Category Archives: Tales from Macedonia

Memories from Macedonia

When a door closes, a window opens . . .

Hmm, closed and locked seems impenetrable! Ohrid, Macedonia
Don’t let appearances or the number of closed doors deter you. Bitola, Macedonia
What about a gate half open? Go with your guts; it’s always up to you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Mixed messages; “Should I knock or should I go?” Choice is yours. Bitola, Macedonia
A lost cause, time to let it go? Or, something that has stood the test of time? Ohrid, Macedonia
Not all your options will be neatly laid out in front of you. Leptokaria, Greece
Sometimes, you may need to pause and reflect before the answers come. Bitola, Macedonia
Some choices may be hidden or seem confusing. Bitola, Macedonia
Some options will sit squarely in front of you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Others may seem whimsical or unusual. Bitola, Macedonia
Sometimes your options will be appear at the same time. Bitola, Macedonia
Then previously closed doors, may open. Bitola, Macedonia
Or, new even fancier opportunities may materialize. Ohrid, Macedonia
Simple and yet stunning openings exist all around you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Moments you might miss without quiet reflection. Bitola, Macedonia
Recessed and waiting. Bitola, Macedonia
You truly never know what may open before you. Bitola, Macedonia
Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Bitola, Macedonia
With an open mind, you will surely see . . .  Bitola, Macedonia
. . . the possibilities, are endless. Ohrid, Macedonia

Open the windows of travel that are waiting for you! 

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The ajvar trilolgy

10.1.2012

Have autumn changes begun in your part of the world? In southwest Florida, where I live the changes are subtle, but perceivable if you slow down enough to notice.

As the weather begins to change, every country has it’s fall traditions. In Macedonia where I spent three years as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006 to 2009, and have been lucky enough to return every year since then. Macedonian fall weather is similar to the crisp, cool and colorful days of northeast Ohio where I grew-up, but one of their traditions is very different and so aromatic that the wonderfully rich and dusty scent of roasting red peppers in preparation of making ajvar stays with you for life.

Ajvar (pronounced I-var) is a delicious tasting, dark-orange to deep-red, roasted red-pepper spread that can make even the coldest winter day seem a bit sunnier. Every Macedonian home has their special recipe, and each is equally delicious. To honor and share the ajvar-making process, I wrote this post last year while visiting Macedonia; I hope you enjoy it, and if you want to give ajvar a try, which I whole-heartedly recommend, you can find it at Trader Joe’s and many Eastern-European grocery stores here in the States. It will add zest to your table and will be a perfect accompaniment to any fall party, where family and friends gather to share companionship and a respect for traditions – including football!

In Macedonia, making ajvar is not only a tradition, it’s part of the fabric of life.

Families gather in villages, towns and cities for days of roasting, plunging, peeling, cooking, and stirring deep red peppers to creamy perfection. The aroma of roasting peppers permeates the autumn air. Kilos of peppers are bought in Macedonian fresh markets (pazzars) for the equivalent of American pennies. (One kilo equals 2.2+ pounds.)

Fall pazzar favorites

Their pungent crimson, thick, flesh dominates the cooking scene at this time of year. It seems every family has a special recipe for creating this rich spread, which is scooped into sterilized jars, set on shelves and shared with family and guests throughout the winter.

Fresh peppers are stuffed with cheese or meat and baked to perfection. Peppers of all shapes, colors, and intensity – burn-your-mouth-hot to sweet and mild – are served at almost every meal swimming in oil. The remaining peppers adorn walls and balconies, and are dried so large chunks of their leathery, slightly crisp, dusty-flavored goodness can be added to a delicious array of meats and bean dishes to warm-up meals during the colder months.

This year my American guest, Annie, and I had the honor of being on-hand for part of my friend Dragica’s ajvar-making odyssey. Dragica’s spirit and love of life flavors everything she does, her tasty ajvar being no exception.

We arrived after the ruby red capsicum had been roasted and peeled – a full day’s work. Our day of ajvar making (watching) began when the wood was burning and the peppers were slid from a huge pail into an even wider-mouth enamel pot for the long and arduous cooking and stirring process. Ajvar is always made outdoors, and city neighbors set-up shop in garages and backyards.

This year, after enjoying Turkish coffee and rakija in the mid-morning shade and chatting in broken English and Macedonian with her friendly and interesting neighbors, we moved to the steamy garage to talk with Dragica’s husband and college-aged sons, Marjan and Dan, who were home for ajvar making.

