Saturday, June 2, 2012



On Saturday May 19, I went to pick up a rental car that I had rented for the next two weeks to explore Macedonia and the surrounding countries! Cecelia went with me because we were going to Kosovo for a day trip. I had reserved this car through Interways RentACar because they had the cheapest price and through in a GPS for free! And SURPRISE you had to do everything online! It was so different, when they said, go to our website and make the reservation, I think I looked at the phone like they were crazy! SO I go online and request the Opel Corsa Automatic for my two weeks, get an next day response to the reservation in my inbox and it confirms everything and lowers the price that I was expecting to pay! Way to go. Or so I thought.

We show up at 9am when they open to get the earliest start possible on our day trip since I was driving to Krushevo when we got back. We do all the paperwork, check everything out with the car, and are ready to leave at about 9:30. Then I get in to leave and go to put it in drive…it’s a manual. So back inside I go and tell them I can’t drive that car. When I requested an automatic, and you confirmed that car, I should be getting that car. Well their system is stupid and apparently doesn’t tell them if someone wanted an automatic or manual, even though online I requested Opel Corsa Automatic. That car was also apparently rented out, so they were going to upgrade the car. They said I would have to bring it back in the next day when the other car was available. I told them no, because I wasn’t slotted to be back in Skopje until Tuesday. What I should have said was I wasn’t coming back to Skopje- it was too much hassle and stress later. (wait for that blog post).  But the kicker- the other car was at the airport a 30 minute drive from where we were. So out to the airport we go! And then back to the center to drive to Kosovo! We left almost 2 hours after we wanted to leave. VERY upset customer, even though the upgrade was super nice!

We had no problems at the border. And we went off to drive to Prizern, mostly because Cecelia really wanted to see it. I wanted to see Prishtina but the road back from Prizern is scary and you don’t want to do it at night if you don’t have to! We stopped along the way for a few pictures and a video or two.

We also had an encounter with the police!Apparently I was going 55 km/hour in a 40 km/hour zone (34 mph in a 24 mph). They flagged us over and one guy (Cop A) comes over and says “Miredita” which is Albanian for hello. It is also one of the few words I know. He then proceeds to try to tell me something in Albanian, and I have to interrupt him and tell him I know no Albanian. He thinks, then shows m the radar gun (they have radar guns?)  which reads 55 and says “40” in English. Immediately contrite, I apologize and wait for him to say something else. He then asks for the car documents and my drivers license. Next there was the word “ticket” with hand motions. He walks away as I go “well crap” to Cecelia. Then we realize that I’m supposed to be over there with him as he writes the ticket. (cultural difference from America!) I go over there and Cop B comes over and tries speaking to me in English. Then I realize something: how much is this thing and how do I pay it? So I ask the guy in English and he tells me that his English is exhausted and he doesn’t understand (roughly). So taking a leap, I suggest that I know some Macedonian. This is a leap since I would be expecting them to know Serbian, which is not as good in Kosovo. Cop B tells me that is fine and we switch to “Macedonian.” Turns out the fee is 35 Euro and I could pay it somewhere else or right there. I do have that on me, so it would be a problem. But this turns into the “Why are you here?” questions. Once I tell him that I am a student in Skopje studying international politics, Cop B tells cop A to let me go because I am a “good student” (never knew that could get me out of a ticket). But Cop A tells Cop B that NO! I will get the ticket. And snatches the papers back that Cop B tried to pull away. Cop B shurggs and goes back to talking to me. Once I tell him that Kosovo is beautiful and that I am only spending one day in the country he tries to tell Cop A that I shouldn’t get the ticket but Cop A insists! Then Cop A calls some one and hands the phone to me, convo goes a bit like this:
Random Person: Hi
Me: Hello?
RP: What’s going on?
Me: I think I was speeding. I think I was going 55 in a 40. But I’m bot really sure.
RP: Oh! You’re American!
Me: yes
RP: what are you doing here?
Me: studying in Skopje.
RP: oh cool. Well this guy is my cousin, I’ll tell him to let you go.
Me: ok….
There was some silence, so I hand the phone back to Cop A and he talks for a bit pretty upset then hands me everything back kind of mad and say “ok go.” I walk back to the car thanking him profusely and apologizing. Then Cecelia asks if she can take a pic of me with them. Cop B says no and Cop A say of course and tells Cop B to get in the picture. I won’t post the pic online to not get them in trouble!

When we got to Prizern, we stopped for some lunch at a restaurant downtown, before just wandering around and taking pictures. And getting ice cream. And getting yelled at for taking a picture of a sign that said no pictures of the church. And then taking another picture of the church later just on principle.

Then we headed off to the capital. We had been told there was an interstate between them. There was not. There was a back county road.  Pretty sights, but it took more time than we were expecting, so we got into the capital after all of the museums closed. We arranged to do dinner with Andy at 6:30p, so until then we just walked around. We wandered on the main street, where they were setting up a big screen and viewing area for a futball match that night. Then we went to go try to see some of the mosques listed in Lonely Planet, but they were all mostly closed. We were able to go into one of them and look around- it was very beautiful!

There is a wall of pictures of the missing or dead from the war with Serbia for independence in 1999 along one fence in the center. It was disheartening. So many faces, so many young boys, so much death. After the mosque viewing we also found a park with older Roman style stones in it with a plea for people to help get the antiquities that were stolen by Serbia in 1998 back to Kosovo. Only one has been returned.

Cecelia and I had a bit of a problem finding the place we were to eat as it isn’t very well marked while being hiding behind an umbrella. But nonetheless, we got there and sat down and waited for Andy to show up. While he promptly did! We enjoyed a delicious dinner of various things while have intelligent conversation. We ate for 1.5 hours if that is any indication. Then Cecelia and I had to leave to head back to Skopje. She drove while I took a cat nap, since I still had three hours to go once I got back to Skopje. That border was an uneventful as well. We were worried a little bit since Cecelia is going through the same process as Erin did in the beginning of me being here. But no worries we were back!

Stay tuned for the next part of the adventure!

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