Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 36 (Macedonia): meadow underneath Zavoy - Treskavec Monastery (half a day of biking)

today’s distance: 58km
total distance: 2909km
riding time: 3-4h

I woke up to a beautiful morning, blue sky, almost no clouds and soon set out to do the last bit of climbing. After reaching the pass, it was downhill for a few km and it could have been great if not for the strange cracks in the road.

At one point I looked up and thought I had seen a snow-covered mountain. Looking up again it was gone. I wasn’t in a desert yet … it was to appear later again and I would ride along its flanks for quite a while.

I finally decided to replace the other screw on the rear rack. Just as the other side, the threading had given up quickly … too quickly if you ask me. Bad quality I will say again. I asked in a town and the local car place didn’t have anything, but one of the guys started yelling to someone else who would bring me to another person. A seriously big guy, who would first bring out a short stubby screw (too short), then a thicker one (too thick) and eventually plunk himself on his scooter only to appear again 10 minutes later with a perfectly fitting screw. I talked to his son in the meantime who gave me directions and told me that there would be a climb coming up before getting to Bitola. I asked what I owed them, they would hear nothing of it.

Then the climb, which wasn’t bad - but just big long wide roads. Psychologically not the most appealing type of road. Got to the top and eventually reached Bitola aided by a good tailwind. Here it was either on to Greece, staying in Bitola (nice place, but not enough to make me spend the night) or heading to the Treskavec Monastery. It all hinged on whether I would find a place for the bike as I was going to take a bus and taxi to get there. Elena from the tourist information office just said to put it in the office and to pick it up agai n the next day. Did my purchases and set out by bus (an hour later only) and taxi. The taxi driver didn’t really know where to go and had to ask for directions a few times. Apparently he had never brought anyone here. The ride was interesting. We passed through an area of town that was largely inhabited by Sinti and Roma (commonly referred to as Gypsies) and he mentioned the surroundings with disgust. Not the first time it happened during this trip. But lo and behold the lady we stopped to ask for directions spoke really good German and told us where to go. She also asked whether I went by myself and if I wasn’t afraid. Not sure what I was getting myself into …

Almost there we thought and we ask the next sheepfarmer, he gives directions. The Lonely Planet says to go into the village of Dabnica, so I tell the driver to head there. It was all bunk … We ask in the non-existing village and sure enough happen upon Josko who again speaks perfect German.

He too is a sheepfarmer and is tending to some cows as well. He makes short shrift of things, puts himself in the taxi, says to go back a bit and gives me perfect directions. Look at this stone, go there and hang a left. Not that it would have been all that necessary given that I soon stumbled upon a pedestrian highway practically. If you have the LP, forget about what it says. Don’t go to the village, if you see church to your right, go back 500m and head up the mountain which is on your right as you head down the valley. You should see the monastery and a white stone above you. Head for that stone, then hang a left. It’s simple really. The climb isn’t really hard and extremely fun. Haven’t seen the dinosaurs that the LP refers to, but hey … they can’t always be right.

I arrive at the monastery soon enough, greeted by the big St. Bernard and there are only three people there. It turned out to be much bigger than what it looks like from beneath. The only monk in this quite good-size place, and an elderly woman and a young man as very temporary caretakers. The monk is a humorous guy and when I ask him whether this isn’t a large place for essentially one person, he says “I’m a big man!” with a resounding laugh. Our whole conversation is great and his English amazing. We also have a common acquaintance as it turns out, he is friends with Antonio (this will mean something to only a couple of people). I spend the night at the monastery in a wonderfully peaceful and quiet environment.


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