We decided the process might benefit from some literary inspiration – Dragica loves writing poetry, and within minutes we had created the following masterpieces. (Please remember these words were created with love, just like ajvar, and followed some homemade rakija sipping, which is basically moonshine-light and another great part of the Macedonian way of life. I must admit not everyone was sipping, but those of us who did felt even warmer and cozier.)

And, now without further ado . . .

The Ajvar Trilogy

Created with love and inspired by moments shared by Dragica, Marjan, Dan, Annie and me.

The Flavor of Ajvar

Red as the burning coals
Hot as a chick
Ladle mixing food, family and friends
Circle of life
Tastes so fine, makes me want to drink a bottle of wine.
With bread and cheese, we will eat with ease
Rex sits watching like TV.

Notes: Rex is their huge German Shepard, who sat  quietly by. Can you guess which lines her sons added?

Lace in the window

Smiling faces looking down
Cooling breeze
Smell of smoke and peppers overtakes the day.
Mother and sons, paddling together.
More oil, much better.

Ajvar Beach

Many friendly people sit on ajvar beach.
Who asks what is that?
Foreign fires burning,
Roasting tradition.
Sharing time with family and friends as the earth tilts away from the sun, is a wonderful way to lighten your mood and warm-up your life. Do you have some favorite fall traditions? What do you love to do?

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Happiness is . . .

This post was originally written on October 4, 2010 when I was visiting Macedonia.
  
 
 
Me, happy in the village of Dihovo with my Macedonian and American friends around the table enjoying dinner together - great food and friends - one of those magical cross-cultural moments.

   

A few more quick pics from Dihovo before we head to new sites.    

Church in village of Dihovo just outside of Bitola
 
Church in rural village of Dihovo
 
This storybook house is across from Villa Patrice in Dihovo.Each time I see it I think of Hansel and Gretel, bez (without) the witch. The Babas (Grandmas) here and the magic of the nearby mountains, are all good.
 

Babas abound and are always willing to share a smile. 
 

Seeing old friends and making new ones – has been a special part of the fun. Sharing it all with Americans, who have never been here before and seeing their excitement and enjoyment – priceless.      A walk down the Shirok Sokak in Bitola led us south to the park and a nearby village-like community where we then followed the road (less than 1 km) to Heraclea, a town founded by Philip II of Macedonia in the middle of the 4th century BC.  As a Peace Corps volunteer, I spent many a sunny afternoon reading at the top of the Roman theater where gladiators and lions and Christians engaged in violent combat centuries later.  The expansive view and historic experience is mesmerizing.   

Heraclea Lyncestis, ancient town first built by Phillip II of Macedonia  
The dark grey seats are original
 
Click here for a virtual tour tour of Heraclea.
 
 
Heraclea Lyncestis was first developed in 4th century B.C
 
Heraclea Lyncestis was a stop on the ancient Roman Road, Via Egnatia
 
"Box seats" at Heraclea - the Roman Period
 
Beautiful mosaics, did I mention they are ancient?
 
Religious messages and amazing colors.
 
The themes vary, the artistic quality remains intact.  
Love this one, wonder what it means????
 
And this one . . .
 
Ancient artifacts at Heraclea are everywhere, and out in the open.
 

And, because no day – sightseeing or not – in Macedonia is complete without a salad . . .  

Vegetables roasted to perfection. Stuffed grape leaves included.
 
Eggplant, even alone, is still perfect and available just about everywhere.
 
That’s all for now folks.  Thanks again to my fellow travelers in Macedonia for sharing their photos.  See you soon.
 
 
From 2006-2009, Patrice Koerper lived in Macedonia as one of only 425 volunteers over the age of 50 serving worldwide in the United States Peace CorpsIn 2010 Patrice Koerper returned to Macedonia with American guests for a special cultural tourism program she developed, “Experience Macedonia: Enjoy Europe as it used to be”. 

Patrice is returning to Macedonia again in 2011 for six weeks – September through October. She is offering her unique 2 to 4 weeks cultural tours to a small group of friendly, flexible, adventurous travelers. In 2012 Patrice is planning life coaching retreats in Macedonia and Greece.

For more information on these exciting travel and life-changing opportunities, please email her at patricekoerper@gmail.com or call her at 813-719-0679.

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Macedonian Dream Weavers I

This post was originally written on October 8, 2010 when I was visiting Macedonia.

As bad as our economic crisis is, the economics of life in Macedonia are much worse. Double digit unemployment is a way of life – 30%+ is normal, and yet the entrepreneurial spirit prevails.

