Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Veles, Macedonia

We left Struga the next day for the town of Ohrid, a few miles to the West. I found the local road that winds itself along the water’s edge. The morning was crisp and lovely and just 30 minutes later we arrived in Ohrid, the most popular town on Lake Ohrid; the town with the history, castles, beaches and the target for us that day. We found downtown Ohrid without trouble but not the old city. I cannot say why but we just looked at each other, shook our heads and moved on. Maybe it was the challenge of finding Zagoriče that drove us, I cannot say. We left Ohrid to hunt for the small village of Zagoriče
I am very target oriented. Give me a cause and I will pursue it until it is done. We had located the village of Zagoriče on the map but getting to it was another matter. Carefully we plodded along, following signs in Cyrillic that lead us near. We missed it. In the town of Demir Hisar we had to ask and were guided by the gas station attendant back to a small exit off the main road and finally arrived at Zagoriče, the partial roots of Carol’s Children. It was an emotional experience for Carol and I am glad we did this trip to get to know, to see for ourselves, how a difficult life can dish out inequities. Zagoriče was indeed a few houses along a dirt track leading into the mountains. Not much had changed here for decades if not centuries. The faces of the people we met in town spoke of their life. If dental hygiene is an indication of civilization then the modern world has not arrived in Zagoriče. We are fairly sure Carol’s first mother-in-law was born here; Carol admired and loved this woman.
After some time trying unsuccessfully to solve the mystery of Carol’s former mother-in-law’s birthplace, we moved on. The road we were on now, moved deeper into the mountains. All the signs were old and in Cyrillic. We found our way, having had the previous experience with this signage. When the word spells mountains it evidently means twisty roads, hairpin curves and harsh drop offs. Being on non-touristy roads, being in a county that needs basic infrastructure, you can imagine how the roads were. Each corner could spell disaster. The detours we ran into did not help. One stretch had old cobble stones as pavement and I shuddered at riding this road for a long time but then it chanced into a fairly modern highway. Macedonia is in transition. There are things here that are very good, but other things are sill old and need a lot of work. Along the way I saw ecological disaster sections. Rivers were so full of trash that it left me shuddering. We proceeded carefully and while we encountered difficult sections we made it undamaged to Prilep only to find out that the next hotel would be in Veles, about 1 hour away. Ok, so it goes, planning and timing or flexibility is essential in countries without modern setups. Oh, there was a hotel in Prilep but it was an old time Russian hotel, 5 Star rating, for about 85 Euros per night; a bit out of our league even though the locals saw us as rich Americans or Canadians.
We rode the additional hour on a good road to Veles and a guy on a motorcycle, riding way too fast and showing off because we were there, guided us part way to the Motel Montenegro. This motel was built in anticipation of tourists but lacked some basics, like being able to close the bathroom door. The shower had no curtain so the water ran freely, flooding everywhere. The prices, since this was the only motel about, were too high but we had no choice. We paid left the next morning after a breakfast shared with an older Croatian Harley Motorcycle rider
who made his money in Germany. He now lives 6 months in Germany and 6 months in Croatia. This man, speaking the language of the old Yugoslavia, gave us some tips as what to see in Serbia, our next target.

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