Country #70 - Macedonia

The Statues

I had a great (though early) breakfast at Dunes Hotel Apartments before leaving Dubai, UAE to begin the trip headed back west. I flew out of Dubai at 9am and had a longer than expected flight to Skopje, Macedonia. I had no idea that the flight would be six hours! Luckily I had the entire row to myself, though, and was able to sleep for half of the flight. When I arrived in Skopje around noon I took the transfer bus into the city and then walked about ten minutes to my hotel, Hotel De KOKA. I was greeted by the kind front desk staff and given a small but very nice room in the heart of the city. It was perfect for my short stay, and I cannot thank Hotel De KOKA enough for everything!

By the time I set out for my day in Skopje it was already 2pm. Luckily, though, the town is not huge so I was still able to see a lot! My first stop was located right near Hotel De KOKA, the famous Old Bazar. The tiny winding streets and shops were cool to walk through and the historic architecture was really interesting to see. After walking through for a bit I made my way towards the heart of the city by crossing the Stone Bridge. The Stone Bridge was where I saw the first of the many statues scattered throughout Skopje. The giant Alexander the Great statue that can be seen when crossing the Stone Bridge in the heart of the Macedonia Square is probably the best example of the statues dotting the city - it is giant!

The area around the Alexander the Great statue was really nice. From the water and the beautiful Museum of Archeology building to the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings, it was my favorite part of the city. From there I walked to what I found most interesting in Skopje, the Memorial House of Mother Teresa. I had no idea that Mother Teresa was born in Skopje and it was a really great, free, and tiny museum about her life. I really enjoyed reading about her life and the museum took less than fifteen minutes to see everything. The house was really quaint and informative and I really enjoyed my visit!

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From the museum, I walked back towards Macedonia Square where I ate at Pelister Restaurant. I had some really tasty ricotta stuffed bread followed by some much needed lasagna. The food was fantastic and I really enjoyed the restaurant for the view out on the square. After dinner, I made my way back to my hotel by way of the Art Bridge. It was so cool! The entire bridge was filled with statues and was all lit up as it was now getting dark outside.

I arrived back at Hotel De KOKA around 5pm and was asleep by 8pm as I was so tired and knew I would have to wake up at 4am the next morning. It was a great short stay in Skopje and I’m really glad I was able to see the highlights of the city!

The Thanksgiving Travel

I woke up at 4am and took a taxi to the Skopje, Macedonia airport as the shuttle bus was not running regularly so early in the morning. I slept okay but was really dreading today as I have a bunch of really quick flight connections to make. I even dreamed that I missed my connection in Belgium! The flight from Skopje to Brussels CRL airport was easy but then the fun set in - I had to transfer from CRL to BRU airport in Brussels in an hour.

I lucked out and had a seat in the second row of the plane. I was able to then rush to immigration and then run from immigration to the shuttle bus that would take me to the main Brussels train station. This was my biggest concern as the buses ran only every thirty minutes, but I made it (dripping sweat) with three minutes to spare! When I arrived at the train station I caught a train to the airport (that was, of course, delayed). However, when I got to the airport there was still such a long line at the check-in counter that I immediately knew that I would be fine and would definitely make it back to the US!

I was really annoyed at check-in, though, by the new rules in place regarding travel to the US. Every airline implements them differently, and everyone, regardless of nationality, must deal with them to fly to the US. My questioning was fine and super basic (did you pack your own bag, blah, blah, blah) but it was the couple in front of me’s questioning that made me quite angry. They were a married couple - the husband was from Florida and the wife from Holland, and they were maybe two or three years older than me. They live in the Netherlands but were traveling to the US for a few weeks for the holidays. She didn’t yet have a return ticket because legally she could enter the country for three months. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever bought a plane ticket three months out! Anyways, they told her (and many others on my flight) that if they did not purchase a return ticket on the spot that they would not be able to fly.

It was absolutely insane! They were very smart and bought a $50 ticket to the Bahamas, but no one should have to deal with having this sprung on them when checking in for a flight. This new rule is ineffective at best (if you’re breaking the law I don’t think you’re going to fess up to a gate agent) and greatly deterring US tourism at worst. If the rules were well implemented and people knew about them that would be one thing, but to just spring them on people with no warning was harsh and upsetting. I would hate to be put in that situation! And honestly, I would just buy a refundable plane ticket and then cancel it once I arrived. It is a system that is easily outsmarted and I would consider just political BS.

Anyways, to get off of my soapbox, I boarded my flight and had a long, ten and a half hours ahead of me to Miami. I slept for about three and spend the rest watching movies and working on the blog. When I arrived in Miami I was greeted with the unfortunate news that the flight I was planning to use a family pass to fly home on had filled up in the past ten hours. I’ve said it before (many times) and I’ll say it again - using a pass can be the best but can also quite easily be the worst, especially when travelling around Thanksgiving. I had to scramble with the help of my dad to search for last minute connection options to just get me to the state of Alabama.

I ended up flying from Miami to Charlotte and then from Charlotte to Huntsville, but it was definitely a stress-filled few hours. There were a few times I thought I would be sleeping in either airport overnight! Luckily, though, I made it home and just in time for Thanksgiving. I’m not going to lie, this trip on the whole was a bit more stressful than most. Whether due to the short flight connections or a few stressful destinations, I’m glad to have this one behind me. It was also incredible, though, and I had a great time seeing some of the most amazing sights in the world. I wouldn’t trade the travel, no matter how stressful, for anything, and am so excited for my next trip: I’m headed back to Europe around Christmas, and this time my mom is joining along!

70 countries down, 127 to go.

To learn more about Hotel De KOKA click here.