What we did in Mavrovo, Sofia and Bitola.
Here's what happened between Skopje and Ohrid! Brace yourselves for the longest blogpost in the history of this blog:
After leaving Skopje we arrived in Leunovo, a tiny village in Mavrovo National Park, just as the sun set behind the mountains. We had turkish coffee with our airbnb host, and then we went fishing with his cousin and his family in the purple dusk. They didn't speak a word of english, but we had such a great time together anyway. No fish though!
The next day we explored the little villages that skirt the lake, in one of them we found this church that left us breathless. Until we realised that the paintings on the walls were actually wallpaper and not actual paintings. :((
We drove along windy roads through the mountains, past little farms and saw more goats and donkeys and cows that we could count. We stopped by the river and dipped our feet and hands in the perfectly clear, ice cold water to cool off in the pressing heat.
And stopped for lunch in Jance, the most picturesque village I’ve ever seen. Located on a hill so steep that the car struggled to take us up the road (we parked it halfway and walked up instead), with only 50 inhabitants but a hotel, churches and a mosque. We ate lunch while the call to prayer filled the air and couldn’t stop looking at the incredible view. Such a magical little place.
We explored some more (more mountains, goats, scary roads, espressos etc.) and ended the day with pasta and pesto picnic on our balcony while watching the sunset. Life, you're too good sometimes.
The next day we set out for Sofia in Bulgaria! A while ago I told my friend and classmate Vessi about our holiday in Macedonia and she excitingly suggested that we should take a detour to Sofia to visit her in her hometown! Feeling spontaneous, Otto and I checked that it was okay to take the rental car out of the country and booked a cheap airbnb. But before leaving Macedonia we stopped at Matka Canyon for lunch and some scenic landscapes.
Since comprehensible road signs isn't a thing in Macedonia we got lost. So, so lost, and drove around the countryside and random little towns that weren't on the map for 1.5h before we managed to locate ourselves. After we'd crossed the border in the mountains, we took a breath of relief as we knew it'd be pretty straight forward after that and stopped for sandwiches in the most beautiful of landscapes (↑) before we continued driving. Also, pro-tip: never ever drive in Sofia. Especially not in a rental car. And especially not when you've already been driving for 8 hours and it's dark and you have no clue of where you're going. Because all the streets are one-way and the other drivers have no patience for even a second of hesitance, and you will have to dodge cars and people and bikes coming from all directions. It was stressful to say the least, but everyone involved (including the car) survived.
Our first day in Sofia we woke up to the news of Brexit. We had breakfast and sat out to explore the streets of Sofia, but it was hard to enjoy the excitement of a new place when it feels like you’ve just been backstabbed by your best friend. Brexit was the only thing we could talk about, but feeling lost for words we often fell silent and stared into the distance. It kept us up at night and the photos of a celebrating Nigel Farage made my stomach turn. The UK is my home, where I’ve planted my roots, and where I planned on living my life. This turned everything upside down and we were angry, sad and disappointed. At last we had to put a ban on reading any news about Brexit, the UK or Scotland (although the prospect of a new independence referendum is the only glimmer of hope in this freaking mess), because it put us in a gloomy mood = no good when you’re on holiday.
The post-brexit depression is the reason why our four days in Sofia only make up a handful of photos and videos on my memory card. But apart from talking about how much of a mess the UK is right now we also: got caught in the rain and took shelter under a tree while we watched the people of Sofia hurry by. We met up with Vessi who took us to a restaurant and introduced us to Bulgarian cuisine, she navigated us through the vibrating night and we hung out with her friends in a hidden bar. We had picnic on a bench while the thunder roared over our heads, we spent hours in the National Gallery getting lost in Bulgarian art, we had breakfast with the windows wide open while the sounds of the city (singing birds, rustling trams, people speaking fast in Bulgarian) filled the room, and read books spread out on the grass in the sweltering sun.
Then we hit the road again! Here illustrated by a sandwich stop by the road = classic roadtrip moment.
Through the mountains (we had to stop for a little turtle that was crossing the road!! so cute).
And along the wineries in the south.
Before ending up in a village in Pelister National park, next to the city Bitola, where we stayed the night before continuing to Ohrid in the morning. We woke up to this incredible view. Visiting this village was it was like travelling back in time, the fields were cropped by hand, the sheep were herded up the mountains in the morning, and the horses ran loose with a bell around their neck. It brought me back to growing up in the countryside, how it felt when I was a child, when my grandparents still were alive - and somehow, I found a piece of my childhood in the middle of nowhere in Macedonia. Who would’ve thought.