Warmest of Welcomes in Strumica, Macedonia

Strumica Streets

Coming to the Republic of Macedonia  I had to no idea what to expect from this land-locked Balkan country. My first stop there was the small city of Strumica, purely out of geographic convenience.  While it may not have dazzled me with attractions, in Strumica I received possibly the warmest welcome I’ve ever had upon entering a new country. It was definitely an uplifting way to begin exploring the earnest nation of Macedonia.

As the minibus rolled over the border between Bulgaria and Macedonia, I was keen to arrive in Strumica. It felt like I had spent the entire day travelling and barely gone anywhere. Crossing the border had been a breeze, with just us and a Polish tour bus there.

On the minibus as we approach Strumica, the other tourist there was asking for advice on where to stay in Strumica. A really kind man named Anthony began helping him, even calling ahead to ask for hotel suggestions. At some point the man asked if I had a hotel booked, which I didn’t. I had been so uncertain about whether I would even make it to Strumica, I’d only looked up a few hotels and decided not to book anything. As it happened, he suggested the first hotel on my list so he said he would walk both of us there once we arrived.

Strumica Umbrellas

When we arrived in Strumica, he began to walk with the other tourist and I, before stopping and asking if we would like to get a drink before going to the hotel. Since we weren’t in a rush, we stopped at a small cafe and got a beer. We chatted, he taught us the Macedonian word for “Thank you” which is Zdravo and even paid for our drinks, knowing that we hadn’t had a chance to get any Denar yet. Yet another act of kindness.

After our drinks, he walked us over to the hotel only for us to find that the Polish tour bus has booked out the entire hotel. He quickly asked the manager where else we could go and soon had us heading for another hotel. If he hadn’t been there, we would have had a lot more trouble communicating nor known where to go next. The second hotel did have rooms and even turned out to be cheaper and right in the city centre. Once he was sure we were sorted, he gave us a dinner recommendation and just like that, said goodbye.

For someone to take considerable time to help two strangers, buy them drinks, show them around and ask nothing in return, really stunned me. I was truly overwhelmed by his kindness.

Strumica Square

The next morning before catching my bus onward to Prilep, I set out to see a little of Strumica. The night before, the other tourist and I had had dinner on a small pedestrian lane, so I made my way back up there to see it in daylight. Above the little lane, dozens of colourful umbrellas hung brightening up the public mall. Following the lane down, I emerged in the large City Central Square which had been buzzing with life the previous night. It was far quieter in the morning, just the occasional person enjoying a coffee in one of the many nearby cafes.

Beyond the square, I wandered down into Strumica Park which seemed quite pleasant before venturing into the city centre. I felt like I started to draw a few stares here as Strumica is most definitely not on many people’s European itineraries. As I made my way back to the hotel, I passed by what appeared to be a modern shopping centre. On entering, it turned out to be more of an indoor market, with everything from fruit stalls to shoe stalls. This helped me realise that Macedonia still had some strong ties to tradition, despite modern advancements.

Strumica may not have been stellar tourist destination, but it was able to give me some worthwhile insights into the country I was beginning to explore. More so, my visit here gave me my first taste of Macedonian hospitality, something I would come to deeply appreciate throughout my visit.

 


Have you ever encountered overwhelming generosity when travelling? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Warmest of Welcomes in Strumica, Macedonia via @travelsewhere

 


This post is part of the Weekend Wanderlust linkup put together by A Brit and A Southerner. Please follow the link for more great posts.

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22 Comment

  1. Kind of sad to see that Strumica doesn’t have much to offer for a tourist, but it certainly looks pleasant! Look forward to read any other posts you have about Macedonia as you continue exploring! #WeekendWanderlust

    1. David says:

      It certainly was pleasant Lorelei and while it didn’t have many attractions that I could see, it was a nice way to start my visit.

  2. neni says:

    What a bummer that there wasn´t more to see. But I guess the nature is stunning in Macedonia.

    1. David says:

      For a single day visit it wasn’t too disappointing, it really was just a transit stop on my way into Macedonia.

  3. Hey David, Thanks for sharing a different article with us. It seems that you had a great time with the locals and their hospitality. Sometimes those moments are much more valuable than tourist attractions! Your post intrigued us and we now want to see Strumica. Patrick has been to few places in Macedonia but I haven’t. The picture with the umbrellas is super cute too! It reminded us an exhibition that we saw in Annecy, in France. We have some pictures on our insta! Keep up the great work! It’s always good to read you!
    Patrick and Cecile from http://www.travel4lifeblog.com

  4. I just love meeting great people when travelling. That is what made our trip to Vietnam so good. We met so many nice, friendly people. We were taken along to karaoke with some locals we met, invited to a family dinner, taken out for dinner by a guy we met etc etc. It is such a refreshing change from having to be on your guard all the time and thinking negatively – i.e. what does this guy want? or How much is this going to cost me? Gorgeous photos!

  5. Love the umbrella street – reminds me of Seattle, Washington! Macedonia is somewhere I know little about – would love to learn more! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin #WeekendWanderlust

  6. Oh wow, Anthony sounds like such an amazing person, for him to do that was such a warm welcome to a new country for you. I am blown away by his kindness and generosity. As for the umbrella’s in the street, how original, I love them! #FeetDoTravel

  7. What a warm welcome you received upon your visit to Strumica. Love the street lined with many umbrellas that made a great photo opportunity How exciting to experience the culture from the people of Macedonia and thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. David says:

      It definitely was a warm welcome and knew a few people would like that photo of the umbrellas. Thanks for reading Stephanie.

  8. Lisa (Simple Sojourner) says:

    Looks like a nice place to stroll around and like you did, chat with the locals. So nice of a stranger to take his time with you. Those memories of travel will always be with you. You took some great shots!

    1. David says:

      It was really great to stroll around and start go get a sense of what life in Macedonia was like.

  9. Enjoyed reading your post! Having great hospitality when visiting a new place is always nice. I think it definitely makes your visit much more enjoyable. Can’t wait to read more of your posts! 🙂

    1. David says:

      Thanks for reading Elisabeth. You’re right, it does make the visit more enjoyable.

  10. Garth says:

    What amazing acts of kindness, and Strumica sounds like it gave you an insight into real Macedonia, unlike touristy places where I find you have to be a little more guarded on who approaches you.

    1. David says:

      It certainly was Garth and I only wish it happened more in the touristy places too.

  11. It is so nice to hear a story about encountering someone who is kind and helpful. I think that is the best part about traveling! Even though you may not have seen a ton, you will always remember your time spent here!

    1. David says:

      Thanks Jenn, it definitely is a great part of travelling.

  12. Kreete says:

    This sounds great! The random acts of kindness are the best and I try and do one a day. Doesn’t have to be something substancial, could just be showing some one the way, giving them a free drink at the pub I work or just giving some one a smile and a compliment. Never been to the balkans but it’s definitely a plan some day. Will keep reading your adventures!

    1. David says:

      They definitely are the best Kreete and you’re right it can just be the little acts that make the difference. I hope you get to the Balkans one day, they really are great.

  13. Excellent read, you know when we first visited Macedonia we already love it and we are looking forward to visiting again. It’s an amazing place!

    1. David says:

      Glad to hear you loved it too Annika. Thanks for reading.

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