to be in the familiarity of Greece, but it was shortlived as I was chased by more dogs in one day than in the past 8 weeks. I know the government have bigger things on their mind at the moment but having wild dogs roaming about the place ready to maul any passing cyclist is not very EU. There have been wild dogs further north but they were all too tired and malnourished to give chase. In retrospect it makes for a funny story but in the moment it's pretty terrifying, whether they're big or small (and most are big!). I've no idea of the best tactic so currently I'm employing the Mark Cavendish-esque sprint-for-your-life technique. It's tiring but I'm rabies free.

Waterfall in Edessa, Greece

After a night in Edessa, a cool little town perched right on the edge of a hill about 300m above the valley floor with a bunch of small, calm rivers running through culminating in this quite spectacular waterfall, I was on the flat, straight motorway (literally at one point but no one told off) to the sea.
Sitting happily in a wasteground at the side of a dual carriageway for lunch, eating my peanut butter baguette and reading my book, a couple of guys pulled up in a truck and gave me a whole load of sweet, filled pancakes - we shared no common language but I think my thanks was evident on my face. I've read about such gestures but this was my first time on the receiving end of it, after the offer of help or a bed from a guy in Switzerland. Moral boosted 100% the rest of the day flew by.

I'm going to cut it short as I have a gambling chain-smoker to my left and my right and somehow the breeze is blowing in both directions to unite their smoke in my unaccustomed post-smoking ban nostrils. I'm so glad we live in a country that now finds smoking in enclosed public spaces unacceptable. On the bright side my clothes now smell of smoke rather than me.


  1. Hey man, Martin here. Glad you liked the burger so much, shame I didn't see you in Thessaloniki too. Good luck and have fun.

  2. Kris,

    we never managed to say "Bon Voyage" when you left. Nonetheless we have been following your adventures with excitement and anticipation. Good going BTW, 2 months to get to Greece is a sweet endeavour and it seems like you are having time to have fun along the way. Erika Warmbrunn in "Where the pavement ends" writes something interesting about her ride from Siberia to Vietnam. It is not the line traced on the map which shows the exciting part of the journey, but the unmarked dots, the stops in between the daily tracing of the line...

    Well, Bon Chance with the rest of the trip. Looking forward to join you on the road. Maybe not the same road, but THE ROAD nonetheless.


  3. I love the greek dogs, hahaha. Nice story this one... I'm happy u arrived in the country of crazy people. Just to remember: Watch out, there are not only dogs in greece but bears as well =D. Keep on telling stories, like that we have at least the possibility to travel mentally!
    Hugs from geneva! Laura

  4. Oh sorry, I completely forgot to warn you that the Greeks have sent out wild trained dogs to chase whoever comes from a country in the EU that refuses to bail them out. Sorry. Hope you didn't get too a bad impression.
    I'm still waiting for the adress of the couple in Istanbul, but I'll keep you up to date.
    Take care

  5. nothing like the smell of a ripe cyclist to excite a wild dog :)

  6. Hi Kris, Caroline here - one of the English girls from the hostel in Kotor who took you for a walk around the delightful Hotel Fjord! Really enjoying reading this, you write really well and I'm glad things are working out for you (apart from the dogs). Wishing you luck on the next leg - Lesley says hi too. Take care :-)