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114: to Prilep. 2012/8/23

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[Photos = Prilep+ unexpected new friends]

(Last night I started to feel itchy all over, so much so that I got up to look for the “tiger balm” I brought on this trip.  But the effect didn’t of the balm didn’t last for long, and before and after the balm showed its effect, my scratching quickly had its.)

My Prilep hostess is a young 24-year-old African American named Phebe.  She told me that she would be in Skopje on August 23 for a meeting and take a later bus back to Prilep, setting off at either 5 or 7pm.  My original plan was to wait for her and (as she suggested) ride the bus with her, but soon I decided it’d be wiser for me to go to see Prilep by myself first – i.e., if there’s luggage storage.

During the breakfast I met a bunch of young (Flemish) Belgium travelers, and they talked to me cordially.  It’s funny to hear Dutch (well, Flemish) again.

Today is the first time I ever rode a bus in Macedonia, and to be honest Macedonians are far from disciplined when getting on a bus: everyone rushes and pushes.  In some instances I even saw the bus driver who was about to get off first (to open the luggage storage place, for instance) was prevented from doing so by all the people who wanted to get on the bus! Very ridiculous.  And since I’m a solo traveler, that means I have no choice but to wait, since I have to accommodate my luggage first anyway.

The lady at Prilep’s bus station I saw upon arrival was very nice.  When I asked for the schedule of buses to Bitola, she very patiently wrote down ALL of the scheduled bus time by heart neatly on a piece of paper.

Aside from being rather nice (to me), Macedonians seem to speak more English than some of their neighbors; at least this is the result deduced from my sampling.  Prilep has a very nicely reconstructed old town square, and the only thing that proclaims itself as tourist information has very odd opening hours: it has a very long siesta period from 2pm to 6 or 7pm! So I had to ask various people for information.  In any case, I soon decided the old town isn’t that big and settled down for a pizza.  The pizza has quite some sesames, and I have to say it’s a great idea.

As I had the pizza I checked the guide book and decided to check some websites such as Wikitravel and LP for info about nearby sites, namely the two monasteries.  The info doesn’t look remotely clear, and I memorized some names and facts and went on to find a travel agency to ask how to get to them.  A very nice lady helped a lot, and subsequently I marched towards Varoš (suburbs).

According to the lady, the two monasteries aren’t that close from here, and Zrze Monastery is farther away than Treskavec Monastery.  I decide to go first for Marko’s Fortress by heading towards the mountain.  The weather is still hot, and on the way I decided to ask the direction from two guys washing a car.  They didn’t speak much English, but they realized quickly enough what I was looking for, and since their English is limited, one of them quickly ushered me into the still wet car and DROVE me there.  Gosh, they are nice.

I walked up the stairs and found a smaller monastery.  A very friendly gardener showed me to a couple of nuns in black, and one of them spoke more English.  This one very nicely told me that, to get to Treskavec Monastery, it’s best to take a taxi to the graveyard and go up there by jeep.  “The taxi [ride] takes maximum 150 denars; they’ll want more, like 300, but [don’t give them that].”

As for “Markovi Kuli,” the nun told me that I could go down to the parking lot and turn either left or right.  “The path to the right is easier, but the one to the left… you can see ‘Elephant Stone.’” So I went for the one to the left, of course.

I quickly found that I couldn’t find the trace of a proper path, and as I turned back, I also turned out to go up at the same time.  I was soon forced to be down on all fours and climbed cautiously.  On the way I got so many tiny burs stung into my fingers.

Panting and sweating, at last I finally got up there.  The view was fine.  The sense of accomplishing a tiny thing was better.

On the way down I found it not exactly easy to find the way.  Well, after some more struggle, I did, and saw the very easily recognizable Elephant Stone on the way down.  On the way to town center I passed by a grocery store and decided to get a Schweppers.  Well, they didn’t have any, so I had to get a Pepsi, but ended up getting so much more.

The grocery store owner together with his friends invited me to sit down.  We started to talk, and they shared beer and some food.  Talks flowed, and soon they were asking to “friend” me on Facebook and offered internet and coffee.  Among the various things we talked about, a guy told me Alexander the Great is Macedonian (and not Greek), another guy’s wife told me how she studied chemical engineering in Skopje but couldn’t find a job, and this bunch of 30-to-32-year-old people were very surprised to find out my age, assuming previously all the time that I was only 22! We had some photos taken, and when one of them was about to offer Rakia (Rakija) (“You should try it! If you like it, I’ll give you a small bottle.  It’s home-made – by me!”), I realized that it was about time for me to leave to meet my CS hostess Phebe.

Which is such a pity, since I was having such a great time with these amazingly nice Prilep people! And they even offered to drive me to the bus station.

I talked a bit with my hostess, although it didn’t exactly flow.  I’m very grateful that at least I got a big bed all to myself, although the floor was very dirty, and I did think for a while about cleaning.  At least after getting some more info, it seems I should set forth tomorrow at 6am for Treskavec Monastery.

8/23記帳:1EUR= 61.75MKD; 1BGN= 31.57MKD; 1TWD= 1.666MKD
Skopje – Prilep公車:390


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