It feels like I barely got caught up from our trip to Slovenia and then we were off to Macedonia. The trip down was fine, easy because we had a car through NCSC, long because D was asleep on my lap for several hours, making sitting and breathing mighty uncomfortable. I can't wait to go back to using a car seat! I'm still amazed at how pretty the countryside is outside of the cities. Even Kosovo has its charms. Macedonia outside of Skopje is very rural, even today a sort of primitive farming country. We saw people using horses and cows to plow, harvesting with sickles and scythes. Manual labor is the norm. The drive was lovely, through farming communities, small villages and very large mountains. Lake Ochrid was beautiful, a bit like Lake Erie. The hotel had the feel of a lakeside lodge resort, Balkans-style. The weather was perfect - sunny and warm days, very cool at night (good thing too, since no a/c there!) The lake was too cold to swim, but D had fun splashing in the shallows and collecting more rocks. It's a UNESCO heritage site, but the Macedonians displayed the same carefree attitude to littering and garbage as Kosovars. A real shame to have such a beautiful site marred by soda bottles, chip bags and cigarette butts. At least our hotel had someone sweep the rocky beach each morning. I'm not saying similar problems don't exist in the US, but I think Americans on the whole really are more conscious of their impact on the environment. The lake itself is fed by natural springs or streams - crystal clear. Very pretty and very popular vacation spot.
I was all worried about what D would eat at a remote Macedonian lake resort, but it turns out her favorite thing to eat was grilled sardines with yogurt sauce. Good thing I didn't pack the peanut butter!
The second day of our stay we woke up to no water. The whole town was without for the entire day. Everyone seemed to take it in stride (we are from Pristina, after all) but the people at M's conference were un-showered and trapped in a stuffy, warm conference room. I felt very sorry for them as D & I lounged by the lake all day. D & I also went into town with some of the other spouses attending the conference. Ohrid was a medieval walled city and still retains some original buildings and, judging by their condition, streets as well. Cobblestones, half-timbered buildings and beautifully frescoed ancient churches everywhere. D, who is completely frescoed- and-churched out, prevented us from exploring a lot of the city (to M's disappointment) but we did get to walk around a lot, sit at waterfront cafes for lunch and soak up the atmosphere. I also got a rockin' tan.
D was a dream and (I think) impressed a lot of M's co-workers with her ability to communicate in a very "big girl" fashion. A lot of locals aren't used to hearing a small child speak English (a phenomena we ran into in Slovenia as well) and they just love to hear her talk. I was amazed at how well she could hold a conversation and how opinionated she is! I wonder how that will fly at pre-school.
On the way back last night we stopped in Skopje for dinner. We drove into the city center to have dinner at a restaurant M had been to before. Down in the city it was brutally hot and reminded me of what we're going to face when we get back to Florida in a few weeks. But we had a nice meal (turkey! ham!) and it was better than trying to scrap around for dinner at home. The city center is next to the 1500-year-old Turkish Quarter. I passed on a Turkish Bath though - one of our friends here had one in Istanbul and described it to me and it just didn't sound like my kind of gig. She was bathed by what she described as a "nude female hobbit with gigantic breasts." Uh, no thanks.
I'm determined to really enjoy what's left of our time here. Excluding our trip to Budapest next week, we only have 7 more days in Pristina! After our initial rough start, I'm enjoying international life and will miss some of the friends we've made here almost as much as I've missed our family and friends back home. As we were unpacking and unwinding last night, our neighbor Eric made stove-top popcorn (what a boy scout!) and we enjoyed a twilight snack with him on the back balcony, watching a game of pick-up football/soccer. It was the perfect end to a great vacation week.
Lots doing this week: a friend with a car is going to take D & I around to see some sights and stores, lots of laundry, some preliminary packing up...hard to believe that two weeks from today we'll be on our way home.