Local Time: 3:52 PM
Time Zone: Central European Time
How far did we travel this week? 544 miles
How did we get around this week? We got around by taxi, bus and bicycle.
What was the most interesting place we visited this week? Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia.
This Week’s Travel News
Over the weekend my friend Daniela and I traveled from Štip, Macedonia, to Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia, to attend a conference. Daniela works for a non-government organization in Štip, and the conference was in connection with her work. I help Daniela on Tuesdays and Thursdays to improve her English, but I also volunteer with other aspects of the organization where she works. For example, I’ve created artwork for brochures and I’ve also taken pictures around Štip for the center’s website. When Daniela asked if I wanted to attend the conference with her, I was happy to join.
Vrnjačka Banja in Serbia is quite a distance away. From Štip it’s about 272 miles. This would be like taking a trip from New York City to Washington, D.C. Here, however, you have to travel across the border between Macedonia and Serbia. Riding in a bus through the countryside after crossing the border, I was surprised to see that the Serbian countryside looked very similar to the countryside in Macedonia. The houses looked the same, the fields were similar, even the old men on bicycles alongside the roads looked the same. This makes sense though, because Macedonia and Serbia used to be part of the same country, the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
Along our bus route, we stopped in a lot of different cities. You can follow our route by checking out the places we stopped on the map. From Skopje we went in Kumanovo. After Kumanovo we made a quick stop in Vranje. We then continued on to Leskovac, Niš, Krusevac, and finally, Vrnjačka Banja. Overall, it took us about eight hours to travel from Skopje to Vrnjačka Banja. It was a long trip.
Daniela and me at the conference. The hotel.
Weather Tally (enter the # of days for each weather type):
Partly cloudy: 3
What is the air temperature right now? 66 degrees Fahrenheit
How was the weather this week?
Spring is here to stay in Macedonia. The trees have found their leaves and flowers pop up everywhere on a daily basis. I’ve been pleasantly surprised all year long with how nice the weather has been. Now the weather is perfect for long walks around the city and maybe even a little bit of swimming.
What animals did we see this week?
Daniela and I didn’t see any animals out of the ordinary this week, but ordinary can mean very different things for different places. It wouldn’t be very ordinary, for example, to see a shepherd with five or six sheep wandering around in Central Park. Yet, in both Serbia and Macedonia you can see shepherds herding goats, sheep, and cows on a daily basis. They usually don’t hang around the center of town, but there are lots and lots of animals on the outskirts of town –especially sheep and chickens.
What was the coolest thing we saw in nature this week?
I saw these really neat trees in Vrnjačka Banja with the craziest branches you’ve ever seen! Check them out in the pictures from Vrnjačka Banja! Can you imagine climbing in one of these trees? I bet it would be a lot of fun.
What languages are spoken here?
The languages of the Balkans have long and intricate histories. In Serbia, people speak Serbian, but Serbian is very similar to other languages in the Balkans. My friend Daniela jokes that she is multilingual because she speaks and/or understands Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian, and Bulgarian. The reason this is funny is because all of these languages are very similar. For example, if you want to greet someone in Macedonian, you say dobar den. In Serbian, it’s dobar dan. If you want to say “Let’s go!” in Macedonian you say, ajde odime! In Serbian it’s said, hajde idemo!
What type of money is used here?
Serbia uses the dinar. This is different from the Macedonian denar. To give you an idea of the difference one dollar is about 85 Serbian dinar but only about 47 Macedonian denar. The actual bills are very different too. (Check out the differences between Serbian dinar and Macedonian denar in the pictures Vrnjačka Banja.)
How much does a bottle of water cost?
A bottle of water in Serbia is between 40 and 75 dinar.
What was the best meal this week?
Because we were at a conference this weekend, there was a LOT of really, really good food. Serbian dishes aren’t much different from Macedonian, but I did try a really interesting yogurt for breakfast on Saturday. I can’t say that I’d eat it every morning, but it was an experience. It tasted a little bit like a combination of cottage cheese and cream cheese. Daniela said that it is very health and has a lot of calcium, but I think I’ll stick with cereal.
What music did we listen to this week?
Serbian pop is very popular in the Balkans. During our eight-hour bus ride to and from Vrnjačka Banja we listened to many Serbian radio hits. One of the things that has really surprised me living in Macedonia, though, is the reach of the American music industry. Radio stations constantly play popular artists from the United States. Rihanna and Justin Bieber are pretty much everywhere.
What activity was the most fun this week?
I really enjoyed taking a bike ride around Vrnjačka Banja. Check out more under this week’s news.
What did I read this week?
As silly as it may sound I really like cats and I really like mystery novels, so this week I decided to start reading a series with the best of both worlds. I’m beginning The Cat Who series by reading The Cat Who Went Underground by Lilian Jackson Braun.
What games or sports did I play?
When riding the bus from town to town through Macedonian and Serbia, I saw many soccer goal posts and basketball hoops. It made me miss playing basketball very, very much. I don’t think a lot of women play basketball in the Balkans, at least I haven’t seen any.
This Week’s News:
Between conference sessions we had a little free time. On Sunday, I decided to rent a bicycle for an hour and explore the area. Banja, in Serbian, means “bath” and Vrnjačka Banja is known for its natural baths. I didn’t see any of these, but there were many other places to explore.
I went out past the tourist area of the city into the surrounding countryside and saw a lot of neat houses and even a small stream. When I was riding through this beautiful area, I didn’t want to stop exploring, but I knew I would have to ride back as far as I travelled out so eventually I decided to turn back. Feeling the wind through my hair and speeding down the country hills was very refreshing.