Macedonia – Bitola
Posted on February 6, 2015
Ah, how can we resist Bitola, home of great Greek and Roman ruins, and a fine pedestrian mall where we can join so many local unemployed people doing their thing – watching other people stroll up and down the avenue.
Let’s start with a look at our great traditional rooms. High ceilings and wooden floors and no place to put anything in the nicely tiled bathroom. We’re located on an edge of town in a warren of twisting lanes. Our taxi driver drives us a good 40 miles from Ohrid right to our door step for the cost of bus fare.
We take a stroll downtown to see the sights. It’s a sunny day so everyone is outdoors catching the rays, and people watching.
We walk to the center of town and see a large artificial holiday tree.
Just like everywhere else we go, even in the northern countries, we see that snacks have taken over the world. Fortunately, the local people have not grown in girth to match the availability of snacks and soda, not yet. People here love nuts for snacks. We see shops specializing in nuts. Popcorn is also popular.
Along the way we pass a sign shop. An idea goes off in Suzi’s fertile mind. She could use a sign on the outside door where she is storing her stuff at her brother’s place. She has one made with Roman numerals and Cyrillic lettering. We pick it up the next day. It is a very pleasant experience for us all.
It’s now lunch time. The sign people direct us to the best of traditional food, at a restaurant on the main square, sandwiched between a mosque and a rather grotesque glass building.
We notice a table of four men obviously enjoying their meal and a bottle of rose. They already have been there quite a while before we were seated as a new bottle of wine is being poured. They’re convivial but not boisterous, loosened by wine, no doubt.
Nearby is the outdoor market. We take a look around.
We are in search of a pharmacy. This seems to be the way.
At the far end of town quite past the train station is the ancient city of Heraclea Lyncestis, founded by Philip II in the 4th century BC as a Greek city, only to be overrun by the Romans 200 years later.
The entry fee is modest and we are able to wander among the ruins at will. The fine floor mosaics are covered over with gravel for the winter so we cannot see them. One is expected to walk on top of the walls and along the gangplanks. The going is a bit tenuous.
As the daylight is giving way, we head back to town. First, we do a little shopping for groceries and wine.
On the way home we pass a fine old place in need of a bit of tender loving care.
We pass the train station where we will go tomorrow for our train to Skopje.
It’s a bit late but still time for our traditional afternoon coffee and sweets. We return to Restaurant GRNE. Suzi sees her now favorite dessert on the menu – Sexy Salad. You can see from the photo how it gets it’s name.
We notice that even though it has been several hours since we had lunch here, the table of men has not changed. The guys are still there and yet another bottle of rose has been depleted. But by the time we finish our coffee and desserts the men have left. Somehow they seem to have walked out unassisted.
Outside it’s getting darker and the holiday lights have been turned on. Now you can see the “tree”.
The time has come to say goodbye to Bitola. We head now for the capitol of Macedonia – Skopje – by train, a four hour journey. This will be a new adventure.
We share our six person compartment with a decidedly ill-kempt companion, who certainly is uncomfortable when I pull out my camera. He stands up and faces me but says not a word. I put my camera away until he gets off a few stops down the line. Then a whole village worth of people board and fill every available seat and every inch of the aisle outside our compartment. It stays this way all the way to Skopje. We are joined by two college students and a retired engineer. One of the girls is quite fluent in English and talks quite freely. The civil engineer also speaks English and we get along quite well. The conversations certainly shorten the travel time.
After a while we all decide to doze for a while.
We arrive in Skopje at night at a large dingy station and are promptly accosted by a host of taxi drivers. Suzi ignores all of them until she senses a good one. She negotiates a good deal and we are taken directly to our destination, where we meet our host. The driver is just great and we so enjoy the drive. Before driving away, he makes sure we are delivered into good hands.