November 11, 2005 GMT
Macedonia

In 1993 I saw the image of a weird building on an old Macedonian 10.000 Denar note. Today the note is no longer in circulation, but in my memory the building looked like a giant football with windows on tentacles. Back then someone told me it was a church in Ohrid, and for some reason I knew that I one day would return to Macedonia and pay a visit to the architectural oddity. Unsurprisingly the holiday resort became a destination on my way to Istanbul, but after looking around and talking to locals it became clear that the building was not in Ohrid. Where was it? Perhaps it was not even a church?

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The building on this note is not in Ohrid…

maceview.jpg
…but out here somewhere

The plan was to stay at a guesthouse recommended by Lonely Planet, but there was no drivable road to it. A taxi driver saw me scratching my head and came to my assistance. Soon I was sitting in the living room of some friends of him. The mother in the house (her name was translated to Rose) made coffee and prepared a guestroom. I felt welcome. During the evening I tried to describe the building. It was their turn to scratch heads, talking between themselves in a language I did not understand. They found some books with illustrations, but the building and its whereabouts was not found.

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Nine out of ten coffee drinkers prefer Rose (this is an advertisement)

Philately became the key word. I wanted to ask an elderly man working in an exchange booth if he remember the old paper money, but he became angry when I first tried to trade 1000 Albanian Leke. Evidently they dislike the Albanians so much that they refuse to handle their cash. Then I found a picture of the Denar note on a webpage about philately. The Internet café did not have a printer, but making a copy drawing on the backside of an old receipt solved the mystery. It was recognized as a war hero museum situated in Krusevo, a mountain village half a days drive away.

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This mountain village has no tourist office

From a motorcycle point of view this quest guided me off the beaten track, to the roof of Macedonia, on perfectly curved roads scattered with dry brown autumn leafs whirled up by the turbulence behind the bike. Now and then a sporadic cow was blocking the inside track, and the occasional lots-of-sand-on-the-tarmac made me extra awake and alert when cornering. I was hypnotized for hours, and in the end, on top of a twisty hill, I found what I had desired to see for twelve years.

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My God, it’s ugly

Posted by Erik Saue at November 11, 2005 05:38 PM GMT
 


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