I am continually humbled by the number of people here, who are creating the lives they want as they tip-toe through and leap over the obstacles in their paths. 

Here are the results of believing your dreams can come true no matter your circumstances . . .

 

Dream Cafe, Bitola, Macedonia

My friends Pece and Marie are a unique couple in many ways.  They have successfully blended their cultures, and use their many talents to combine their dreams.  I was thrilled to be here for the opening of their new café.  I spent many, many Saturday mornings with friends at their earlier café in the old Turkish market in Bitola.  “Dream Café” is in a great location, next to the new green market in Bitola.

Pece and Marie

Their cappuccino is the best in Macedonia. (My close up shot of a perfect cup was not so perfect – next visit!)  Pece is a coffee connoisseur, blending each batch of beans with just the right amount of options for his customers.

Every special event means great chocolates will be on-hand for guests.
 
Lots of delicious choices, even better than Starbucks – alcohol allowed.
 
Friends old and new, Nikola, Jovan and Dan, enjoying coffee.
 
Pece and Marie make and serve each cup with pride and precision!
 
Pece capturing a moment. Seating inside and out.
 

Congratulations again, to my two wonderful friends Pece and Marie and their sweet little daughter and son. I can’t wait for my next cup of cappuccino.

Next post: What happens when a man in a small village has a dream to preserve his country’s past?

From 2006-2009, Patrice Koerper lived in Macedonia as one of only 425 volunteers over the age of 50 serving worldwide in the United States Peace CorpsIn 2010 Patrice Koerper returned to Macedonia with American guests for a special cultural tourism program she developed, “Experience Macedonia: Enjoy Europe as it used to be”. 

Patrice is returning to Macedonia again in 2011 for six weeks – September through October. She is offering her unique 2 to 4 weeks cultural tours to a small group of friendly, flexible, adventurous travelers. In 2012 Patrice is planning life coaching retreats in Macedonia and Greece.

For more information on these exciting travel and life-changing opportunities, please email her at patricekoerper@gmail.com or call her at 813-719-0679.

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Macedonian Dream Weavers II

This post was originally written in November of 2010, upon Patrice Koerper’s return from two months in Macedonia.

What happens when a man in a tiny rural Macedonian village wants to preserve his country’s past? 

Well, in the beginning everyone tells him he is crazy, asks what he wants with that “old junk”, or tells him no one will ever come to see it – in Macedonian, of course.

Lucky for us, Boris Tanevski ignored the naysayers and his passion and persistence prevailed.  Today Muzej Filip (Museum Phillip) is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

According to his third oldest daughter, Katrina, a college freshman, Boris began collecting bits and pieces of Macedonia’s history about twenty years ago. Somewhere along the line he added larger items like cars and motorcycles. (Finding cars as old as his in Macedonia that run and are in such great condition is unbelievable.)

Over time, Boris turned even his skeptical wife, three daughters and son into believers. (Boris doesn’t speak English, and my Macedonian is not good enough for all the questions I was asking so, Katrina kindly acted as our interpreter.) When his collection outgrew his home and garage, he expanded his plans and built a museum on his property to artfully display his unique collection! 

Because Boris did not give up on himself or his dreams, foreigners can slip into a world unknown to many of them for only 100MKD (about $2.20) and Macedonians can learn more about their past for 50MKD. 

After spending time in the museum, guests can relax in the Tanevski’s beautifully landscaped and traditionally decorated yard surrounded by more rural treasures while enjoying complimentary home-grown seasonal fruit with a glass of homemade rakjia or wine or a cup of  Turkish coffee.

Boris and his family offer the perfect combination of history and hospitality. When we called to check times, Boris decided that since he was going to be in Bitola, he would simply pick us up and drive us to their village of Krklino. How’s that for service? (They also called a cab for us when we reluctantly had to head back to town, at a cost of less than $3.50 for three of us.)

The total experience – priceless. 

 

A testament to Boris Tanevski!
The rest of it.
 

Antique Turkish Indoor Fire Pit. He had a number of these copper cookers.
 
Love this. Check out the keys.
So beautiful.
 

Boris and his family have carefully combined the artifacts into various settings, including a Turkish, a Jewish and ancient village rooms.
 
The Village Room
 

 

Tin and brass vessels in all shapes and sizes.
Katrina, and her Grandmother’s traditional clothes.
 

 Check out the Muzej Filip web site, the intro is in English and offers more photos.

 And, don’t forget to dream big!

