Shit I Learned In Macedonia

I was only in Macedonia for a couple of days but while I was there I came across one of the most entertaining tour guides I have ever met! He was downright hilarious in the things he was saying and most of the shit I learned, I learned from him during my time in the capital, Skopje.

  • Mother Teresa was born here. Even though she lived a large amount of her life in Albania, she was born in Skopje in a house near the centre of town. It no longer stands but there is a plaque there to recognise the site.
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The site of Mother Teresa’s birth

  • ‘Stan’ is the Arabic word for ‘place’.
  • There was and earthquake in 1963 that levelled the city. The US and Russia came to help try and rebuild the city. The clock at the train station is stuck at the time the earthquake happened. The double decker buses like the ones in London were bought in to help after the time too and they eventually stayed.
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The train station with the clock that stopped

  • The mayor of Skopje suffers from ‘copy paste’ syndrome. He likes stairs in Rome. Bring them to Skopje. Whatever he sees elsewhere that he likes, bring it to Skopje! To the point where the locals now call the place “Skopjian Disneyland”. They ask you to pray that the mayor never visits Venice and decides that Skopje needs canals.
  • Despite that all of the buildings in Skopje look old and are in the ancient Greek style most of them are no more than ten years old.
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The new buildings of Skopjean Disneyland

  • They made so many statues in rebuilding Skopje that they now don’t have enough places to put them all. There are statues on the bridges, statues on the rooves of buildings, statues everywhere…. never before have there been so many damn statues. They even have statues of the shoe shiners that worked down the main street in the centre of town. The sit along beside the people who work as actual shoe shiners….. Distastefully, they also have a statue of a homeless person here as well. Because there weren’t enough as it is without making a statue of them too….
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Just a few statues…

  • The Macedonians lay claim to Alexander the Great. So do the Greek. Of course this leads to a giant pissing contest in which they try and outdo each other. Greece has a giant statue of Alexander. So Macedonia makes one. Then the Greeks crack the shits and are all ‘you can’t call this statue ‘Alexander the Great’ cause he is ours’. So they call it ‘man on a horse’ instead. Ridiculousness. Greece also won’t accept Macedonia as being a part of the EU unless they relinquish their claim to Alexander the Great….. what ridiculousness!
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“Man on a horse” – clearly Alexander the Great

  • In bazaars, the old market places, the corner shops were always worth more money. As such they would design the streets so that there were as many corners as possible.

Well that is about it for my fabulous visit to Macedonia! It was a lovely place to visit for a few days and would definitely recommend the visit!

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What I Reckon About: Manners (or lack thereof)

I am not entirely sure whether it was always this bad or whether since the introduction of smartphones and reality TV they seem to have removed the part of the brain that controls consideration of others. The other day I helped out with a school play and afterwards sat to watch the kids perform. The audience was small, less than a hundred people and the kids were super nervous. Unfortunately, about 6 people were late and decided to walk in front of others during the middle of the show. Despite being told that phones were to be turned off, at least three phones rang in the first 30 minutes and one woman even had the gall to actually answer her phone in the middle of the performance and start having a conversation in the front row. Then after about two minutes of a conversation took it out into the hall and started loudly talking on the phone so it could be heard inside over the top of the play. I felt incredibly sorry for the kids. They are trying their hardest in something that takes a lot of guts to do and people sit disrespecting their own kids. Disgusting.

Other things that seriously shit me are:

  • People who take up the entire sidewalk walking in a line and have their heads jammed so far into their phones (up their own arses) that they won’t let people pass
  • Arseholes who get onto a full bus and leave an empty seat beside them so nobody can use it.
  • People who see you reading something at a museum exhibition and on purpose just stand in front of you like you weren’t there reading it in the first place.
  • People who cut into lines in front of others who have been waiting for a long time.
  • People constantly checking their phone while you are having a dinner or conversation with them.
  • Watching 15 people get off the bus but the bus seems to still be so “full” because people won’t move down in the bus that you wind up getting left on the side of the road because the driver can’t open the front doors.

I am pretty sure that things weren’t this bad with disregarding manners fifteen years ago. What I do know is this. This current society is becoming more and more selfish and less and less considerate of others. How this has happened? I am not sure. But I feel that a great deal of it can be attributed to media celebrating celebrities who are morons and behave atrociously.  Enter the Kardashians. People seem to spend more time embracing a culture of those who are so self absorbed that they have nothing to offer and give to others. I sit and watch kids take selfie after selfie after selfie. Their ideas of self importance don’t seem to extend beyond themselves to anyone or anything else. That to me is incredibly sad.

