I’ll admit I knew absolutely nothing about the Republic of Macedonia (Republika Makedonija with a hard “k”, not a soft “c”) before coming. Well, other than the fact that Greece disputes their name, causing them to be admitted into the UN under the clunky provisional reference name of “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (“FYROM” for short, pronounced like “fee-rom”), over the claim that most of ancient Macedon lies in current Greece. Oh, and I knew Macedonia’s flag – unique in design, one of my favourites around cause looking at it just makes me happy.
But I came here because of my Schengen area restriction. As a Canadian, I’m only allowed to travel in the Schengen area (the shared customs zone that encompasses much of Europe, where you can cross borders without having your passport checked) for 90 days within a 180 day period. There is no option to extend this short of applying for school or residency. With Sweden now on my itinerary as well as promises to meet people in France and Spain, all of which would use up the rest of my allowance, I needed to stay outside of the Schengen zone for at least a few weeks. Turkey was supposed to be my remedy for this, but with no desire to stay there, I opted to head to a nearby non-Schengen country. Back in Israel, Bernhard suggested Macedonia…so here I am! Continue reading