Vienna to Macedonia

April Johnson
April 6, 2017

When you’re studying abroad in the heart of Europe, the world really is your oyster. There are no bounds as to where you can go. All I know is that every weekend, I want to take advantage of my time in Europe and go somewhere I have not been before. I figure that Monday to Thursday every week in Vienna is plenty of time to get to know Vienna, and so I leave when the weekend comes. This weekend, the adventure took me to Macedonia, a Balkan state that is often overlooked. Frankly, we booked the flight that Monday and only took notice of it because of how cheap the flight was from Bratislava airport. A quick Google search revealed that the country is actually BEAUTIFUL and DIRT CHEAP. No two things could make me happier. I was going with just one other girl in my program and when we told people where we were going, we got weird looks and questions like “Is it safe?” Let me assure you, Macedonia is perfectly safe and the ideal location to visit for the budget traveler.

We began our trip by heading to Bratislava’s airport. A convenient fact about living in Vienna is that both the Vienna and Bratislava airport are both pretty accessible. I love Bratislava’s airport because it is tiny. On the other hand, I love Vienna’s airport for its top-notch lounges, food choices, and the ease with which you can get through security. With only a back pack for each of us, we boarded the plane through Wizz Air, a low cost airline based out of Hungary (similar to Ryan Air or Easy Jet).

The first stop on our trip was the capital of Macedonia, Skopje. Skopje just might be the most interesting city I’ve been to in Europe. An ongoing and controversial project, Skopje 2014, has led to massive revisions in the city and building projects. The result is a quirky and unique city, a bit like Las Vegas. I don’t know if there are more statues or people in this small city. A stone bridge connects the older, original part of town with the newly created sights. The statues are particularly noticeable (alarming?) because a lot of them tower over you at over 28 feet tall. Walking by them at night was honestly pretty scary.

In Skopje, we stayed at a 5-star (but affordable b/c Macedonia is C-H-E-A-P) hotel called Senigallia. So, the hotel is actually a boat !!!! Although it is not actually floating in water and is just propped above the canal/stream between new and old Skopje. The key to our survival and success in Macedonia was the awesome receptionista who we wanted nothing more than to be friends with. From Skopje, we went on a day trip to Matka Canyon, a beautiful lake side retreat from the city. We went on a boat tour and explored one of the caves in this area.

After Skopje, we took the 3 hour bus ride to the next leg of our journey in Ohrid. There are several “beaches” in Ohrid and a lot of water sports. The weather was stunning and I even got a little bit sunburnt. We did not encounter a single tourist in this town but the locals confirmed that it gets quite crowded during the summer times and I can definitely see why. The town offers gorgeous views, seaside resorts, and great restaurants. Our time here was cut short by our flight home.

Macedonia was the most wonderful surprise. I am so happy we decided to go to this place that is often overlooked as a destination to travel to. Macedonia is a hidden gem and if you ever get the chance to go, I strongly suggest you take it.

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April Johnson

<p>April is a junior at Harvard University studying Neurobiology and Astrophysics. When she is not in the lab or looking at the stars, she likes to force her friends to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, get away to the beautiful beaches of Southern California, and plan spontaneous trips. April is studying in Vienna, Austria this spring to drink lots of coffee, learn some German, and finally learn how to Waltz.</p>

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