Macedonia flower day – Strumica to Kavadarci (91/16,294k, 705m)

(written by Dave)

We already like Macedonia, after only 1 day here.  This morning, our innkeeper took a genuine interest in our trip while joining us at breakfast.  This has not happened since rural Turkey.  He really wanted to teach us the Macedonia Cyrillic alphabet, even writing our names in Cyrillic.  We were happy to be able to learn how to say hello and thank you – leaving the advanced writing instruction for another day.

We headed south out of town and had about 10k of climbing.  The grade was very gentle and all of the traffic seemed exceptionally polite.  We received lots of toots, waves and a few cars even waited to pass until it was safe.  Did I mention that we like Macedonia yet?  The wild flowers on the side of the road while climbing and at the top of the pass were great.  I decided that today I would indulge my riding partner with a few more photo stops than normal so that I could include a Macedonia flower collage in the post.  I did not include too many poppy photos (unless they made a cameo appearance) as they have been in so many of my previous posts – don’t worry; there are lots of poppies in Macedonia as well as the new flowers shown below.

After the climb we had a long decent down into the Vardar river valley.  It seemed a lot longer than and steeper than the climb we had going up even though we started and ended at the same elevation.  How about that, Macedonia climbs go down more than they go up, is that possible?  Did I mention that we like Macedonia yet?

We stopped for morning tea at a servo where our mountain road joined the major north-south motorway (the E75), just at the bottom of the climb.  Lukas, the rider we met yesterday, told us that the motorway was not bad and he proved spot on.  The road could use a little more shoulder but it wasn’t overly busy.  There were a few trucks and buses but they gave us lots of room.  We enjoyed a scenic ride upriver, with a tailwind to boot.  At the end of the valley is the Demir Kapija gorge.  This is a very short gorge and rather than enter it, the motorway goes through it via two longish tunnels.  We let a couple trucks pass us before we entered the first tunnel and rode as fast as we dared to exit the second tunnel just as the next wave of cars started to overtake us.  Nothing like a little sprint on a touring bike to get the blood flowing.  The tunnels were very cool and well lit so it was actually pretty safe.

At the town of Demir Kapija, the motorway becomes an expressway.  This means two lanes and a shoulder going our direction so decent riding but we also saw a surface road just next to us.  We consulted google maps and decided to try the surface road.  And a good choice it ended up being as it had no traffic, followed the same route and dropped us in at Negotino where we wanted to go.  We were looking at staying a monastery in Negotino but had trouble finding it and decided to eat lunch and regroup.

We pulled into a small restaurant near the main town square and had a couple sandwiches.  The owner spoke good English and highly recommended the next town down the road, Kavadarci.  She didn’t know much about the monastery.  It was so nice to have someone talk to us and take interest our trip.  We really missed that in Bulgaria.  She even brought a couple glassed of complementary blueberry juice.  While sitting there, we were joined by Monceva Ristenka, a local elderly woman who really wanted to talk to us.  She spoke excellent English and claimed to speak French and German (plus Macedonian).  She was quite a character and kept us entertained while we ate.  She asked us a lot of questions but we never really had much chance to answer before she was off on to some other story – another nice Macedonian moment – yes, we like Macedonia.

Eventually we made our apologies and exited for the short ride to the highly recommended Kavadarci.  We were not sure if we wanted a hotel or to try camping (yes, we will camp again one day).  The only hotel we knew of turned out to be full.  They had a sister hotel that was too far out of town so camping was looking like a better option.  Only trouble was some very dark thunder clouds brewing over town.  We stopped a taxi rank (they always know the local details) and asked the drivers about hotels.  There was one option left so we headed that direction.  We pulled into the Hotel Feni just as it started to rain.  We booked a room for one night, feeling a bit like weather wimps.  While Nancy was getting cleaned up, a proper thunder storm went through, validating our call.  The hotel is nice, too expensive but nice.

We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and we were the only guests in the place.  There is a wedding party here tonight so we essentially got the same meal that the guests were getting – pork or veal in mushroom sauce with salad, chips and bread.  It was actually pretty tasty, topped off with some Macedonian wine.  After dinner we watched the wedding guests file in and go through a presentation line with the bride and groom, each getting their picture taken with the happy couple.  The hotel receptionist said that there were 400 people invited so it sounds like it will be a big bash!  And, given how many of the ladies were dressed, this must be a big event of the season.  I am not sure many of them could walk very far in the heels they were wearing.  We watched them while they watched us for a while and finally decided to call it a night.  Hopefully it won’t get too loud later on….

Tomorrow we are off to Bitola, which our guidebook describes as one of Macdeonia’s most patriotic and sophisticated cities.  It is a large city, close to 100,000 people, so we may take a day off there to explore a bit, depending on how it looks once we get there.

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4 thoughts on “Macedonia flower day – Strumica to Kavadarci (91/16,294k, 705m)

  1. Love the flower pictures! Now I want to visit Macedonia! How about at least a pic of the outside of hotel or some buildings???

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