Thursday, April 30, 2015

Catching Up.

Tuesday April 15 was a rest day - yes this international traveling is exhausting.  Interesting place, Ohrid Macedonia is with a history going a long way back as an important point on one of the main overland routes to the Adriatic since forever.  The modern city is more than a bit run down but the old town is being decently maintained and has a ton of charm.  The coolest thing I think is that the old town is noticeably populated by the working class.  I have found a similar fondness towards Kotor for the same reason.  Spent most of the day just wandering around from the modern shopping plaza through the market then up and over the hill through the old town sites.

Wednesday saw an enjoyable riding day through Western Macedonia.

There are strong Albanian sentiments in some of the communities as the red and black Albanian flag is far more prevalent the orange and red Macedonian flag.  Few places the Turkish flag is dominant.  Had coffee at the base of the Morvora ski hill and I am tempted to come back in the winter.  The terrain around Ohrid and the National park where the ski hill is located seems ideal for endless alpine touring exploration.   The wheels are turning inside my head.

Demir Kapija apparently is Turkish for iron gate which was derived from the iron red rocked gorge  in the nearby vicinity of the town.  Climatically this is where the continental air mass meets the Mediterranean air mass and with the constantly breezy conditions ideal for growing wine grapes.   High quality wine grapes at that.  Got a quick tour of the facilities then sat down for a fantastic meal, each course paired with an appropriate wine from the local vineyard.  

Got away early this morning as it looked like potentially a long day.  Well over 200 miles to the next hotel with a loss of an hour time change and a notorious border crossing.  And I hoped to have enough time to walk around Plovdiv Bulgaria a bit as everything I have read has only increased my interest in the place.

The roads in Macedonia are a bit rough, and that's being kind.   The suspension on the bike has definitely had a work out the last few days through Albania, Macedonia and now Bulgaria.   Bottomed the front out once in a pot hole hard enough to whip the left mirror stalk back out of position.   The tire, tube and rim didn't seem to mind.

The border came up pretty quick and the first stop was Macedonian customs where I was asked if I had anything to declare, how long had I been in Macedonia and what counties and I been through on my way to Macedonia.  Before I could finish answering barely the first question I was directed to start unlocking and opening all the bags on the bike.  Which I did and then started explaining what each piece of crap was that was now being held up by my new friend wearing the green Macedonian border inspector uniform.  After rummaging through every corner of storage on the bike I was allowed to pack up and proceed the 10 feet to the next booth where essentially the same exercise was repeated, except my other new friend wearing the blue Macedonian border inspection uniform could speak even less English.   Eventually they were satisfied I wasn't smuggling who knows what out of Macedonia at which point i then proceeded to the Bulgarian border station which was a comparative walk in the park.  Immediately the roads got better, among other things. 

Made it into Plovdiv in plenty of time to walk a bit around the central area of downtown taking in the sights and sounds.  I think Plovdiv translates from Bulgarian as "another place I need to come back to".

There is even a significant Roman amphitheater and colosseum.  The colosseum was only recently discovered during excavations for some new building.  Walking through the park on the way back to the hotel I literally tripped over the top of some random Roman arch that was just proud of the ground.  I think the sign said (it was in Cyrillic and probably Bulgarian) that this patch was an active archeological site - a fence would have helped.