June 24, 9.30 pm Macedonia time...I have had some great fun in Macedonia and briefly in Albania, but i will save that report for a time if I ever get home.
I am stuck/stranded in Amsterdam today and through this night. It all started when my flight from Belgrade to Amsterdam was delayed just enough to prevent me from making my flight home. It was easy enough to get another, via Seattle, and adding about 5 more hours to the trip. After boardibg and sitting on the plane for several hours (I know the time because I watched an entire 2 hour movie while waiting for takeoff). It turns out that all air traffic came to a standstill as something broke with the piping that is used to refuel the planes. Amsterdam is a world hub, so this is no small issue.
S I proceeded to the ticket services location with several thousand other stranded flyers. It took close to three hours to get to the front of the line. I was informed there were no hotels to be had ( airline would have paid) and no they do not give food vouchers. One can get fully reimbursed at some point though. I was told to either wait for an email advising me of revised departure (there are staff that only do this) or get in yet another 3 hour line to talk to the ticketing people. I will wait for tge email.
Meanwhile my priority was food and finding a piwer source. Both taken care of and now I will soend the night in a booth out of the insane crowds. No, they are not insane, but just many, many people in the same situation.
I have been here for almost a week now and in spite of having internet every night, I have been too tired to post anything. That and maybe too stuffed from eating the amazing food here to even move.
The first day was a relaxing river kayak which was quite peaceful mostly, except when interrupted by the powered tourist boats. Its a very popular destination, even during the week.
Because rain was predicted for second day, we opted to hike to the sumnit of a local mountain, somewhere around 7000 feet. It was windy and wet, but better than being on a bicycle.
Each day, we have been treated to an overwhelming assortment of local cuisine. Cucumber and fresh tomato salad seems to be appropriate at any meal. Sheep cheeses are also popular. Then there is the homemade bread (everything we ate was farm to table). Spread some garlic puree on it and that could be the meal. But, there are wild snails sauteed with onions and mushrooms, tender beef and pork...oh it just doesnt end! I will post some food photos later.
The hikes and biking have not been great distances but challenging, with visits to small ancient villages and stunning views, when skies have been clear.
The guides, Marko and Alex, are a wealth of information about this amazing and often overlooked (by Americans) tourist destination.
I'm traveling soon with BikeHike, my favorite adventure tour company to hike, kayak and mountain bike:
"At the crossroads between the East and West, Christianity and Islam, Macedonia has long been a melting pot of civilizations. While this Balkan nation has many notable similarities to both Greece and Turkey, this emerging destination retains an unmatched level of authenticity."