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The long trip to Greece with a visit to Skopje

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 07 to 09 June 2018

Thursday 07 June, the long trip to Greece with a visit to Skopje

Finally we are going on holiday again. Just like last year with our own car, we enjoyed that, although I'm glad that we now have a slightly smaller car. Last year I thought it was sometimes a bit too exciting with the large Volvo through the small alleys of mountain villages, although Teije claims that he had no problems with it. Sow how did we get that thick scratch? I ask...
Around 7 o'clock we get set off and within 40 minutes we are already in Germany, that is the advantage of living in Groningen, near the German border. Every 3 hours we stop for a break, although we also regularly stand still in traffic jams. That will only get worse when we arrive in Czechia as the Czech Republic is now called. Road maintenance is taking place everywhere although most of the traffic jams are on the other side. But by the time we go back again we will have, of course, forgotten that. The highways in Czechia are downright bad so we hope they finish soon with all the works.
Our hotel in the Czech RepublicBecause of our experience last year, we now know that we can drive a bit further and we have booked a motel in Velky Rybnik, about 890 kilometers from home. A little after five we arrive there and only the communication is difficult because the receptionist does not know much English. Choosing the menu is difficult too, so we keep it safe with a soup and some bread. It is nice outside but at 8 o'clock everything is brought in and at 9 o'clock the motel is completely closed. We get an extra key so that we can still go outside and inside. A great place for 1 night in transit.

Friday 08 June 2018, to Serbia

The next day we are on our way at 8 o'clock, before the motel is opened again, so no breakfast. And then follows the long drive through the rest of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. We have bought electronic vignettes in advance and therefore do not have any delays at the borders. But that trip through Hungary takes a long, very long time. Perhaps we should do the same as all those very fast cars that overtake not only on the left but also on the right over the emergency lane. Amazing how many people do that.
Hotel Vinski Dvor in SerbiaWhen we finally crossed the border with Servbia we stop at Vinski Dvor, a hotel where we slept last year on the way home and back. It is like a fairytale house with a beautiful garden and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. The food is also very tasty and not expensive at all. We have not yet figured out when we go back exactly but this will be our first place to stay on the way home.
Then on to Belgrade where there is not yet a real ring road. There are traffic jams throughout the city and we quickly find out why: people just walk on the dual carriageway in different places. To avoid traffic jams a lot of drivers turn their cars and drive back to a previous exit. That does not really make the traffic jam resolve any faster.
And then there is the problem with refueling: we need some diesel and Teije stops in Belgrade at a gas station. If he wants to pay with the credit card it is said that cards are not accepted while a sign clearly indicates that they are. He must pay in euros: € 36 for 20 liters, so that is an amazing € 1.80 per liter! Protesting does not help or it would cost us a lot of time, so we take our losses, pay and drive. Our advice: don't refuel along the through road in Belgrade!
Smokeroom in our hotel in Serbia The south of SerbiaAbout 100 kilometers past Belgrade we find our motel in Jovanovac. Today we have driven 970 kilometers. When we arrive in the room there appears to be a separate smoking room, that is something we have never seen before. I have my electronic cigarette so I do not need it, but Teije has (unfortunately) started smoking again, although he prefers to sit outside on the terrace until the strong wind makes it uncomfortable.
The next morning we have breakfast but it was not special. But, well, it keeps u s going.