 

From 2006-2009, Patrice Koerper lived in Macedonia as one of only 425 volunteers over the age of 50 serving worldwide in the United States Peace CorpsIn 2010 Patrice Koerper returned to Macedonia with American guests for a special cultural tourism program she developed, “Experience Macedonia: Enjoy Europe as it used to be”. 

Patrice is returning to Macedonia again in 2011 for six weeks – September through October. She is offering her unique 2 to 4 weeks cultural tours to a small group of friendly, flexible, adventurous travelers. In 2012 Patrice is planning life coaching retreats in Macedonia and Greece.

For more information on these exciting travel and life-changing opportunities, please email her at patricekoerper@gmail.com or call her at 813-719-0679.

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On the road in 2011

Baba Mountains near Bitola, Macedonia

Did you know Macedonia was one of CNBC’s top 10 destinations for 2011?

Or, that in 2010 the New York Times selected Macedonia as the #21 of 31 places to go?

I will be heading back to Macedonia in May and June. In 2010, I was lucky enough to return for two months while hosting Americans for three and four weeks as part of my first cultural tour.

“The three weeks went too fast, we don’t want to leave! And, we all want to come back. V & J, J.Q, J.C.”

This year, my guests will be touring Macedonia and perhaps northern Greece. I invite you to join us on our amazing journey of personal and cultural discovery. To learn more about these inexpensive, two to four-week visits, contact me at wishfulthinkingworks@gmail.com. Here is what 2010’s travelers had to say:

“Home – safe and sound – trip went smoothly . . . miss Macedonia . . . Saying ‘thank you’ is not enough to express our gratitude for the difference you made for us. For a friendship, so quickly made – and travel half way around the world – we could never have anticipated the difference it has made for us.You are a delight to be with . . . Hugs to you and all of our new friends in Macedonia. Big hug, V & J”

“I have traveled often and far and this has been the best food, ever. J.Q.”

“Traveling with Patrice in Macedonia was simply a fantastic experience. She is full of information on the country and knows people in all walks of life. Macedonian’s history leaves much to explore, and the food is so delicious. For me, a month in Bitola was not enough time to take in the whole country and to explore a bit of Bulgaria and Greece. I want to return. P.B.” 

Map of Macedonia

 

Click Macedonia 2010 to enjoy some of the sites and moments we experienced. Below are a few of my Peace Corps (PC) photo memories I haven’t shared, as yet.

 

 
One afternoon while hiking a friend brought me to the hillside home of this kind and caring brother and sister team, who lived alone in the middle of nowhere. They had so little, but were preoccupied with finding something to share with us.
 
PC Teen Art Project in Veles, Macedonia: the kids created the art to share what they loved best about their city. We exhibited and sold the art to other PCVs, so they would have art for the apartments they were moving into to begin their PC assignments.  The funds raised were used to fund more art projects.
 
In late September to early October many Macedonians are involved in making avjar, a tasty mild flavored red pepper spread. It takes hours to roast and peel the peppers and then hours more to stir the pot!

  I hope you can join us in Macedonia this fall.

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Hope flies

A moment in time.

This post was originally written on September 22, 2010 from Macedonia.

I am back in a land I love.      

Sometimes we walk to our dreams, sometimes we run. I flew! No matter how we travel to find them – inside ourselves or in the world,  I do believe the road we choose rises to meet us.      

I am in Macedonia, land of Phillip of Macedonia the II, the father of Alexander the Great.  The land that experienced 500 years of Ottoman-Turk domination that ended oh, so recently in the early 1900’s; a land where leisure is not a dirty world, were men and women hug openly and often, where slow food is what everyone eats, slowly. Where a mountain is seen at every turn, where wine flows as easily as opinions, where strolling is an art form, hiking is the order of the day, and where living rooms are small and an appreciation of being outdoors is huge.      

The wonderful and very proud people of this beautiful little country opened their arms to me when I served here as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006-2009. They then stretched their arms across a continent and an ocean to embrace my desire to return for work and play by opening their hearts and their homes to me as easily as we Americans open our car doors.      

I’m back!      

Fort Myers, Florida to Atlanta, to Rome to Thessaloniki the second largest city in Greece with a very small and easily manageable airport.  The city is only two and a half hours from Bitola, the second largest city in Macedonia.  These very different towns each played important cultural and political roles in ancient world history. The Via Egnatia, the Roman road of commerce, passed through both towns accelerating their growth and their value to the region.      

Now, political quarrels over national names keep them separated by more than miles, but doesn’t stop the adventurous traveler from enjoying both.  Their borders are open and easily passed.      

