Demir Kapija Outdoor Festival

If there’s one reason to come to Macedonia, it’s the landscapes. It was one of the first things I noticed as our plane landed back in September, and every time I get the chance to travel I find myself staring out the window at some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve ever seen. We spent our weekend at the International Outdoor Festival in Demir Kapija, a small town in the south known as a center for outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, climbing and wine drinking. We also got to hang out with a lot of other PCVs, some of whom I don’t get to see very often or haven’t had the chance to get to know much in person, which is always a good morale boost. The weather was beautiful, the festival was fantastic, and even though I’m exhausted it was one of the best weekends we’ve had yet.

One of the highlights was being able to camp out in our hammocks for the first time. While it was a little cold at night, I found it much more comfortable than sleeping in a tent on the ground. When we first arrived we were a little worried that our plans weren’t going to work out well since the designated park for camping didn’t have any suitable hammock trees, but we crossed the river that runs through town into a small wooded area and found the perfect spot.

Saturday was the first day of the festival, and a large group of PCVs joined in on a day hike to some fortress ruins and an old Turkish village. I was told it was going to be an easy hike, so I was a little surprised when we stopped at a steep mountainside and were told that we were going to be climbing up it. We walked up a goat trail, through a cloud of bees (no one got stung, but it was a little nerve-wracking), past fields of wildflowers, all the while stopping to enjoy the sights of jagged peaks and rolling hills. There was also a stray dog from town, who we named Rocky, that followed the hiking group for all seven miles of our trip. We think he didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he walked out of town with us, but he was a trooper and was so sweet. It seemed like we went up forever, but the views from the fortress were breathtaking.

On the way down we stopped at Celavec, an old Turkish village. A few families still live there, and there is a beautiful mosque that was just built last year. We relaxed by a stream before making the trip back to town, where we put our feet in the cold river water and relaxed after our epic hike. That night there was a bonfire and music, and there was a FANTASTIC brass/ska band that played. I was thoroughly exhausted by the time I laid down in my hammock for the night.

Sunday was a much more laid back day, considering that our bodies were rebelling against any more exertion. After a lazy morning, we went to check out the canyon where all of the climbing events were taking place. While we didn’t climb ourselves, it was fun to watch people scale the canyon walls. On our way back to town we stopped at a winery, Popova Kula, for a glass of wine and to soak in the scenery one last time. It rained just for a minute or two, but it was long enough to give us a rainbow on our walk back to town.

We came back to Veles on the train, which was my first time on a train in Macedonia. It was a nicer journey than the bus, although the train cars themselves are old and ours was filled with old men having a very loud conversation for the entire trip. I love trains though, so even this didn’t put me off too much.

When we got home, I was so tired that I basically showered and fell immediately asleep. It was a great adventure-filled weekend, and I know we’ll be back in Demir Kapija again.

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