After a few kilometers I arrived in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. 3 campsites were marked on my map. Unfortunately, two of them no longer exist. Coincidentally, I met a cyclist couple on the street. Annette and Cord showed me the way to the third campsite. This is next to a motorway and a very noisy nightclub. The infrastructure leaves something to be desired. After two nights, I moved to a hostel.
Tania, a friend from Switzerland, visited me the next day. She decided to cycle with me from Skopje to Athens. First we visited the city. The city developed rapidly after the Second World War, but this trend was interrupted in 1963 when it was hit by a devastating earthquake. In 1991, it became the capital of an independent Macedonia. Skopje, as a Republic of Macedonia as a whole, is characterized by a great ethnic diversity. The city is located in a region where ethnic Albanians and Macedonians meet, and its history has welcomed Roma, Turks, Jews and Serbs.
According to the 2002 census, 68.5% of the population belonged to Skopje in the Eastern Orthodox Church, while 28.6% of the population belonged to Islam. The city also had a Roman Catholic (0.5%) and a Protestant (0.04%) minority.
When the city administration presented the project "Skopje 2014" in 2010, the city center was considered a gray and unattractive place. It planned to build numerous statues, fountains, bridges and museums for around 500 million euros. The project has sparked controversy: critics have described the city's new landmarks as signs of reactionary historicist aesthetics. The plan is accused of making Skopje a theme park considered to be a nationalist kitsch and has made Skopje an example to see how national identities are constructed and how this construction is reflected in urban space.
We decided on a secluded route through Macedonia. Media also reported large refugee movements on the border in Gevgelija. Hungary is building a security fence, which should be completed by the end of August. Therefore, many are currently trying to cross the border before the work is completed.
Cycling on the main roads in Macedonia is not recommended. However, driving on smaller roads becomes a cyclist's dream. Streets with little traffic and landscapes like a Karl May novel.
On our second day in Štip, a small town, a man asked us to take some pictures. Vanco was born here and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. He invited us directly for lunch at his mother's house. They offered us to take a shower after the delicious meal.
A small path along Mantovo and Vodocha Lake has been marked on our map. Some cows blocked the road. The farmer could not speak English. But he immediately called his nephew, who picked us up a few meters later on the street. Igor and his friends invited us immediately. His brother had some freshly caught fish. They cooked them over a wood fire. I ate 3 pieces of it. They were so delicious. After that, Igor showed us his village Gabrevtsi. All the people there welcomed us with open arms. Especially the old women had great pleasure in Tania.
Igor recommended a small road to Vodocha Lake. Tania needs a coffee every morning. Otherwise, she may feel very uncomfortable. Fortunately for us, we were invited to a store in Rich the next morning. One of the guests is the boss from the nearby quarry. We did a factory tour and another cup of coffee there.
Two villages later, we wanted to replenish our supplies. The shop was closed. But that's no problem in Macedonia. A pedestrian immediately called the owner. This time we were invited by the ladies of the village. They showered us with gifts. With heavy bags we left the village and set up our last tent in Macedonia.
After all, we were able to cycle more than 10 km per day after many days. We reached Lake Dojran very soon. It is a famous place for locals. The beaches were full of bathers. We made it to the Greek border and left Macedonia wistfully.
Macedonia was a very positive surprise for both of us. The hospitality of these people had sometimes almost thrown us. We would like to thank everyone who welcomed us with open arms. You are awesome!