I also attribute it to increased use and reliance on technologies. People are so addicted and attached to their phones that they cannot seem to be able to sit through a movie or an hour long performance in a theatre without checking their phone to see if anyone has messaged them. This constant need to be checking and communicating through phones has decreased our ability as a society to have actual intelligent conversation with another person. Our kids no longer have the ability to communicate in a polite manner with each other because it is all done through text. And adults are getting just as bad.

Thirdly, and I am not entirely sure where this even comes from but people in western societies seem to have such little self awareness or awareness of others. I know where people are around me when I am walking down the street. I am aware of how my body fits and moves through a crowd. Self awareness seems lacking and maybe this is why people are constantly standing in other peoples ways, cutting lines and running into others. Perhaps this is extending from a lack of play with the younger generation now that a large proportion of parents choose iPad’s to babysit their kids instead of throwing them out the backdoor and saying ‘entertain yourself in the backyard’.  Perhaps it is because they can’t see what is happening because they are too busy seeing how many people liked their Facebook post. Perhaps it is that we have forgotten what the word community means and seem all the more focused on the ‘me’ in every equation.

Shit I Learned In The English Countryside

On my weekends to try and get out more and see a little more of England I have been taking tours to different parts of southern England. I did one tour through the Cotswolds which was really beautiful, I went to Shakespeare’s birthplace and home in Stratford Upon Avon, wandered the streets of Oxford and then headed south into Kent to visit Dover and Leeds Castle. On the way I picked up a few fun facts…. here they are!

  • The phrase ‘waiting on tenterhooks’ comes from the medieval days. In the castles, the place is usually freezing cold and when the royalty arrive, they have to wait for all of the tapestries and curtains to arrive to hang over the walls. The hooks they use to hang up the carpets are called ‘tenterhooks’. As such, waiting on tenterhooks is waiting on the carpets to come in an uncomfortably cold state.
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The lovely green town of Bibury

  • ‘Curfew’ is derived from the phrase ‘curb the fire’. Back in the days of Shakespeare the people used to have fires burning inside their houses to keep the house warm. There was a time that everyone had to have the fire out by and this was the ‘curfew’ or the time to ‘curb the fire’.
  • During these times they also used rope beds. The ropes were crisscrossed in a pattern across the bed and you would lay a blanket down and sleep on it. ‘Good night, sleep tight’ refers to wishing the person that the ropes on the bed would stay tight so that you wouldn’t slouch down in the middle of the night while you were sleeping because the ropes came loose.
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The room where William Shakespeare was born. Note the pull out rope bed

  • Cherries are a traditional symbol of innocence. ‘To pop one’s cherry’ or to take their innocence comes from this traditional symbol.
  • Up until the age of five, they used to dress boys in dresses like they did girls. This is because it made them easier to toilet train. Only after the boys were toilet trained were they then allowed to be dressed in pants and were identifiable as boys instead of girls.
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A boy…. dressed as a girl… for potty training.

  • Grapes are a traditional icon of fertility. This is why they use dried grapes and fruit in wedding cakes. The top tier was traditionally saved for the christening of the first born to wish for the fertility of the child however these days most people save it for their first wedding anniversary.
  • Each of the different houses in the Cotswolds has a different fenlight window pattern above the front door. This is because in the days before house numbers, people could identify who they were visiting based on the pattern on the window.
  • There are 2600 toilets in Wembley Stadium
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The famous Leed’s Castle

  • It was the Romans that invented road signs. They placed markers along the side of the road that later became known as milestones and these told you how many miles to your destination.
  • Dry stone wall building is an incredible art and it takes approximately one tonne of stone to build one meter of wall to ensure that the rocks all fit together snuggly for the structural integrity of the wall.
  • In the small town of Bourton on the Water, they have a football match in the town every August bank holiday. The catch. They play the football match in the water…. not sure how but I would like to check this out at some point…
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Apparently the world’s most beautiful street, Arlington Row.

  • To support the wool industry of the Cotswolds, several laws were passed by the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth the first made it law that you had to wear a wool cap to church on Sundays. Charles the second made it law that if a person dies that the coffin they are buried in must be lined in wool and that the person must also be dressed in wool.

So that is it for now with the things that I have been learning as I have travelled around this glorious countryside. Stay tuned for more interesting things I have learned on my travels about the place next week!