Our time in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, did eventually come to an end. It was time to continue our autumn holiday or our tri-city adventure if you will. It was time for the trip’s second city, the trip’s second country. We were heading to Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia. This was going to be a long taxi ride that would take us from Sofia, via the town of Kyustendil for lunch, and then across the border to Skopje. A fragment of a trip can sometimes be an adventure all by itself.
Walking up in the morning and enjoying lunch at the hotel was about what we had time for before it was time to head out to the waiting taxi. Well, I had a short run to the store as well to get some supplies for the trip. And what a relief, our driver spoke English. That has hardly ever happened during all our trips to the Balkans. This was a younger driver, compared to the more senior drivers which is common otherwise. It was also a driver that didn’t drive as aggressively. A very nice observation, as we were traveling with Little A. Is there maybe a generational shift in driving style? Or just a one-timer? Will be interesting to see in future trips.
Lunch Break in Kyustendil
About 100 kilometers southwest of Sofia is the small town of Kyustendil. This is a town with around 38.000 inhabitants quite close to the border with North Macedonia. It was also where we had decided to stop for lunch. Our driver dropped us off in front of a restaurant that seemed popular. This might also have been the reason why we had to wait quite some time before being served.
A decent burger later and we were walking up towards the main square to have a look at what kind of town Kyustendil was. With the sun shining there were a lot of people out and about. Kids playing at the playgrounds, people enjoying each other’s company at the cafes, and a lot of people just strolling around. For us, it was nice to stretch our legs before it was time to continue our trip towards the border and North Macedonia.
From Kyustendil, it was just a short drive to the border. But comparing with cars from Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and a few more, that we saw passing by, we and a few other Bulgarian cars got stuck at the Bulgarian border checks. Our Swedish passports were approved for exit at once, but our Bulgarian driver had to talk with the officers for quite some time. This seemed to be the case for any Bulgarian leaving the country at that time. We were curious about what the issue was, but we did at least eventually get back on the road. The crossing had by then taken almost an hour. Goodbye, Bulgaria!
From the border, it is about 130 kilometers to Skopje, a drive that takes a little bit more than two hours. We had booked an apartment in the center of Skopje for our two nights in the city and it would turn out to be really in the center. We got our driver to drop us off just a short walk from Macedonia Square, from where it was less than 100 meters to our apartment. It was late afternoon already and we could enjoy the last sunshine while waiting to get in contact with the host. That is the issue when driving a long distance. It is just impossible to tell exact arrival times. So we had agreed to just get in touch once we were in the city, which also had to wait until I found a restaurant where I could borrow the wifi to send the message.
It was first later in the evening that I decided to get an e-sim to get access to mobile internet while outside of the European Union. That is a hassle in itself for us who have gotten spoiled with the easy travel within the union.
After checking in we headed back to Macedonia Square, found a restaurant, and had a nice dinner. By now Little A was getting tired and we were quite worried that she would fall asleep while eating. But she fought and ate, but she seemed happy to be back in the apartment.
An Evening Stroll in Skopje
While Susann and Little A got ready for bed I headed out for one more of my evening strolls. This time I had to have a look at the newly opened Diamond Mall in the center, but no luck in finding a play area here either. But much of the mall was still not open, so maybe we were just too early.
I returned to Macedonia Square to see some of the impressive buildings being lit up during the night. The river and many of the buildings that date back to the Skopje 2014 project are as impressive during the night as they are during the day. This short walk concluded our first day in Skopje. It was nice to be back and see the city at this time of the year. When we were here a few months earlier during the summer heat wave we struggled a bit more with enjoying the sights.
Join us when we explore Sofia, Skopje, and Gothenburg here: Autumn Holidays 2023