Safe European Home

I’m sat in front of my laptop in our apartment. and it really is an apartment – almost bigger than our flat at home, watching VH1 recovering from a good lunch at Beerhouse (more than a beer house, more a fine Macedonian restaurant) which we shared with the top brass of the Macedonian armed forces and their body guards. We’re at Hotel Royal which is somewhere in the suburbs of Skopje in our massive room – I want to ring up friends and say come round for a party at ours it feels like that. We had booked the Hotel Imperial but were bumped here – from Imperial to Royal is that a demotion?

After the last post I slept a bit before getting up early to get the train to Stuttgart to get a plane to Belgrade. It was a bit different at sunny and 29C compared to the cold snowy place we arrived at in February. We bought our tickets for the night train to Skopje and then walked into the centre of the city. After spending time relaxing at a couple of cafes we set off for a restaurant to eat for the evening. Unfortunately it was closed, as were a lot of other restaurants so we had to resort to the Hotel Moskva for our evening meal which was very good. We walked down to the station and got onto the train to Skopje. I do not understand why in the former Soviet Union the trains are slower and seen as a lower form of transport to the bus. I know from experience that there is the same view in Latvia about the train service and it operates in the same way. Living in the country of the TGV this doesn’t make sense to me. Anyway we left Belgrade on the sleeper, watched Belgrade pass us by then settled down for the night. I settled down so well that I slept through the Serbian and Macedonian border guards coming round to check our passports and was in danger of being taken off into the sidings along with the sleeping car. Fortunately that did not happen and We turned out into the station at Skopje. The write-ups which said the station was ugly and not a great welcome to Skopje were not wrong. After breakfast we walked into the centre and. after the minarets of mosques and a clock tower that made sure people went to prayer on time, we walked through the market and then bazaar. This included two Turkish baths which have been turned into the main art gallery of Macedonia. I would have gone to the baths but not to the gallery. How long will it be before they are restored? Not too long if I am to go back and visit them.  We walked around the old-town before ending at the Beerhouse, which is, as its advertising says, more of a restaurant than than a beer house. We had fabulous Macedonian food, at the same time as the top brass of the Macedonian armed forces, what more of a recommendation for a place could there be? Then we got a taxi to the station to collect our baggage before heading to the hotel. It seemed to be so far out of town that we were wondering how we would get into the city for the evening.  We no longer know where we are so it will be interesting to find out when we try and go out later. Tomorrow it’s off to Pristina. Eight more capitals to visit to have seen all of them in Europe. One less left after tomorrow. Mind you I am still not sure about Pristina being a capital of a country at this point in time, but we’re here, it’s been an adventure coming here on the train and this will continue the adventure. What’s the problem if it doesn’t really count? We’ll find out from the people who matter – the people who live in the country. That’s what this whole adventure has been about, rather than just sitting in our safe European home:

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