Greetings from Ohrid, Macedonia! The rest of my time in Tirana was fairly uneventful. I did manage to catch a bus to Tirana East Gate, a huge shopping mall several kilometers from the city center. I needed to replace a few items, mostly electronics, that have stopped working recently. I caught the minibus at 1500 to Ohrid yesterday – probably not the best decision on a Saturday. Macedonia (thus far) is a bit of an anomaly. First, I don’t have any cell reception, which means no internet without wifi. This is exactly the situation I was hoping to avoid when getting Project Fi before I left. Sure, Google tells me I have coverage here, but they don’t actually deliver it. Hopefully Skopje will be a little more connection.
Also, Ohrid is only the third city I’ve visited (the other two both in Croatia) where all the hostels were full upon arrival. I don’t really like to book in advance unless I’m traveling with others. So exiting the bus in midday in a city with no internet and no place to sleep is a bit challenging. Luckily I met a young couple from South Africa (“Jo-burg” as they call their home city) on the bus. They had reservations in a hostel, but didn’t know where it was. So the three of us walked into the city center and stopped at the first hostel we found, which still took half an hour. They were full, of course, but I used the wifi to search for other hostels, all of which were full. So the couple got directions to their hostel and the owner here offered me a tent in their backyard for only 7 Euro. I don’t see where I really had a choice.
I unloaded my gear and ventured into town, only half a kilometer from the Sunset Lake Hostel. I was enjoying a huge dinner of chicken parmesan when it started raining. Lightly at first, then torrential downpours. It let up just enough for me to hightail it back to the hostel. The owner said the rain might be a problem with the tent, but he had put a towel outside for me. He quite literally just draped a towel over the top of the tent during a massive thunderstorm. What’s more, he left the door unzipped. Needless to say it was flooded. So I set up a little bed in the covered patio nearby, which was already occupied with at least six others that were intending to sleep there. I say “covered,” but that’s being a bit generous. The tin roof was haphazardly patched up enough to block about 90% of the rain – a far cry from dry in such heavy rain. So I broke out my sleeping bag and inflatable pillow (thanks, mom) and did my best to bunker down for the night. Thankfully I saved myself a few Ambien for just such sleeping conditions. The rain let up enough over the night to catch a few hours of sleep.
I ventured back into town around noon for lunch and more gelato. The town here is really beautiful, but small and packed with tourists. I think I am going to catch a bus to Skopje tomorrow and try my luck in a big city. I haven’t taken many photos of Macedonia yet, so there won’t be any visual aids in this post. Next time I should have some more pictures ready to post. Next time – likely in Skopje!