Macedonia, a meandering surprise!
19th October 2018
At the beginning of October, Paul Sanders took a small group to explore and photograph Macedonia. Here are his thoughts on the experience:
October 2nd - October 9 2018
It’s always exciting launching a new tour for Light and Land and this one to Macedonia was no exception.
I greeted our guests - Peter, David, Chris and Tessa at Skopje airport and made our introductions.
Rante, our guide together with Vlatko the most patient of Macedonia drivers - well the only one prepared to observe the speed limit - popped the bags into the van and we were off to the hotel to meet Gabriela who had arrived the evening before.
Skopje is like most capital cities - busy, noisy and just a little bit confusing but as we left the hotel to step back in time through the Old Bazaar and into the Green Market the group greeted the sights of the traders selling everything from spices, vegetables and fruits to car parts and bicycle chains. The market was alive with opportunities for the eagle eyed photographer!
Rante was on hand to help with translations, introductions and stories about the market and the bazaar, an essential addition to any tour as it helps you really understand a country - even if you’re only there for a short time.
The variety of landscape offered by Macedonia is just incredible, and with no coast line it needs something spectacular. It does not fail to deliver; mountains shrouded in mist, valleys rich with fruit, bustling villages, roadside markets and abandoned towns all beg for more time as the creative juices and stories flow.
At each location Rante would open his backpack and unload a camping stove, kettle, selection of teas and coffees and the most delicious biscuits - nothing seemed to be beyond him! He even supplied ceramic mugs complete with Light and Land logo and each client’s name!
People always ask is there much walking on a trip like this and the truth is not really as many locations are right next to access for our van, but we had one exception in Match canyon where we hiked up a mountain path that had all of us sweating. The view at the top is worth it when the light plays ball, but on this occasion it wasn’t to be. Howver that said the display of cyclamen on the slopes of the mountain was quite beautiful.
It’s not only the creative juices that flow, the local wine seemed to be to the liking of most of the group, who sampled various blends and vintages during the trip becoming almost connosouirs by the end!
We tried our hand at apple picking too, after spending some time in the fields with the crop pickers who were amused by our wanting to photograph them and gave us a quick lesson in the gentle art or harvesting apples. Our reward, not only a lovely set of images that hark back to 50s Britain but an apple the size of a football that would keep the doctor away for months!
Although I’m a black and white fan, you can’t fall to notice the colours of the country. From rich gold, yellow and greens of the mountains as autumn takes over from summer to vivid hot reds of peppers drying, strung out like Christmas garlands decorating entire villages and the soft blues of the dusk and pastel glow of sunrise, there is almost too much to take in visually.
Gabriela decided to immerse herself more fully than the other guests by taking a dip in Lake Ohrid, where we shot sunrise and sunset over St John Kaneo church to bookend the swimming.
No trip is complete without good food and Macedonia certainly didn’t skimp on this. Incredible salads with tomatoes that are the best I have ever tasted, cheeses, breads to get you started, but don’t over do it as the main courses are a sight to behold - in fact a portion for one in Macedonia will easily feed three Light and Land clients! Don’t get me started on desert, I had pretty much given up sugar until I arrived back in the Balkan arena of gluttony, the sweets are devine, layers of the finest pastry baked until golden layered with fruits and laced with sugar, sadly I came back addicted to the white stuff again!
The highlight for me was being hosted by Sasho Alushevski, a Macedonian photographer who uses a 5x4 camera, together with hand coated glass plates (wet colloidian process for the experts out there). To go back in the dark room with Sasho was a real privilege and I think the group enjoyed the experience, although much hilarity was had over my portrait as the chemicals had dripped mid exposure giving me the appearance of someone drooling!
Somehow when you arrive at the departure gate, a week seems a long time but it’s never quite long enough as David, Peter, Chris, Tessa and Gabriela agreed that there was much more to Macedonia than they had first thought and the trip had been surprising on many levels.