This adventure to Macedonia has been a real surprise. The people here are very friendly and they have told me everything about the region and what is going on around here. It is a land of contrast, with beautiful nature unlike anywhere else but also corruption, unemployment and a lot of garbage on the streets. I met quite a few interesting people, and I would like to share what I have learned.
It all started in the plane where I sat next to someone who offered me a ride from the airport to the centre, which saved me a lot of time. She works in The Netherlands as there is not many jobs and opportunities in Macedonia. She was complaining about how difficult it was for her to find a job abroad, as people are skeptical of people from East-Europe and it is hard to obtain a visa. This is unfortunately a story I have heard many times before.
I went with a guide to a near mountain with a beautiful canyon, called Vodno and Matka. He told me how Macedonia and the whole of the balkans have a lot of potential for eco-tourism, like hiking, biking, canooing, climbing etc. From the top of Vodno mountain you could see all the mountains in the near vicinity and it is an absolutely gorgeous view. It is common for the Balkan countries to oppose each other in everything, but if they learn to work together I see a lot of potential.
I spend the night with somebody at an appartment in the popular district Debar Maalo, and he told me about his view of all the recent developments in Skopje. The government made a lot of constructions in the last decennia, building a lot of statues and 'renovating' a lot of buildings in neoclassical style. It was said to cost around 500 million but he told me it was more likely to have costed between 700 million and 1 billion while the rest of the money has dissapeared in the pockets of government officials. The young people of course don't like this because the money could have been used for more useful projects, like education or infrastructure. The same story was repeated to me by a city guide I met the next day, which shows most of the people disagree with the project.
I was supposed to meet someone in the lobby of a hotel, but when I arrived it turned out my facebook had been blocked. Someone hacked into my profile and I have been unable to restore it. As I had been thinking about deleting it anyway, I used this as a good opportunity to stop for good. I will focus on instagram as I believe using more than one social media tool is unnecessary.
Eventually I did meet the person I was supposed to meet and we went to a conference about waste management. It was inspiring to see that initiatives are organized in Skopje to try to reduce the waste problem that exist in Macedonia. As it is a habit for Macedonians to throw everything on the street, you have to change the habit, step by step.
After the conference we went to her house in Katlanovo, a little village close to Skopje. She has some land there and is planning to built an earth-house, turning it into a meditation centre. It is inspiring to spend time around such an energetic and joyful person. I could spend the whole weekend in her house together with two other people, we did little chores and spend time together. I believe that when you have a clear vision of what you want, you can achieve almost anything. I really have faith that the project will be succesful!
RIght now I am back home again, another experience richer. Macedonia has certainly made an impression on me and I had a feeling of peace when I was there, something I don't feel often when I am back home. This summer I am planning to return to visit Lake Ohrid and the meditation centre, and from there I want to go biking across the Balkans. I can't wait to get started!