Every country has its own customs, manners and people. Sometimes, this may seem odd to outsiders. We mentioned the Lisbonese, the Germans and the Philippines before; and this time, we want to share the things that we thought were peculiar in Macedonia.
Great differences in one country
In the Balkans, local buses seem to be gifts from other countries. In Herzegovina, buses are a present “from the people of Japan”, in modern-looking city of Skopje, buses are the typical red, British doubledeckers, making you feel like you ended up in London. When exploring the country, the landscape and the people are different in every area. Landscapes change from green mountains to rocky mountains and from lush, almost tropical, vegetation to yellow, dry fields or lakes and rivers. Villages and cities all have different flair; in some, big, colorful mosques dominate the skyline, people look and act different and are dressed like in the Middle East. Other places are boring and modern, while other towns look very Asian – the town of Struga especially reminded us of Bali.
Where is the food?
Numerous bakery shops sell good, affordable burek, pizza slices and bread. Minimarkets and supermarkets sell individually packed croissants and tiny bags of chips and you can get a hamburger with fries in the snackbars. This is yet another thing that reminds us of Asia. However, after spending some time in this country, maybe you would like to try something else once in a while, and unlike in Asia, you won’t find cheap Asian restaurants. Surely, you will find restaurants with local food, but who would eat out every single day? As for the regular supermarkets: where is all the normal food? And as for drinks: better stay away from Macedonian beer…
The love of plastic and trash
Another thing that reminds us of Asia, is the love Macedonians have for plastic. Not only because you get a plastic bag for all shopping, even if all you buy is a single drink, but also the way plastic is part of the cities, nature and lakes. You may find trashcans here and there, but generally they can be hard to find. Especially if you are outside the city. Even if you find them, they won’t hold the trash for long. Stray dogs and cats rip open bags or the wind will take care of the trash that barely fits inside.
Along the country roads, you will find small parking spaces next to the road where all your trash can be dumped on a pile. If you can’t find any, just open your car window and throw it outside. The world is your trash can. Even the more touristic places are not clean. On the pebble beaches of Lake Ohrid, you can still sit comfortably because the millions of cigarette butts soften the ground and if you don’t feel like paying for the use of a chair and sun umbrella, you will have to dig your way through the plastic to find a place to put your towel.
Macedonia for Macedonians only
In the mountains of Mavrovo National Park, there are some little towns and parking spaces along the river where a few people were hiking and fishing and there were some picknick areas around. This, apparently, wasn’t for us to enjoy. Large signs indicated that entry was forbidden. Not for Macedonians though, the sign specifically stated – in several different languages – that foreigners were not wanted here. We decided to keep driving…
More about Macedonia
We enjoyed traveling Macedonia. It’s a country with beautiful nature and friendly people (who all seem to speak English too). Read about the best viewpoints and places to swim that we found around Lake Ohrid.