Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Autumn Hike

As you can tell, I am getting caught up on photos. Back in the fall, Matt and I took our annual hike. Not that we have anything against hiking but I never quite think about it until the leaves start to change. Bulgarian fall-time mountain hikes were gorgeous (see below) so I figured we would give the Macedonian Mt. Vodno a shot.

Bulgarian Hike:

We started our day by driving halfway up the mountain to the gondola.  We rode the (fairly fancy) gondola up to the top to the huge cross.  You can then go up to the top of the 20 something story cross, but we opted against that.  Instead, we walked around the top of the mountain taking in all of the different views.
 On the Gondoloa!
 Making our way to the top.
 The HUGE cross.
Taking in the views.
Playing along with the photo shoot.

We then began our trek down.  We decided to walk down the mountain to get a little exercise (plus we were kinda scared of the gondola..ha!) We originally started following the crowds down a paved path.
 Then we decided to veer off the path, of course we chose the trail with the least amount of people.
 This turned out to essentially be STRAIGHT DOWN HILL!  Our legs were literally burning/shaking.  At one point I wondered if we would make it to the bottom before nightfall. 
On one of our brief breaks.  After this, there we no more photos.  Only concentration.  We FINALLY made it to the car park about an hour later.  We had sore legs for days.  
So that's our hiking extravaganza until next year!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I know this might seem a little late to some but today is actually Orthodox Christmas day. And it is snowing! Well just a little bit, really, but a white Christmas is a white Christmas, right?

The festivities actually begin several days prior to Christmas Day and we were lucky enough to witness much of it.

2 days before communities/neighborhoods gather and have these huge bonfires filled with music, singing and warm rakia (Macedonian brandy) our neighborhood event happens to be almost a cross the street from our house.  We opted not to go because we have been MAJORLY jet lagged and, quite frankly, just not in the mood.  It was fun to see the neighborhood a buzz though, hear the music, and listen to the fireworks. Since we will likely be here for the holidays next year we agreed we would venture out and participate.  Below is a pretty terrible pic that I tried to capture of the festivities.

Then early the following morning young kids come around ringing doorbells signing and looking for treats (much like our Halloween.) Luckily we were jet lagged because our bell rang at about 6:30 am! By the time we were downstairs the kids were next door at the neighbors singing ( luckily, since I had no treats to give! Ha) it was fun to listen to the kids running around.

Then on Christmas Eve families gather for a meat less meal.  There is a traditional 40 day fast with no meat that is then broken on Christmas Day. 

I look forward to learning more, and even actually experiencing, orthodox Christmas next year.

For now, I am going to enjoy my LAST day of vacation at home and attempting to stay awake all day so that I can get more than 3 hrs of sleep tonight before work tomorrow...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy New Year!

Although I may be a little late, today is the official start to my new year! We arrivd back fom a month in the states yesterday. A now it is back to reality for sure! We arrived back to a smoggy, pollution laden Skopje and to a cat-less house. Talk about depressing! As you know, our (my) 18 year old cat passed away a couple days after we arrived in the states. She was here in Macedonia  with our housekeeper who really took great care of her up until the end. The house is definitely eerie without her.  I got the cat when I was 14 years old so she definitely lived a long, well traveled life! Now it will be interesting to see how long we remain pet-less ;)

Ugh, the picture above is from nye but the iPad is driving ,e nuts and not all ping me to put this in the appropriate spot...

May you rest in peace, sweet girl!

Besides that major downer and getting sick for a week we had a gret trip home. We saw many ( not all) of our friends and family.  Highlights of our trip include:

- I was able to take an awesome trip with my BFF to NYC. I'd always wanted to go around Christmastime! It was awesome to have some one on one QT time! We haven't done that in years!


- besides being sick, we had a great week with my parents down in Williamsburg.  My mom and I shopped till we dropped and Matt rested and caught up on TV.
- after Williamsburg we were all rested up and headed to Matt's parents in Staunton, Va.  We had an exciting time there playing little elves helping his parents prepare for Christmas and I had some precious time with my nieces and nephews! Which included a girls only shoe shopping trip and build a bear trip (our Christmas present to the nieces.) In a change from our norm, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning with Matt's parents
- We made it to my parents for a super yummy Christmas dinner filled with lots of yummy wine
- we closed out our stateside visit in Northern Va with friends which included a quick New Years eve jaunt to New Jersey to see Matt's favorite band

Now we are back in Skopje just in time for Orthodox Christmas, which is Monday.  Lucky us, we have a 3 day weekend before getting back to the grind on Tuesday!