Nesfe Jahan, pt 23

24 September 2010

Skopje, FYROM, 2nd day. Yesterday, dodgy phone connections, Macedonian independance day and the difficulties of transport between here and Greece keep me in the city. Today, I realize it’s end of Ramadan, and things don’t look any better. I tried my luck yesterday to find a cheap place to sleep, but the only person on Couchsurfing that replies has more than enough problems handling his drunk father to also be a good host for me. I figure out the cheapest place to stay is the all night internet cafe. So today, I’m dead tired. And, the train that cost me my last nickel is only leaving at 8 pm. I walk through the city with my big pack, intent seeing what I can of this place. It’s about 36 degrees. I smell horrible.

After about an hour or 2 of bilingual street signs (Macedonian/Albanian), haggling over a can of coke, and some general dodgyness,  I arrive. I’m in a small square in the middle of the Old Town, and the only bench invites me with me a passion. I throw down my pack, and I feel an intense relief as some of you might be intimately familiar with. Same when I sit my weary ass down. I take about 15 minutes to adjust and gather my wits. But an old man watches me all this time, and when he notices I’m back, he approaches me. He doesn’t speak anything I can understand, but he beckons me to the fountain enthusiastically. It doesn’t seem so special to me, and the pipes seem badly maintained. I pantomime asking if it’s drinkable. He affirms vigorously. It’s the whole point of what he’s trying to say. I drink it. Oh my. It’s probably the most delicious, tasty water I’ve drank in my life. My forehead instantly beads with sweat, in an effort to remove the other crap and make more storage space. I just dunk my head in the stream, and almost feel baptized.

Back to reality, I decide to spend some hours in this square, half-dozing, half-observing, half-reasoning. And yes, that makes one and a half, and I’m only at 50 percent of my usual capacity. I see the city wake up, or more correctly, I see a cross slice of it pass through this tiny square. And, without fail, everyone who passes it takes a good gulp or 2. Some bicyclist have even found the perfect way to drink without getting off. I see some of them pass by 3 or 4 times. A mother fights with her son. A couple of suits hang out for 10 minutes, discussing. smiling and alternatively drinking. A local youth takes pity and lets me toke his smoke. A new Belgian, old Macedonian indulges me with a detailed account of the history, ethnography and current political situation of Skopje over a couple of drinks.

After four hours, I figure out I had enough. I fill my water bottles, and put on my pack again.