“Hi, er… do you have any beds?” I asked tentatively to the man who opened the door.
“Of course!” Replied the man and gestured for me to come in.
He introduced himself and said he was Kurdish. He seemed nice enough, which goes to show how bad I am at judging people because this guy turned out to be one of the most aggressive and confrontational men I have ever met. But this post isn’t about him, I’ll save that guy as a character for a future book…
The first evening I was there I was greeted by a pretty lady who smiled and said her name was Nikoletta. I resisted the urge to go full on Del Boy on her and say “You know Nikoletta is one of my most favourite names…” and opted with the traditional Hello, where are you from, and all that jazz.
“I’m from here…” She said, looking confused. “I’m the owner.”
“Oh, so is that guy who checked me in your husband?” I asked.
“Oh no! He’s just a volunteer here.” She replied.
She then made me a tea, sat me down and showed me where to go on her map. She recommended a few places and I decided to stay at least two days and explore the sights.
Day 1: Castle and shit
The castle was McBitching! I wandered in tentatively wondering if I was trespassing and would be speared with a boyonet, I soon realised the Macedonians nearby couldn’t care less, and as soon as I saw randomers wandering around as well I decided to join the Shaun of The Dead extras cast and wander aimlessly with them. I nearly broke my ankle misjudging the drop when I stepped down an uneven bit and celebrated my ability to walk with a Zinedine Zidane class doner for 80 Dinar (Just over one whole English Pound of sterling silver…)
Day 2: Zoo and… more shit
I wrote about the zoo in my previous blog post (Click on the blue writing, yadda yadda yadda and random plugs…) but before I got there I had another doner. (Sing it like a Sean Paul song: Shake that thing miss.. Doner Doner!) and went to Skopje’s international stadium which was nearby. I asked if I could take a photo inside as it was open and the angry Macedonian man said “Neigh!” (He wasn’t a part time horse, ‘neigh’ is no in Macedonian…) then I got lost and eventually saved by a young Macedonian couple who showed me the way and walked with me. What heroes! So naturally I bored them about my books until I ran out of breath. Then I umm… went to the zoo, and that’s it really…
Day 3: Bruno Mars: The Lazy Song
I did Nothing at all! Ooh-ooo-ooh! Ooh-ooo-ooh! Nothing at all! Except fart arse around on the internet and occasionally scratch my delicate balls. Oh, the highlight of the day was buying some odds and sods to eat, including lots of chocolate. Valentin also taught me a bit of jujitsu as you do. I don’t know if that’s included in the price but it’s a good selling point!
Day 4: Matka, but not really
Nothing to report here: I was supposed to go to a place called Matka and got on the bus that said it stopped at Matka. Only it didn’t. It stopped at a few places that didn’t look that particularly interesting, did a loop and ended up back in Skopje. I realised something wasn’t right after I’d been on the bus for nearly an hour, and sure enough ten minutes after that we drove past Skopje’s city mall for the second time. I went back to the hostel embarrassed in defeat, but not before I bought more Kinder chocolate to cheer myself up…
Day 5: Where the fuck is Nikoletta?
Valentin had been visibly ill for the last few days but still made some appearances. Nikoletta was feeling worse than Valentin and stayed at their flat. I made a point of asking Valentin how they both were every day and as I had planned on leaving the next day (as travellers know “I’m leaving tomorrow” usually means you’re going to wake up at midday, say ‘fuck that!’ and stay a couple more nights…) I decided to buy Nikoletta a goodbye present. I know she liked these cheap Macedonian chocolate and banana cake bars so I bought her a pack of them as a way of saying goodbye and thank you for being such kind and considerate hosts.
I went on a museum day and saw the holocaust museum, a Mother Teresa museum (As she was born in Skopje) and some random history museum. They were interesting, especially the holocaust museum as it focused on not just the Jewish massacre in the 1940’s but a lot of mass genocides ranging from Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia to the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi, and it had shrines dedicated to the people who protected these minorities from whoever it was that was hunting them down.
Day 6: Yep, I stayed. But it’s a good job I did
I bumped into Valentin the day before and he said his wife was feeling better. I said that I probably wouldn’t see them again this trip but that I’d bought Nikoletta some of her favourite chocolates as a way of saying thank you and Valentin was very grateful. He said he’d take me out for lunch the next day if I was still there. Of course I was going to be still there, check out time was 10:30 and I’m a lazy bastard! So Nikoletta turned up looking much better, literally bouncing around with a huge smile on her face. The two of them then took me to a local restaurant where we had a traditional dish called Chorba, which is basically a stew with shredded beef and vegetables. Oh, they also made their own bread, and it was shake uncontrollably in pleasure standard. Valentin refused to let me pay as well. Then as they left they both said goodbye to me and wished me all the best.
There is a cliche that is thrown about by hostel and hotel owners: Come to us as guests, leave us as friends. This probably applies best to Valentin and Nikoletta. They are a lovely couple who genuinely like people. They are perfect for this type of business and to be fair I did leave as their friend. I’ve met a few travellers who I’d like to keep in touch with after this trip ends, but these are the first hosts who I’ve felt that way about. I’m sure I’ll bump into you again one day. All the best and thanks for everything!