Friday, March 10, 2017

Roadtrip to Greece

"..................uhhh Ohrid!" Boban

          A few weeks back some coworkers, friends and I went to Veria/Veroia Greece to see the city and visit Philip II's tomb in Vergina. It was a nice day trip out of Ohrid and to a new spot.  One of the other teachers organized a van so we could head at our leisure. I was really looking forward to this day trip not only because of the historical sites we'd see but also to experience a road trip Macedonian style!  
          So we started off early around 7ish and immediately headed out.  The driver, Tomi, was a chatty fellow and went through the standard introduction questions with everyone in the van.  Later on I would hear him ask Natasha, the one who organized the van, who I was and why I was there. When he asked if I knew Macedonian I waited until we had a pit stop and then talked about the ride so far. He got the hint. 
          He also had a few intense conversations with my counterpart and colleagues on gender roles, current politics and his job. The poor guy just wasn't prepared for the backlash his comments created. I couldn't follow everything, the grammar and vocabulary was highly educated, but it was hilarious listening to them all go at it. Yet, this is the Balkans so after 10-15 minutes of silence the small talk would start back up again and everyone would move on. It's one of the most positive attributes of Balkan culture. 

6:30 am dumpster fire. 
The obligatory van group selfie.
          We were quickly at the border and I immediately noticed two things. First, everyone but me had a single sheet of paper ready. Second, I was the only one who wasn't making jokes about being refused entry to Greece.  See, Greece doesn't recognize the name Macedonia as a country, only F.Y.R.O.M, and won't accept Macedonian passports. The border guards also enjoy asking Macedonians where they're going as the real Macedonia is in Greece.  So you can imagine my slight embarrassment as the border guard checked and rechecked my passport. He was confused why an American was with a bunch of Macedonians and had passport stamps from Muslim, Balkan and Western European countries!  Think about the absurdity of this for a moment. First, Macedonians can't use their passport when traveling to their neighbor country. Second, they had to convince the border guard I was a coworker.  It was embarrassing that my status as an American caused a problem instead of solving one.
The geography is a bit different from Ohrid.
You might be able to barely spot the wind mills on the Greek mountain tops. 
          Once we were through the border we had a pit stop in Edessa and Tomi wanted us to see a waterfall. Not just any waterfall but one that's only flowing in the winter. It was very cool. 

Again you can only see this in the winter because of the snow in the mountains. For a video go to my Instagram page.  @LoganMonday
If you can't read the text it says, "Great and wonderful are Thy deeds O Lord God  the Almighty! Who shall not fear and glorify Thy name o Lord?" 
In the cave underneath the waterfall. 
Behind the waterfall.
Half group selfie. 
It was quite powerful I can only imagine how powerful Niagara Falls is.
          We continued on to Vergina, Greece for the purpose of our visit, seeing King Philip II tomb.  The tomb was discovered 40 years ago and is buried underground. It was quite interesting going inside, I don't have pictures of the artifacts for those click here.  Honestly, I was taken aback by the excellent craftsmanship of the suits of armor, jewelry and accessories found in the tombs. For example look at this golden royal wreath:

I examined this for a while, it was flawless. *
Philip II was 5'11, 156cm, which was quite tall 23 centuries ago. The shield was massive, it must've weighed 55lbs, 25kg. Imagine carrying that for months on end. Well his servants did. *
          Truly, the other artifacts were just as astounding. Again click here to see them.

The old symbol of Macedon and the original symbol in the first flag of Macedonia.
Thank goodness for the English because it's all Greek to me.
Outside the tomb. 
The entrance.
King Philip II's tomb.
Macedonian wine for the former king of Macedon.
Nazdravje! Cheers!
I felt quite comfortable wearing this. Just needed the armor and shield. 
          Next we headed to Veria and the Byzantine Museum. Click here for the exhibit. 
The museum had been rebuilt after a fire. The large steel beams in the foreground were put there after the fire as a memorial. The fire was so hot it bent the steel. Unbelievable.
Seeing the old Jewish Quarter.
Lunch time. 
The lunch was fantastic. 
On the Greek side of the border there was a large grocery outlet store that had products from all over. I bought a Chilean wine for three Euro. Ahhh it was delicious. 
The last of the several smoke and kafe breaks. Macedonians travel far but not fast. It takes some adjusting but once I did, I've come to really enjoy it. 
          Ok, some funny points from the trip:

  • Boban did a good navigating us around but at one point we did stop to make sure we were on the right track. An elderly Greek woman walked by and he said, "Excuse me, hi." in English. Everyone in the van lost it. There was no way she knew English but that's his third language so he gave it a shot. 
  • Once we were through laughing Julia gets out of the car and gets directions from a guy, in Greek, without skipping a beat. That's language number six I've heard her speak fluently in. Remarkable. 
  • All day Boban had told everyone not to say we were from Macedonia. So at the Byzantine Museum he walks up to the guide who asks, "Where are you from? One second passes, two then three and Boban finally says, "Ohrid!" I'm laughing now just remembering his face torn in confusion over what he should say. We all laughed about it at lunch. 
          As the day went on it slowly dawned on me that I'm finished in three months. Listening to everyone in the van but especially at lunch it truly hit me.  The fact is I will leave, I will get a job elsewhere and people will always recognize my country. For nearly my entire service Macedonia has been in a political crisis without a functioning government. My colleagues don't know if they'll be paid from month to month and if they are it's always been late by days or weeks. My success as a volunteer is in part because of their patience and guidance.  Seeing how they persevere despite those setbacks has lit a fire in me. I no longer take our constitution, our institutions, our individualism for granted.  But before I come home we've got an English Room to finish. More on that in a few weeks.

*Used from the museum's website.

No comments:

Post a Comment