Return to Skopje

Friday 22 to Sunday 24 February

Our journey back to Skopje was through the Mavrovo National Park with a stop at the Monastery of Saint Jovan Bigorski (St John the Baptist). The monastery was built in 1020AD by Ivan I Debrarnin. It was destroyed by the Ottomans in the 16th century then restored in the 18th century by the monk Ilarion. The monastery is set high in the mountains that run between the northern border of Macedonia and Albania to its north.

Here we learnt about the two headed eagle, the symbol of Orthodoxy. According to tradition Constantine the Great (306-337) united the dissociated Roman Empire and became the sole ruler. He introduced the two headed eagle as a symbol of unity (east and west). The symbol later was used to symbolise the unity of the church and the state, which functioned according to the principal of symphony.

The scenery in the national park is stunning, and for the first time there was very little rubbish along the roads of the park. As we continued to Skopje we passed one of Macedonia’s ski resorts Popova Sapka and its frozen Mavrovo Lake.

We planned a detour to Tetovo to see the famous painted mosque there, but the traffic was too heavy and parking difficult. The family settled for a borak from a local baker instead.

We returned to Skopje and ‘our’ apartment and settled in. After a brisk walk around the corner for Friday drinks we once again indulged in a take home roast chicken dinner.

We spent our last day together in Skopje, exploring the city. To quote Evan’s Facebook blog:

We spent the day sightseeing in Skopje, checking out the insane amount of statues, including a huge one of Alexander the Great, and the winding streets of the bazaar. Stumbled across a mini gallery that used to be a caravansari, but now houses the Academy of Arts. Some great kebabs and beans for lunch. Mother Teresa’s tomb and one last hello to Alexander. One bizarre thing about Skopje is the London style red double-decker buses they have, quite curious!

Mother Teresa was born in Skopje of Albanian parents who were refugees there. We were to find on our travels many claims to Mother Teresa, whether churches, roads or statues – she is a very important person in this highly religious part of the world.

We finished the day with dinner back at Skopski Merak with a real Eastern European dinner. Then it was time to pack up.

Evan was due to fly to NYC via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines at 08:55 but got to the airport to find his flight cancelled because of snow in Istanbul.

So, by the time we all got to the airport Evan was waiting to join us for a last coffee. He was heading back into Skopje for another day, compliments of Turkish Airlines.

Our driver told us Turkish Airlines was the best to suffer a delay because they look after their clients.

Hayden & Andrea and Steph were flying to Vienna at 12:40. Hayden & Andrea heading home to Berlin while Steph was going to Lyon to visit her French families.

I hate these good byes, but we have plans to visit Berlin and New York, to see them again in their respective homes, on this journey.

And we took a car to Pristina in Kosovo to continue our adventure.