"Goat's Own Country" FYR of Macedonia by johngayton
FYR of Macedonia Travel Guide: 3,220 reviews and 11,637 photos
It's a wierd thing crossing borders. Sometimes a single step takes you from one place to another and looking behind you bears no relation whatsoever as to what's ahead.
On maps borders are just simple single dimensional lines, sometimes dotted, sometimes highlighted, othertimes thick and crude. Physically crossing a border depends on the border itself and the means of crossing.
I've crossed a few borders in life, physical and meta-so. Most borders are seamless but there's always a sense of crossing, provided you know where the line is.
Taking the bus from Sofia (Bulgaria) to Skopje (Macedonia) made for a physical and mental border crossing. I'd kinda fallen in love with Bulgaria and so moving on to Macedonia seemed in some way as if I was being unfaithful. HA! Sofia never stirred my heart and so, in the way that I think, moving on to the Macedonian capital of Skopje shouldn't leave Bulgaria jealous.
Maybe it is jealousy (which way round I don't know) but I can't work out why our bus had to be stopped at Bulgarian customs - EVERYBODY OUT!!
The Ray-Banned (TM) customs guy duly had us line up and undress, having made us unload our bags from the coach's hold and unzipped ready for inspection, then went through us, checking our passports as he did so.
Silly thing - he didn't even ask whether I had anything pointed and sharp in my bag before he delved into it and had his rummage. Fortunately he didn't touch the trip wire of the bomb that I'd packed to blow up the American Embassy in Skopje otherwise I wouldn't be here to write this tale.
He seemed more interested in my camera, hanging over my shoulder, and my little one in my inside pocket (camera that is) and then focused on the book in my hand Jo Nesbo's "The Leopard".
So he's totally missed the carefully spice-camouflaged semtex packages which were disguised as French tobacco bought in Belgium ("Smoking Kills" in three languages, none of which were Balkan, nor English and the craftily designed detonators which looked like normal AA rechagable batteries.
Having gotten away with that one it was now time for passport control. The customs guy had already checked that we matched our faces on our pics (even if we all did look like variations on the terrorist/bank robber theme) but the Bulgarian police had to then collect all our passports again.
They collected them on the bus and disappeared with them. An elderly woman was summoned a couple of minutes later and escorted off the bus, handcuffed and in irons (well she wasn't actually), and after a couple of minutes reappeared, only barely standing and with her clothes singed in places that you wouldn't associate with being too close to the wood-burning stove.
The bus was now allowed to continue to Macedonian border control.
Here we got the reverse treatment. The old woman was taken off the bus again and returned with her clothes unsinged. Our passports were still taken from us and taken away to get done with whatever they do with them that the Bulgarians hadn't already done. The two young guys who were joking about the old lady's miraculous recovery were draggged from their seats.
Never seen that done before - the border control guys just walked casually down the bus's aisle and without warning flipped out their hadcuffs in a precisely synchronised movement and wrapped said cuffs around the chortlers throats.
No more chortlers as they dragged them down the aisle and chucked them on the back of the waiting Yankee-style twin-cab pick up
The bus, now two people lighter, was allowed to travel another ten meters to the Macedonian customs check.
The twelve customs guys, with their eight dogs, must've reckoned they were outnumbered by the remaining 17 of us (including the now unsinged old lady - who may, or may not, have been a shiv) and so jokingly bummed a carton of cigarettes from the driver and allowed us into Macedonia.
Goat's Own Land !!!
- Pros:Cheap Goat Milk
- Cons:Beer Too Cheap (Means I Have To Drink Too Much)
- In a nutshell:BTW - It's no longer the "FYR"!!
To finish our exhausting, but superbly stimulating and varied, day out our wonderful host and organiser Valentina had... more travel advice
Our next port of call, almost literally, was the archaeological "Museum on the Water" The Bay of the Bones on the shores... more travel advice
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