Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 37 (Macedonia/Greece): Treskavec Monastery - Vevi (there is too much history in the Balkans)

today’s distance: 47km
total distance: 2956km
riding time: 2-3h

Considering that I was in a monastery the day began very late. I was awake at 5 am, but slumbered on and off until roughly 8 am. The weather was fantastic, the sky a deep blue and the view stunning. Not a bad place to build a monastery for sure. Hard to get to, but that is the point I guess.


Kalist needed to do a lot of clean up work as it was a big day for the monastery. A commission from Skopje, the capital, was expected and he needed to show them that this place is worth putting money into. But despite this and the clean-up from Orthodox Easter celebrations happening a couple of days before, Kalist and I talked for a good hour and a half and I am grateful to him for having taken the time to do so. We touched so many topics that it is hard to summarize our conversation, but I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, ranging from politics (mainly involving Greece) and the need to restore the church as the centerpiece of the monastery.

Kalist told me how the local population had rebuilt the monastery with their own funds after it burned down almost entirely in 1990. The church itself and the outer walls remained unscathed, which for him was a miracle. The people wanted the monastery to be restored … and in times of extreme financial hardship because of an economic collapse still came up with the funds by basically going door to door to collection donations. The conservationists weren’t happy, but eventually gave in to the new construction plans. The people had basically demanded it and carried the day. In order to save the church and the truly amazing frescoes (the images don’t do justice to what’s really inside), experts estimate that what is needed is EUR 1-3 million. Given what is shelled out in other places and given the awe-inspiring inside of the church, I hope that the funds come through, either governmentwise or through private donations. Kalist summed it up as this “what’s in the ground doesn’t matter that much, there may be lots to be discovered, but the frescoes are falling off the walls and this is what we need to take care of.”

I was also interested in his take on the increasing number of people (me being one of them and lucky enough to be the only one that day) that came to the monastery. His answer was rather straightforward: he doesn’t mind the increasing number of people, but it will change how he interacts with them – the tea were enjoying would no longer be possible. And that would be a loss for everyone going up. Kalist was a major part in what made this place special to me. As he is so busy during the summer months, one of his statements struck me as particularly poignant. “In the winter months, when the snow is so high that you can not leave this place, I can try to be a monk.”He also spoke about the relationship with Greece, a recurrent theme with everyone that you enter into a conversation. Apparently the day before, Greece had blocked the air traffic from Macedonia Air Transport, arguably because of the name of the carrier. This was enraging people quite a bit as they feel that they are doing whatever is necessary to settle things, but they are getting the short end of the stick.

Eventually it was time to leave and I headed down the mountain on a different track. After some unintended bouldering, I was back on the main trail and headed to San Marco, a little detour.

Back to Prilep and Bitola it was. I didn’t leave the place until 4 pm, as Elena, working in the tourist information office, and I chatted about this and that (including politics and especially Greece again, but also on tensions between Albanians and Macedonians within Macedonia).

After leaving Bitola I passed a lake with a great number of birds, including pelicans circling overhead and eventually reached the Greek border. Not a major affair and off I was, back in Euroland. First stop in a store to buy some supplies for dinner and the prices couldn’t have been worse. Sure, it was a small town and an even smaller store. But hey …

I asked some sheep farmers (major dogs on the way to get to them) whether I could pitch my tent somewhere and things were difficult for a while, then I finally got the point across that I had a tent with me and they just said to find a good spot. Pretty heavy winds and no flat spots eventually led me to an unused garage in the middle of nowhere, which seemed cosy enough. So, I am now in the Former Independent City States of Athens, Sparta, Thessaloniki and Mykonos.

I am also happy to say that two newspaper articles appeared in Croatia (thanks Sveto for sending the link) and Montenegro (thanks Sven for sending this one) and needless to say I can only hope that they say good things about the tour.

Moreover, more pics are as always on the flickr page.


1 DB { 05.02.08 at 12:31 am }

Your pictures are amazing. Really glad to be following the trip!

2 Markus { 05.02.08 at 9:55 am }

Thanks David, very much appreciated and glad you like the reports and pictures. Markus

3 Macedonia { 02.01.10 at 11:35 pm }

Great article.
Greeks still keep the Yugoslavia road signs ?! The country doesnot exist over 15 years.


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