BootsnAll Travel Network

Return to Hostels: Skopje and Sofia

I had plenty of time yesterday, but no where to write about it: the bane of Europe on a Sunday.

On my last day in the country, I caught the 11 a.m. bus out of Ohrid, arriving at 4 into Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, and (amazingly!) finding my way quickly to the expensive (20 bucks a night!) hostel/hotel of HI International.

The hostel was actually pretty decent – like a low end hotel with two twin beds, a shower and bathroom, and – oh joy! – a satellite TV showing lots of old American movies.

I dashed out to the city and was able to tour one museum before it closed, more interesting for its location in an old Turkish bath than the modern artwork. Nearby – an excellent sweets shop with a bemused owner sold me two small pieces for 10 dinar…20 cents USD. Moda Prom was the name.

Skopje is a decent capital, some nice pedestrian streets and a few shops that looked interesting if they were not closed. The old fortress was a great view of the city and it was easy to hear the chants and songs of the soccer fans at the city stadium 2 km. below. Above it all, lest any of the Muslims forget, is a huge cross, sitting atop a hill.

After my skyline spotting and ruins-hopping, I strolled around the capital some more, spotting the statue of Mother Theresa (she was born in the city) and the old train station-cum-Sunday-closed-museum, partially destroyed in the massive earthquake of 1963, its clock still frozen at the 5:17 time of the rumble.

Next door to the museum was my saving weekend grace – a brand new mall with shops. That were open. And – most thrillingly – a supermarket. A perfect Sunday distraction for an hour or two.

I found an English book, ate at a local popular restaurant on the main square for a six bucks, and returned back to my hostel where, unsurprisingly, there were no other solo females that wanted to rock up in the capital of Macedonia in the middle of October on a Sunday, looking for a bed. Enjoying control of the remote, I flipped through the stations, crossing my fingers and being rewarded with CSI, the show that seems to make it anywhere there is American TV. So, yes, it was a total comfort day, and I loved it.

This morning I met the first backpacker I have seen in awhile, Jennifer, who is traveling around the world on 20 bucks a day – three grand for 5.5 months in Europe, Asia and N. Africa, couchsurfing and using her Peace Corp connections (just finished in Kazakstan) and good looks to tour around solo and occasoinally with a friend on a similar trip.

Today was a seven-hours-on-a-bus travel waste, except for my conversation with her where I learned that a) She got ripped off with a rush to the border of Albania as well and paid 31 euro and that b) Eventually, a minibus DOES come to the border on the other side, paying 2 euros to my 20. EH. So, Montenegro-Albania crossers beware.

I made it safely to Sofia and Internet Hostel, with four rooms that open up into a small common room. It is near the center of town and I realize how much I have missed the fun hostel vibe. I am sitting with a motley crew of a Swiss guy, an Australian and, interestingly, a male, middle-aged south Illinois truck driver with the unfortunate name of Courtney. We are situated the floor above a vegetarian restaurant…I am thrilled. Now, if only it wasn’t raining…I do not see myself going far this evening!

Bizarrely, when I checked my work email, I got an email from our only writer in Bulgaria, who I have not had an exchange with in six months. I guess that is a sign I am supposed to be here! I think he is in another part of the country, however, I hope that he can at least provide a few tips on the capital city.

I have few insights on the area so far. I can venture that I enjoyed Macedonia, and the people I spoke with there. Sofia seems like a city that is more rusted, with clap-trap trams and an ATM that allows people to take out 3 dollars USD at a time (the avg. income is around 150 USD a month, I believe, that doesn’t stop the outragously expensive prices of trendy shops and hotels). There are more signs not translated from cyrillic, and even lower prices than her sister country.

I will be here for two nights and then onto Belgrade on an overnight train in two evenings. I’ll give my thoughts on the city when I have ’em.

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