2009 Athens to Amsterdam travel blog

Border Crossing

We arrived into Thessaloniki around 5:00am. We have been to Thessaloniki on an earlier trip so decided to try and find a connection to Skopje. Waited around until the international train ticket office opened around 6:00am and bought two tickets to Skopje. The train didn't leave until 10:45am so we had some time to kill around the train station - not the most exciting place in Thessaloniki.

Train, which consisted of three carriages and an electric engine eventually left at 11:05. It was a pleasant and smooth trip and the train stopped at a station near the Greece border. Local official had come through the train and collected everyone's passports, saying he would return them after they were stamped. What actually happened was at the stop he took the passports into the office at the station and after some time they just called your name out and you collected your passport. Onto the train again, cross the border into FYROM (Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia) and stop again for the Macedonian officials to board the train. I had checked before leaving Australia that we didn't need visas. I had also printed a small booklet about Skopje which I was reading and was surprised to read that it said Australian citizens needed to arrange visas before entering the country. Would this be the first country to refuse entry?

First the immigration officer came through handing out entry forms, which of course asked country of birth and nationality. Then he returned, took our passports, stamped them and handed them back - we were in!!

Arrived at the Skopje train station that lived up to its reputation as being a grim and unfriendly building. The advice in that same booklet was to head next door to the bright and welcoming bus station - well the bus station was next door but we didn't find the bright and welcoming bit. The place is surrounded by taxi drivers trying to take you everywhere except where you want to go. We couldn't get a map of the city anywhere, even to buy. So we decided to walk away from the bus station and try and get a taxi. That same booklet that had advised (incorrectly) about our visas, described the local taxi drivers as the most honest in the world. I don't think the authors have travelled anywhere else. The drivers were asking 300 den for what I knew should be 50 to 70 den. That guide booklet was headed for the bin.

Eventually walked to the Holiday Inn, I went in and asked for a map which they happily gave me. Then found our way to a small hotel (only 7 rooms) which we had read about. Lucky for us they had a room available. Checked in, went for a walk around the local neighbourhood and than had dinner at a small restaurant next to the hotel. The food was great, we had vesalica pileska and sarska ( not sure of the spelling here). Anyhow one was chicken and the other was like a hamburger mince, with cheese inside and a different cheese on top. With this we had a greek salad, with tasty goat cheese and washed down with a couple of the local beers - called skopsko.

When I got back to the hotel to check the time and found they were one hour different to Greek time, so we had eaten dinner at about 5:00pm, but the place had been crowded so maybe everyone eats early here?

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