Bigger Than Jesus

About twice as big, actually. The Millennium Cross in Skopje, which I finally made it around to visiting today, is a little over twice as big as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. I think the two cities should combine tourism forces, fly the Christ statue over here, and nail it to the Millennium Cross. I mean, blasphemous or not, who wouldn’t like to see that?

So, yes…I finally took the time to visit the Millennium Cross. For anyone visiting Skopje in the future, I’ll give some good bus advice. The bus station is actually three stations. Directly inside is the ticket counter for international buses. Tickets are required to exit to the international parking lot. Through the other doors are the national buses, at which tickets can be bought on each particular bus. What I didn’t know is that around the outside is the city bus station. This is the starting location for pretty much every bus that runs through the city. Because of this mistake, I missed the 11:40 bus to Vodno Mountain and had to wait for half an hour. Bus 25 goes about halfway up the mountainside, at which time you can either hike or take the ski lift for 100 Denar (round trip). The top of the mountain offers less-than-spectacular views. It was worth the trip, sure, but the Cross isn’t much to see and trees block most of the views of the city. While at the top I sat and had a protein bar for lunch and read a new book I got for my Kindle: The Big Short. It is about an investor that was intelligent enough to foresee the housing market crash and bet BIG against the sub-prime mortgages back in 2008. For reasons I can’t quite explain, I am intensely fascinated with economics, especially financial scandals.

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After about an hour at the top I attempted to return to the bus drop-off point, but learned that the lift only operates for the first half of each hour. So I went to one of the shops at the top and bought a Skopsko beer and enjoyed the scenery for another half hour waiting for the lift to start. The bus tickets are only 35 Denar each way, so the whole excursion (beer included) only cost me 250 Denar – maybe €4. Aside from the hostel, that is all I spent today. Score!

I returned to the hostel a bit tired from the heat and decided to rest a bit. I didn’t actually sleep, but put on a documentary and just relaxed for a bit. The hostel owner confronted me around 2100 and practically insisted that I join him, his wife, his son, and his step-daughter for dinner. He said I have been here so long that I am practically family. Plus he spent six hours in the forest today picking mushrooms. His wife cooked us up a delicious pasta dish with chicken, mushrooms, and ham. We drank beer until it ran out, then white wine. After dinner she also made me some Turkish coffee. I am not in any way a coffee drinker. In the States I would probably drink coffee twice a year. Yet I’ve probably had Turkish coffee ten times in the past month. It is really quite delicious.

“You’ve been here so long you are practically family.” Everyone in any way associated with this hostel has been so kind and generous, but I took that statement a drastically different way. I have been here too long! I was planning on leaving yesterday, yet Lola convinced me to stay until tomorrow. Still, as much as I am going to miss her, I am getting quite a bit restless to move on. I have spent an astounding two weeks in Macedonia! That’s absurd! Not because it is Macedonia, but because it is half of an entire month. For a traveler, that’s essentially moving in. Granted, I have been to two cities here, in two different hostels, with a weekend break in Kosovo. Even so, I need to move on. Skopje isn’t THAT big. Imagine spending a full two weeks in Branson, Missouri. You can see why I’m anxious to move on.

So the plan is this: tomorrow I will meet up early with Lola so we can say our goodbyes, then catch a bus in the afternoon to Serbia. I plan on visiting Niš, then most likely going east to Bulgaria. Quite frankly, I’m not at all ready to lose my tanned beach body, so I’m hoping I can make it to the beaches on the Black Sea within two weeks – while it is still warm enough to get some sun and relax by the sea. I still haven’t decided where to visit after Bulgaria, but I’m sure it will be quite the experience!

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