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Hiking Mistakes and Lockdown in Macedonia (Travel Blog 2021)

We are a travel couple and we are traveling the world! We are currently in the Balkans. In this travel blog we got transportation from Bitola to Nižepole in Macedonia. From there we hiked the outskirts of Pelister National Park in search of the large lake Golemo Ezero.





Bitola


Have you ever been hiking? This week we will tell you about the snow-covered trails we explored in Macedonia. The mountains were beautiful and the air was so crisp. But being new to hiking life we made plenty of HIKING MISTAKES! But we were determined to find the trail that would take us to Golemo Ezero. But was that determination enough? Did we make it? Find out in this blog.




We took our first train on our world travels (watch that vlog here) as we ventured from Skopje to Bitola on Macedonian Railways. This wound up being cheaper than taking a bus between the cities and we saved time since the buses tend to stop a lot more and always seem to take the scenic route.


The locals in Bitola say:


“If you were in Bitola and you haven’t walked through Main Street, then you have seen nothing.”


The Main Street they are referring to is Širok Sokak. This is where many of the cafes, bars and restaurants are located. Also there was a live musician or two each day we went out on a walk. Bitola is one of the oldest cities in the country and is the second largest city in Macedonia.



Golemo Ezero



One of the top Instagram spots in the Bitola Macedonia area is Golemo Ezero; or the large lake. We do most of our research on how to find this place by looking at YouTube but we could not find anything too helpful on getting to this lake. We saw that we could get there through Pelister National Park but we didn't want to have to hike Mount Baba to get there.


We did find a couple articles that said there was a trail from the village of Nižepole Macedonia. Then we looked at our google maps and saw that there was a trail that could be taken from there to Golemo Ezero. This is not the best confirmation that we have ever had, but it was enough to give it a shot.




Getting to Nižepole


We only have a week in each destination. This means that we don't have much time to waste. We make sure to figure out the price & the schedule of transportation in advance. So on the days we do travel there are no surprises.


Knowing we already had a lot of uncertainly about this trip we decided to try to figure out how to get to the village of Nižepole a day early. We went to the main bus station, which is across from the train station in which we arrived, but they said they had no buses to Nižepole.


Then we found another bus station; but they were closed for the day. We did ask one of the taxi drivers parked outside of this other bus station if he went to Nižepole and he said yes; so we had a back plan if the bus station was open the next day but had no buses to the village.


The next day when we went back to the secondary bus station, the attendant there said that they have no buses. So we went to the taxi waiting area and hired a taxi to take us to Nižepole. The taxi ride was only 15 minutes long and cost us 300 dinars ($6).




Nižepole



When we were dropped off we looked a Google Maps to see how to get to the trail. The issue is after a little walking we got to a gated community. We tried to walk around this fenced in area and decided to follow some tire tracks for a bit. It was a beautiful trail itself with beautiful trees and even a few babbling brooks but it was not taking us in the direction of the trail to Golemo Ezero.





We wandered around for 2 hours seeing amazing sights; but not the trail. After 2 hours or so we decided to go back to the main road and continue down that way. We finally found the path to Golemo Ezero! We walked up the path for an hour but we were not making too much progress. And on top of that the higher we got the more snow we say, we were not equipped for that kind of hike! So we decided to turn around because we didn't want to get stuck in this village with no bus station or any taxis sitting around.


When got back onto the main road, we walked in the direction back to Bitola hoping we would spot a taxi, nothing. After about 30 minutes we saw a group of locals and asked some locals if they could call a taxi for us. They actually did and we were able to get picked up by the taxi and 15 minutes later we were back in Bitola.


When we returned to the city we realized that we got back just in time! A lockdown was starting in all of Macedonia that day. There was an 8 pm (20:00) curfew. Normally we see that the curfew does not apply to pharmacies or groceries stores; but this time it applied to EVERYTHING. All of the restaurants were already done serving food. Our only option was a grocery store. We were able to pop into a grocery story at 6:30 pm and pick up some items to cook for dinner as the employees were frantically closing everything up.




You can see more of the sights and of Nižepole and Bitola Macedonia in our travel vlog "Hiking Mistakes and Macedonia Lockdown (Bitola, Nižepole Travel Vlog 2021) by Pelister National Park" on YouTube. Out now!


Thanks for reading our blog on Hiking Mistakes in Macedonia!


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