What to truly expect when traveling Macedonia
What we loved…
Food (aka mountain cheese)
I’m not going to make any apologies. I am a CHEESE LOVER. I love almost all cheese – no matter the texture, no matter the smell, I simply love cheese! So, Macedonia having mountain cheese on every menu and included in almost every item makes me beyond happy. If you don’t know what mountain cheese is, then you have got to get yourself to Europe. You can find it in most mountainous European countries: Spain, Switzerland, Romania, and all across the balkans. What they mean is fresh homemade cheese. Macedonia’s put it in pastries, on potatoes, with meat, on it’s own, in salad…basically on any way you can imagine. I mean I always thought au gratin meant with melted cheese. When traveling Macedonia I found cheese au gratin. Cheese with cheese?!?! The only thing I have to say is yum!
Stop looking for places that are off the beaten path. If you want to see rugged and untouched nature, go to Macedonia. It’s an awesome place to hike or even just road trip. The roads are in good shape and the scenery is gorgeous. From lakes and waterfalls to canyons and mountains, you’ll find yourself taking tons of pictures. Also, in this small country, you don’t have to go far from the towns ands cities to be out in nature. There are also mountaintop and cliffside monasteries and castles dotting the countryside that offer great views both inside and out, in addition to a great insight on the religion, culture, and or history of Macedonia.
Everyone loves to be a maverick, the leader of the pack, Indiana Jones. Well, if you want to go somewhere before the rest of the world catches on, get yourself to Macedonia. There are very few tourists, it’s gorgeous, and they have delicious food at fractions of the cost of Western European countries. You simply won’t have to fight the crowds or feel like you’re in a fake tourist trap. You’ll be amongst locals, and locals only.
What we didn’t love…
Most European cities have a certain sense of magic about them, but not Skopje. There’s something very inauthentic and fake feeling about this place. Come to find out, the locals are super upset about this very issue. There are more statues and new old-looking building facades than one can imagine. The locals are upset that the government keeps spending money on materialistic things rather than investing in the community. They’ve even protested, and in a very peculiar way. They call it the color revolution and throw paint all over statues and building facades. I’m not so sure they’re going about it the right way, as it will only cost more money to clean up, but I do hope it’s making the government think twice about what is important to spend money on.
This is a common theme in The Balkans. There just isn’t much tourist infrastructure or even much readily available information on traveling Macedonia. We lucked out because we had our own car and could easily get ourselves around. Plus, our sister-in-law is of Macedonian decent and her family that still lives in Macedonia gave us very detailed information on where to go and what to see. We highly recommend having your own wheels when traveling Macedonia. Not just for ease, but because the countryside is a gorgeous road tripping adventure that’s just waiting you.
Alexander the Great
Everyone in the country bears the name of Macedonia’s most famous national hero, Alexander the Great. It feels as if all men are named Alexander and all women are named Alexandra or Alexandria. It’s impossible to keep everyone straight. But, at least you almost always know everyone’s name. And don’t you dare think about mentioning that Alexander the Great is Greek. There is no love loss between Greece and Macedonia, to the extent that Greece has actually played a hand in keeping Macedonia out of the European Union. Who knows what this age old rivalry is truly about, but I will tell you one thing, part of it involves Alexander the Great. Is he Macedonian or is he Greek? It all depends on who you ask. So, be sure to side with whatever country you’re in at the time.