We crossed those borders into Macedonia on Friday, September 9.  I am living here for two months, five other American wanderlusts are joining me for three to four weeks.      

We are exploring Macedonia and ourselves. You see, I believe that all successful  journeys – big or small, lead us not only to new places, but to new observations and awareness of living, life and ourselves.      

Within hours of my arrival, an American-Macedonian friend reminded me to slow-down. So, I did.       

I breathe slowly and deeply. Taking it all in, one drop at a time. Ecstatic at the life changes that have brought me to this moment and to being able to share it with my Macedonian friends, my fellow travelers, family and friends back home and you the reader. At this moment my connection is closest to you the reader, the curious, interested person taking time from your day to explore the world of another. Thank you for being here.   

Here are a few of the sights, food and people we are enjoying.    

        
To market, to market, the markets are brimming with peppers and people. 
     
Table-long salata, a closer look at their beautiful bounty.     
 
 
Stuffed peppers from heaven.
 
Light bean salad – fresh picked!
 
Macedonian-style moussaka, amazingly simple and delicious.
 
Grape leave “sarmi” rice and meat rolled delights!
 
“Chorba” – light, delicate fish soup from the city of Struga.
 
 
Tradition, Tradition
Beautiful Vevchani Baba
 
Vevchani view
 
A lacy view
 
Church by springs in Vevchani
 
St. Nikola, Vevchani
 
Lacy screen door with blessing and luck above it. 
Until we meet again . . . Sreken pat.  Happy travels.   
 
 
From 2006-2009, Patrice Koerper lived in Macedonia as one of only 425 volunteers over the age of 50 serving worldwide in the United States Peace CorpsIn 2010 Patrice Koerper returned to Macedonia with American guests for a special cultural tourism program she developed, “Experience Macedonia: Enjoy Europe as it used to be”. 

Patrice is returning to Macedonia again in 2011 for six weeks – September through October. She is offering her unique 2 to 4 weeks cultural tours to a small group of friendly, flexible, adventurous travelers. In 2012 Patrice is planning life coaching retreats in Macedonia and Greece.

For more information on these exciting travel and life-changing opportunities, please email her at patricekoerper@gmail.com or call her at 813-719-0679.

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Join me for the journey of a lifetime.

This post was originally written in the spring of 2011.

I love the houses and the streets of the village of Dihovo.

 

 

The colors and textures of the homes are so rich. They way these homes hug the road makes me wonder which came first!

 

 
Antique wagon at Villa Patrice; looks just like Ohio in the fall. Villa Patrice was the second B & B to open in Dihovo. It is not mine, but was named in my honor; Saso and Nevenka the owners are kind and generous people.
 
 
 
Pears from the tree at Villa Patrice. The fresh fruit and vegetables in Macedonia are delicious.
 

 

Pears at night in Chaska, my first home in Macedonia. Photo courtesy of my wonderful friend, Malinda Antonik.  Bear with me, I am a foodie and these photos touch my soul!
 

 

 
Cabbage, the lettuce of Macedonia, is eaten daily even though lettuce is available.  Fresh cabbage soon became my salad of choice.  It is mild flavored, almost sweet, and, of course, has tons of vitamins! 
 
 
 And, what you cannot pick, you can easily buy at the “pazzar” (market).
 

Tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions and white salty, sharp cheese cut into chunks and drizzled with light oil and vinegar with a sprinkling of salt and pepper easy and delicious Macedonian salad.

Inexpensive, fresh ingredients for those perfect “salatas”. Mmm, mmm, good – the perfect combination. 
 
 

Ruby red, and oh so sweet. About this time, I have to remind myself I am planning to walk home, hmm, maybe a taxi is in order.
 

Flowers in every market and every yard! Always my last stop on market day.
 
From 2006-2009, Patrice Koerper lived in Macedonia as one of only 425 volunteers over the age of 50 serving worldwide in the United States Peace CorpsIn 2010 Patrice Koerper returned to Macedonia with American guests for a special cultural tourism program she developed, “Experience Macedonia: Enjoy Europe as it used to be”. 

Patrice is returning to Macedonia again in 2011 for six weeks – September through October. She is offering her unique 2 to 4 weeks cultural tours to a small group of friendly, flexible, adventurous travelers. In 2012 Patrice is planning life coaching retreats in Macedonia and Greece.

For more information on these exciting travel and life-changing opportunities, please email her at patricekoerper@gmail.com or call her at 813-719-0679.

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