Saturday 09 June 2018, to Skopje and on to Greece

The south of Serbia The south of SerbiaWe still have a few hundred kilometers to go through Serbia and it is almost all agricultural area. Villages are sometimes right next to the highway and we notice that the houses look well cared for. Often they have large vegetable gardens next to the house and in the fields we see many people working with horse and cart and hand tools, but very few machines. In the south the mountains are coming closer together and the country is becoming less flat.
At the Makedonian borderThere is a long line at the Macedonian border and it takes about 45 minutes before it's our turn. Car papers! The green car insurance card must also be shown, but nowadays we get it electronically and is printed on white paper. That is not allowed. Fortunately, Teije still has the old, and not valid, green card when we bought this car and they accept it. Do you see that you have it, says the customs officer. He waves us through but Teije points to the papers on his desk and says that we would like to have our passports and car papers back. Reluctantly he returns them to us, we have no idea why he trioed to keep them.
So good advice for these countries (last year they asked for the green card at the Serbian border): make sure you have a real green card with you. And yes, I know you are officially not allowed take pictures of a border, but I could not resist it when we were waiting.
We are going to Skopje Thunderstorm near SkopjeWhen we cross the Macedonian border it is still reasonably early and we decide to make a trip to Skopje, the capital of the country. We are still driving in the sun with 26 degrees, but as soon as we leave the highway the sky gets dark, almost pitch black and a few kilometers before the city the rain starts to pour down so the traffic has to go at a walking pace. Once we are in town we stop at a parking spot because the water drainage is not very good and the water is sometimes 30 centimeters high in the streets. Meanwhile, the temperature has dropped to 15 degrees.
Traffic in Skopje Equestrian statue in SkopjeWhen it finally starts to rain less and the water starts to sink, we take a ride through the city. Getting out and looking around does not make much sense now, so I take some pictures of buildings and monuments from the car. There are many statues and buildings to see that are reminiscent of the old Soviet era when governments were fond of this kind of bombastic buildings. As if one wants to radiate a certain grandeur as a country or to intimidate the visitor. But next time we'll find a terrace and then walk around, the city looks interesting enough.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Skopje Statues in SkopjeScupi, as it was called then, was in the 1st century b.c. incorporated into the Roman empire, later became part of the Byzantine empire and was in the 10th century even the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire for 20 years. A few centuries later came the Serbians who in turn were expelled by the Ottoman Empire of which it remained part for almost 500 years. That is why the city is still a mix of Western and Eastern elements that we find attractive. In 1555, the city was completely destroyed by an earthquake for a third time, but quickly rebuilt and developed into a rich trading city.
Statues in Skopje Park woman warrior, SkopjeIn 1689 the city was burned down by an Austrian general and for a century the prosperity of Skopje (called Üsküb at that time) deteriorated sharply and the number of inhabitants also decreased drastically. It was only after the construction of the railway from Belgrade to Thessaloniki that the city revived. In our travel guide we read more what we did not know: Mother Teresa was born here in 1910.
Its history during the 20th century is complicated and we will not try to explain it here but after the 2nd World War Skopje became part of Yugoslavia.
Monument of Pitu Guli, Skopje Porta Macedonia, SkopjeIn 1963 the city was hit again by a major earthquake but quickly rebuilt. After the disintegration of Yugoslavia the province Macedonia became independant in 1991 without a war and called itself Macedonia which led to opposition from Greece who feared that they might want to also to incorporate the Greek province of Macedonia. Under that pressure they called themselves FYROM, the Former Yugoslav Republic or Macedonia, but the battle for the name is far from over and actually the talk of the day.
Fort Kale, SkopjeWhat we do notice is that the highway is no longer called the Alexander the Great Highway and also the airport is no longer called Alexander the Great. All concessions to the Greeks because they have already used a veto so that Macedonia could not join NATO and they would like to. Later we talk about it with various Greeks and are amazed at their fierceness on this subject. But more about that later. We drive out of Skopje again and after half an hour the sun reappears and the temperature rises quickly.
An hour later we drive into Greece where we are soon reminded of the chaotic driving behavior of the Greeks: they make a two-lane road easily into a four-lane road but Teije, who is driving, seems to like it. At Thessaloniki we arrive at the busy ring road and then turn south to Chalkidiki.
Artemis hotel in Nea Kallikrateia Chapel in Nea KallikrateiaThe first 2 nights we booked a hotel in Nea Kallikrateia before going to friends. This way we can acclimatise a bit and of course start with a walk through the town. It was founded in 1922 when there were many Greek refugees from Asia Minor returning to Greece. Like so many coastal towns and villages, it is now strongly focused on tourism and, although we arrived before the high season, it is already quite busy with tourists.
Park along the coast in Nea Kallikrateia The beach in Nea KallikrateiaThe weather is warm and we walk through the most important touristic part of the city, namely the boulevard along the coast. On the beach there are beach chairs and umbrellas everywhere and a lot of people who use them. We love quiet beaches where we have some more space for ourselves so we look for a terrace where we can eat and drink something. That is something we will often do this holiday, just relaxing and enjoying good food. Nice that we are finally there, although I had no problem with the long drive to get here, I like driving better than going with an aeroplane. In total we drove 2,420 km.
Along the coast in Nea Kallikrateia It is still busy on the beachUntil late in the evening we can be outside although it is very stuffy. Our hotel room has its own balcony, like basically almost everywhere in Greece and there should also be air conditioning but that does not work properly today. Tonight we go to bed early and then tomorrow we have the first day that we have no obligations and can do what we want. And of course a first time to the beach, I'm in the mood for it!


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