Monday, June 27, 2011

Week In Review Sabbatical Style: T-5 Weeks

I've got to think of a better way to title these...counting down the weeks like this is both startling and depressing...


I've been wifi-less for a few days but I thought I would throw out a quick review of the week! It's definitely been a good one.

  • Countries visited this week: Serbia, Kosovo and (currently) Macedonia. Tomorrow I'll head to Albania. Or...maybe I'll stay here for a while longer...
  • I feel like I have some kind of street cred for having been to Kosovo. But really, it's a front--it was perfectly safe there. 
  • Southern Serbia is nothing like the north. The bus station at Novi Pazar was a little sketchy. I got out of there quick--took a taxi straight to the Sopocani monastery I was going to stay the night near. The monastery was beautiful and covered in frescos that were hundreds of years old. My hotel, though? I shudder thinking back on it. Thankfully I still had my sleeping sack from the Camino and employed a do-not-make-any-contact-with-any-part-of-this-place policy. 
  • I lucked out the next morning and caught a ride back with a guy from Novi Sad who was down in the south visiting the monasteries (I was worried about finding a cab out there in the middle of nowhere). He let me share his cab back to Novi Pazar, went out of their way to get me to the bus station and then refused to let me pay. 
  • Most awkward moment of the week? I was sitting under a tree at the monastery when an ant/spider-like creature fell on me. I brushed it off my neck and unfortunately it fell...into my bra. What do you do when you are at a monastery with monks all around, no bathroom or place to hide, and you have a biting ant down your shirt?! I swear. These things only happen to me. 
  • I have not succeeded in escape the smoking. (In fact, at the moment, grandpa next to me at the cafe is blowing it straight into my FACE.)
  • Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, was nice enough, but it was a furnace. It was in the upper 90s. (And, yes yes, I know it's been in the 100s for weeks now in Texas, but you're not walking around in it all day carrying a backpack with all of your belongings or trying to sleep without AC.)
  • Of course the day I left it cooled off. I got to Lake Ohrid, which is higher up, and it was properly cold. It's been sunny during the day, but the nights are chilly. Last night were were sitting around at a cafe and I saw the temp on a sign near by--50 degrees! No wonder my teeth were chattering!
  • I met a fun and eclectic group of people at my hostel in Skopje, then, ended up bumping in to all of them again here in Ohrid.  
  • I skyped in to a conference back home this week. Granted it was 11pm when I was trying to listen in, but I think it might be official--my brain has turned to mush. 
  • Before I left Belgrade I took a day trip to Topola. There's not a whole lot there besides an old church up in a bit of forest outside of town. It was stunning! The Church of St. George was covered in mosaics--40,000,000 pieces worth! In 15,000 colors! 
  • Spending the day hiking it up to the monastery through the thick trees gave me a happy flashback to the Camino. (And also an allergy headache.)
  • Skopje = one giant construction zone. They are building huge statues, monuments and buildings everywhere. 
  • My guide book says that street names are a relatively new thing in Skopje...which might help explain why I got lost who knows how many times (it also didn't help that the 3 maps I had all showed things in completely different places...)
  • My favorite thing in Skopje was the Mother Teresa memorial center/museum. She was born in Skopje and the museum was actually really moving and inspiring. The building is built on the site of the old Catholic church in town where she attended and felt called to be a missionary, which I thought was pretty special. 
  • Ohrid is really, really beautiful. 
  • I'm afraid that I am starting to look like a hippy...I think it's time for a haircut. 
  • Cuban food, no matter how enticing it seems, is not a good idea when you are in far away Macedonia. 
  • They seem to be a fan of American R&B and hip hop here in Macedonia. I was getting tired of the random 80's mix that seems to be popular elsewhere, so I suppose its a nice change. Although I wasn't too excited to be woken up to someone blaring old school Usher this morning. 
  • Similar to that one time in Panama, I got lucky and happened on to a region-wide folk dance festival this week. It was fantastic! 
Hiking up to the church in Topola

Church of St. George

All made of mosaic tiles (made from Murano glass)


From the top of the hill you could see vineyards 

Sopocani Monastery

In Prishtina, Kosovo

My "Cuban" sandwich (cheese, slice of ham, tomatoes and cucumbers...) and rice and beans which I'm pretty sure came premixed from a can

Old bridge in Skopje 

Sunset along the river/construction zone

Mother Teresa statue

I had read that her feet where messed up because she always took the worst pair of shoes so that no one else would have to have them 

Her sari

Lake Ohrid from the window in my room

 
Another look at the lake

OK, that's it for now--more on Ohrid later!

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