I went out for breakfast in Ohrid. At the nearby diners, there were only local men stretching and drinking their coffee without any rush, smoking cigarette after cigarette and discussing something loudly.
I could feel them staring at me so we moved on and looked for a place with at least one woman – just in case. I wouldn’t mind if they were young men, I’d sit beside them with a smile but I’d feel rather awkward otherwise. There aren’t many tourists here now – only locals, especially in the morning.
“Zdravo! Shopska e kava. Hvala.” – I practise my Macedonian. The smiles on the waiters’ faces are bigger when they hear me making an effort of learning their language. Besides, I’m fascinated by discovering new words and with the astonishment of how much the Macedonian and Polish languages have in common.
Turkish coffee in the middle of the lake
While visiting the Balkans, I only drink Turkish coffee – it doesn’t taste as good anywhere but here. This coffee is prepared in a pot called cezve, where it is boiled. Then you have to wait for the right moment to remove it from the burner and pour it into a cup.
The first coffee in Macedonia was prepared for me by Ivan with whom I stayed in Skopje. It was delicious, strong and aromatic. I prepared my next coffee myself – I learned from Ivan. He confirmed that my coffee is delicious. That’s a win for me!
In Ohrid, my coffee was served at the dawn by a boatman. His name was Bobby. He said that even CNN recorded a footage about him. I ran into Bobby on the lakeshore on an early morning when I decided to greet the awakening town. He took me for a quick cruise.
“Give me your camera, I will take a photo and you can post it on Facebook so all your friends can like it. You know, I had a Polish girlfriend once. She was beautiful – like a model! Polish girls have beautiful faces. Let’s take a selfie and then let’s have coffee”.
A coffee tastes great on a boat in the morning, despite it not being outstanding in terms of quality. The process of preparing it on a boat, in a coffee pot, the aroma combined with the Ohrid air and the smell of lake is a great experience. My coffee-related dream became true.
Fish soup for breakfast
“Have a ciorbă for breakfast” Bobby suggested “go have it at Belvedere, that’s where us locals go, it’s the best there”. Fish soup for breakfast? Very courageous I’d say. I tried. It’s murky, bland and thick. It tastes like milk soup with fish. It’s not bad but I’d prefer something else for breakfast.
I finished my soup, started to pack my camera and called the waiter. Another boatman approached me and sat at my table. He also ordered a ciorbă but with meat.
His name was Christopher. He claimed he was an actor in Hollywood. People came to Ohrid from the US just to record a movie only about him and now he regularly gets 15% profits from this movie. “I look like someone from Hollywood – that’s what they tell me” he said eating his soup while fixing his marine hat. “Ok…” I nodded.
He tried to trick me with his boat and his historical and philosophical knowledge which, as he claimed, was huuuge but I was already taken on a boat with Bobby and I was rushing to meet a blogger. “Right… Bobby. He’s ok. Not too intelligent but at least he makes good coffee. I won’t make you coffee but I will provide you with knowledge”. Not today Chris, not today.
Shopska salad every day
Let me admit to something. What I really ate in Macedonia is mainly the Shopska salad. I became addicted to it. I ate it almost every day, even twice a day. I really wanted to try other dishes but when I saw the menu I always ordered a Shopska salad.
After a month-long stay in Macedonia, I would become slim on a Shopska salad diet. Tomatoes, cucumbers, plenty of sheep’s milk cheese and spices. It tasted heavenly!
What’s interesting, the Shopska salad costs similarly at good restaurants and small diners: around 100-130 Macedonian denars, which is equal to more or less 2 Euro. Also, it was big and filling in all those places. This is my photo gallery of Shopska salads. For this reason, I am always happy to return to the Balkans.
Shopska and rakia – this is how it should be ordered.
“Ilona, the Shopska salad should be consumed with rakia – this is the best combination”.
So I had my first rakia in Skopje, with Aleksandra, my new Macedonian friend, the author of the Aleksandravezilka.wordpress.com blog. She showed me the city at night and its flavours. What an awesome and cool girl! An artistic soul – I miss our talks and night explorations of the city.
I was also able to hear a song about rakia. Ivan sang it and then I heard it on a bus so it must be popular in Macedonia :)
Burek and banichka – fat and delicious
This is yet another delicious food, apart from Shopska salad, for which I love the Balkans. Burek is a fat and not a nutritious cake stuffed with cheese or meat but it’s delicious and filling! It’s a fast snack when you don’t have time for a full meal.
After landing in Skopje, I didn’t eat anything on purpose because I wanted Burek to be my first meal.
On Sunday, when I was going for a trip to the mountains with my new Macedonian friends, we bought banichkas – something similar to burek – also with cheese and meat and also fat and tasty.
Other things, pancakes and French fries with cheese
Azize, a lovely blogger from the town of Struga (rosee96.blogspot.com) took me to a picturesque restaurant at the Ohrid lake. “Azize, I have to try something else than Shopska salad”.
What I found on my plate were breaded melted cheese triangles and French fries sprinkled with sheep’s milk cheese.
When I was in Ohrid, I once went to a restaurant and battled with my thoughts for long so that I wouldn’t order another Shopska salad. “I can’t only have photos of this salad!” I tried a Turkish pide.
I also tried “Ohrid’s famous cake”, made of chocolate, nuts and karamel.
AJVAR – wow!
I’ve heard many things about ajvar (a relish made from baked peppers and eggplants) but when I tried homemade ajvar, prepared by Ivan’s aunt, I fell in love with the taste! It’s a sort of a pleasure which gives you shivers on the entire body. De-li-cious!
You can have it on a sandwich, with meat, cheese, scrambled eggs or by itself. I bought a jar of ajvar for my parents, but it didn’t taste as good as the homemade one. I hope that Ivan’s aunt will share her recipe with me so I can make a couple dozen jars myself.
The most popular beer in Macedonia is Skopsko. It was the first commercial beer, so that’s why I saw adverts with Skopsko almost everywhere. Anyway, my macedonian friends recommended me Zlaten Dab from Prilep Brewery, they liked it more than Skopsko.
Wine, wine, wine
Macedonia is known for good wine so one day I traveled to a region with plenty of wineries, to a town with winery traditions, Kavadarci. The trip was long (a few hundred kilometers by bus) and in the end I found the door to the winery locked. The winery was closed! So I went to a restaurant and ordered a Shopska salad and wine originating from the closed winery. I couldn’t just buy a glass, I had to buy the whole bottle, a little bottle. So I drank it and was happy.
Very happy :) And then I continued my trip.
PS. If you visited the Balkans before, let me know what you tried. I will put it on my “to try next time” list.
I really wanted to try other dishes but when I saw the menu almost every day I heard: “Ilona, try shopska salad”. So I did :)