Our train into Sofia Central was ninety minutes late so no surprise there. The station is a disintegrating concrete dump in total contrast to the shiny new metro system. All of the notices and advertisements ate in Cyrillic script evoking memories of 3rd form Russian lessons. A short metro trip took us across town to the Hostel Canape Connection, where we were booked in for showers and breakfast. The shower and the coffee were most welcome but the burek was not so popular. Crumbled feta cheese in rolled flaky pastry pancakes, served cold and greasy. Stoytcho leaves us here for a few days so we are now down to nine.
Our next stage is by minibus westwards into FYR Macedonia. We get a quick tour of the highlights of Sofia (mainly Orthodox churches), a refuellingstopnat a supermarket and then we hit the highway. To start with the road is a decent dual carriageway but itbsoon deteriorates to match the standard of driving. A couple of hours out we reach the border with its four separate barriers - Bulgarian customs, Bulgarian passports, FYRM passports, FYRM customs. All a bit Le Carre.
Ninety minutes takes us into Skopje, the FYRM capital. Only the old lags, me and Mick remember the earthquake that destroyed the city a few decades ago. It has been rebuilt but does not look too prosperous. The driver takes us to the old quarter of the city, quaint but almost deserted, where we get a few snaps before retiring to a hostelry for beer and greasy kebabs. The meal costs 4 euros each including beer. This is the place to come for a cheap holiday.
Skopje station is reasonably intact but still pretty gloomy and it has beggars and taxi touts on an Indian scale. Our train to Belgrade is Macedonian, only three coaches and on time. We have two six berth couchettes between the nine of us and a lot of mosquitoes. An hour out of Skopje we have the border ritual as we leave FYRM. Twenty minutes later we do it all again for entering Serbia. This time we get a passport stamp. After a short and bloody war with the mossies we turn in. Early start due tomorrow.