"Bitola - A Townfull Of Bars !" Bitola by johngayton
Bitola Travel Guide: 244 reviews and 1,040 photos
When my Macedonian "fiend" (and our wonderful host, guide and organiser of Euromeet 2011) Valentina informed me that there were "plenty of bars" in Bitola that was enough for me to decide on committing myself to attending the meet.
"plenty of bars" turned out to be an understatement!
My arrival, by train from Skopje and subsequent taxi journey from the slightly out of town railway station, took me via some backstreets to my hotel's back entrance. Thus I didn't see anything of the city proper until after I'd checked in, done my "cigarette, coffee and read the hotel gumph" ritual and then freshened up.
I'd heard that Bitola was a very cultured city - culture was what I was after and culture I got. My hotel's front door led straight into the middle of its bar and its wonderfully continental terrace which even as early as 7 pm on a midweek evening was bustling.
A little too bustling for my first beer tho' but a quick glance left and right revealed plenty of other equally bustling options - plenty indeed and I was definitely spoiled for choice.
I wasn't, however, in the mood for a busy bar. I was definitely in the mood for a beer but I fancied somewhere small and chill to sit and relax and enjoy it. This was where my "beer nose" (yep that red-veined blob in the middle of my face) came up trumps.
As I walked up towards the square at the top of the Shirok Sokak the old beer nose tweaked to the right and there towards the end of the side street was what looked amazingly like a proper pub sign (tip will follow under nightlife).
Pub Shrek was exactly what I was after - in the early evening a proper locals pub (complete with ashtrays on the bar). The welcome was friendly, the guys introduced themselves, the beer (Zlaten Dab) nicely chilled and a very relaxing chill-out hour thoroughly enjoyed.
Bitola's main street, running north to south through the centre, is the pedestrian boulevard Marshal Tito which is also known as the Shirok Sokak. Shirok Sokak translates as "Wide Alley" but for me it will always be the "Street of Bars".
I've found a few similar streets over the course of my travels (Agyon Anargyron in Athens comes to mind) but I can honestly say that I haven't come across one as consistently busy as this. From morning coffee to brandy nightcap (and all the beers in between) every terrace was constantly buzzing.
There is of course more to the Shirok Sokak than just its bars. The street forms the backbone of what the local tourist board calls the "Golden Line" which takes in the city's diversity of architecture, its art galleries, museums, theatres and of course the main shops and services which you'd expect from a pedestrianised centre.
This was a constant throughout my visit to Bitola. OK I was there to catch up with old "fiends", and make some new ones, at the VT Euromeet but on all the occasions that I ventured forth by myself I found everyone (without exception) friendly, welcoming and helpful.
Little things that stick in mind include passing the guys I'd met the night before at Shrek the following morning. They were sitting outside and cheerily waved me to join them and the proprietor popped upstairs to the bar to make me a coffee. I asked about the elections and got the impression that Bitola's youth aren't too impressed by the more nationalistic parties.
At another bar, Shape (??), again very much a local one, at the top end of the open market the lady cook (who may or may not have been the owner) joined me at my table and we sort of had a conversation about where I was from - she spoke no English and my Macedonian is confined to "Skopsko" and "Zlaten Dab" but somehow we managed to connect.
And saving the best for last - these three pretty girls were passing the bar where I was having my last night's final nightcap. Upon seeing me with my camera they suggested I take their pic. I was only too happy to oblige!
- Pros:A Very Cultured Little City
- In a nutshell:Plenty Of Bars In An Understatement!
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