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Biking North Macedonia

Exchange rate: Rand 1 (R1) = Macedonian Denar (MKD) 3,08 (3,08 den)

23 September 2023, Skopje, 44.77km
8 Milan Markovich 1693 den [R549]

We are in Skopje, capital of the Republic of North Macedonia. Skopje, population 610,000, lies around 20km south of the Kosovo border. Our 45km ride here was just wonderful. 
When we returned from our pizza dinner last night, we joined our host and his wife for coffee. Their 13 year old daughter not only translated their questions and answers and ours, but initiated topics and told us about her life. She loves music and art and has sung before audiences in Albania and Bulgaria (we think for school eisteddfods). 
Coffee led to beer and to a pancake dessert served with feta cheese and pickled peppers and eaten with your fingers. 
The couple have owned the motel and restaurant (currently closed for renovation) for 20 years. They lived in Munich for 10 years where he worked as a chef. He lost his mom during the 1998-99 war and one of his brothers lost a foot stepping on a landmine. As I said before, no family seems to have escaped the war unscathed.*
They confirmed what several others have told us: salaries have not kept pace with rapidly-increasing post-Covid prices. They also said that a lot of money in Kosovo is sent or brought home by Kosovars working abroad. 
*"After the war, a list was compiled which documented that over 13,500 people were killed or went missing during the two year conflict. The Yugoslav and Serb forces caused the displacement of between 1.2 million and 1.45 million Kosovo Albanians."
We visited an UÇK (Kosovo Liberation Army) memorial and graveyard before crossing the border. Each gravestone contained an etched portrait of the soldier buried there. Moving. 
The road between Gërlica and Skopje threads its way through lovely densely-treed hills. Sharing the valley our road followed south, is a river, a defunct railway line, and the new motorway. Long sections of the motorway are built on pillars either on the hills opposite the old road or literally straddling the river, or towering above us. 
Our pre-booked accommodation might have been chosen for the simplicity of the route to reach it in the southern reaches of the city, but was in fact chosen for its price. We're here for three nights...
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