June 16, 2008

A Visit From The Bro

As I type this post my brother is sitting in some international airport. Or maybe he's in the air between two international airports. He came for a visit to Macedonia and we just sent him off to begin the journey home, a trip with more legs than a spider. Even if he does arrive in Los Angeles relatively near his scheduled time, his luggage will undoubtedly be another story. His suitcase is probably drifting through some central Asian republic, heading for the far east and the international date line. Maybe it'll beat him home.

So to reflect on Matt's visit, I interviewed him about his travels and impressions of Macedonia. Seeing as how he's in the air somewhere or eating airport food in Rome, this is the interview I imagined he'd give if he even knew what time zone he was in, let alone the day of the week.

Dan: So where are you right now?
Matt: London. I'm enjoying a 5 -hour layover. If my math serves me, I just paid twenty-one dollars for an awful piece of pizza and a beer. But that was after converting my Bulgarian lev into Egyptian pounds into British pounds, so it was probably more like thirty bucks.
Dan: Why Egyptian pounds?
Matt: So I could buy twenty dollar pizza at the Cairo airport.

Dan: How was the bus ride from Skopje to Sofia, Bulgaria?
Matt: I've never had to pee so badly in my life. How do Macedonians do it? Do they have bladders of steel or what?
Dan: I guess they're used to it. And they don't really drink a lot of water.
Matt: We stopped at the border for passport checks and everyone got out and went into this little building. I thought, "At last, a bathroom." But no, it was a cigarette vendor.

Dan: Still, it had to be better than the bus ride to Struga.
Matt: Oh, that was like a sauna on wheels. Or the bus from Chashka which didn't even show up.

Dan: Ok, transportation issues aside, how did you enjoy the trip?
Matt: It was lots of fun. And incredibly cheap--I think I spent a hundred bucks all week.
Dan: Well, when beers are only $1.25...
Matt: Yeah, I love the cafe culture. What was that first city we were in?
Dan: Tetovo.
Matt: Right. There must have been ten cafes for every city block.

Dan: Yes, our tour of Balkan beers was quite impressive.
Matt: Lots of Skopsko.
Dan: Don't get too proud about that. It's the Bud Light of Macedonia.

Matt: But I have to say, we were enjoying it in some pretty picturesque places.
Dan: Yeah, what did you think of the historical spots?
Matt: Ohrid was great. My favorite stop was the fortress over the city--the view was incredible and the fortress is still in really good shape. Though I have to say, I can't imagine running up and down those steep stone steps in the heat of battle. That alone must have cost an army a few hundred men.
Dan: Probably not much workers' comp.
Matt: Just rub some dirt on it!

Dan: And what about Bitola? It was our first trip there, too. I was impressed.
Matt: Me as well. That central pedestrian area below the clock tower was awesome. Again, so many cafes.
Dan: And I couldn't believe how packed with people it was at night. By the way, you did a nice job ruining a perfectly good picture of you and Jillian on that street.
Matt: My eyes are closed, yes? Can't help it, it's a family trait.
Dan: When is Photoshop going to add an "Open Eye" feature, right next to the red eye reducer?

Matt: How did the pictures from Heraclea turn out?
Dan: Solid. Those Roman ruins were quite impressive. I was amazed at how much color the tiles still retain after all those centuries. And the fact that we could just walk all over the ruins.
Matt: The old amphitheater there was another highlight of the trip. I'd guess that place must seat about two thousand people.
Dan: No doubt they packed the place on Saturday nights for Antonious Bennettus.
Matt: Only when the toga-clad Tomas Jonius wasn't available.

Dan: Before I let you go, I have to ask you about the Macedonian food and drink you tried.
Matt: The food was quite delicious. That flaky pie we ate on the bench--
Dan: Burek.
Matt: --I think that was my favorite, though your host mother cooked up some pretty amazing stuff us. Not bad, considering we arrived unannounced.
Dan: Cell phone malfunction. And how was the rakia?
Matt: (long silence)
Dan: I think your exact words were something like, "If you hadn't told me what it was, I'd have assumed it was bad tequila."
Matt: I'll refer you to my earlier statement. I may be delirious, but I think I just heard my flight being called. Or maybe it was being canceled. Who knows.

Dan: Alright, enjoy. Chiao.
Matt: Chiao. And fa-la.

Postscript: To read some of Matt's actual thoughts on the trip and to see some more pictures, click here.

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