Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Ederlezi in Shuto Orizari

Making up for blog backlogs, I can't skip one of the biggest celebration for Roms, that is Ederlezi (Djurdjevdan), celebrated on 6th of May. This day is very important for Orthodox Christians as well as Muslims. The patron of this day is St. George, who is a significant religious figure for South Slavs, whereas Muslims commemorate then the day when two Islamic prophets, al-Khidr and Elijah, met on the Earth (Hıdırellez).
The best opportunity to experience this special holiday was visiting the biggest concentration of Roms in Europe - the district of Shuto Orizari in Skopje, colloquial called - Shutka. Shutka is the setting of movies of E. Kusturica, such as Time of the Gypsies or Black cat, white cat. I'll refer to this place again in the future, I hope...
Preparations for Djurdjevdan start on 5th May, when ritually a lamb is killed and the meat is made ready. Everything happens on the gypsy yards, what is very well visible from the street and it's hard not to notice it. The streets of Shutka literally run with the blood. In every gypsy house the head of the family with dextrous cut of the knife slit the lamb's throat, with what all the curious children assist. And they aren't scared or upset because of that - on the contrary. It will be something to eat. Until the lamb is still warm, is immediately flayed and everything from the inside and outside is kept: skin, internal stuff - everything can be useful.
After a hard day of preparations some of the Gypsies start to celebrate and have fun, some of them wait until the next day. The streets of Shutka begin to be more crowdy, here and there appear some musicians with instruments who iniciate spontaneous street parties. Nevertheless, most people first two days spend at home with families, eating, drinking and listening unfortunately gypsy-turbo-folk music from CDs or computer instead of live brass orchestras...well, Gypsies follow the technology too, but the ambience is killed and the live music gives up the place to this -  played from the speakers. Do genuine Gypsies still exist in this world? I'm kidding. I wouldn't risk to put this thesis, the more so because I saw only the day of preparations and the first day of Ederlezi, and suppossedly the celebration lasts four days ;) Unluckily, I couldn't attend in all of them, because I started my six-days hitchhiking to Poland, but about that later.
Below, a photostory from Djurdjevdan, precisely from preparations. 
Warning! pictures contain graphic content! I don't reccomend for these blood-sensitive and vegetarians ;)

Skins for jackets cheaply for sale! Still warm!

 - U think this string'll endure?

Rainbow over Shutka. The holiday will be successful.

As strangers from another planet, we focused a lot of attention amongst Roma kids

Čekaj malce.

It didn't take a long time to encourage this woman

Ajde tancuvame!

Ederleeezi, ederleeezi, sa o roma daje...

My friend Awa with very likeable Gyspy couple

Hanging lambs have small, green branches put in their teeth, which
symbolise spring arrival

Unfortunately, we didn't manage to intrude to this party...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Pearls of Northern Macedonia

The main goal of this April outfit was to an ancient, megalithic astronomical observatory Kokino, listed by NASA amongst 5 the oldest observatories in the world. It was my second try to get there and this time I succeeded. However, not everything's gone after my heart. Admittedly, we managed to find the place without any significant obstacles, even though it's deserted area. The thing is that, it was the second time when I got excited about taking pictures there, and this time when after a long time waiting for the sunset, I started to search my camera in the bag, it turned out that it disappeared. After a while, with emptiness in my mind, I remained that I left it in the car of the man who picked up us from a neighbouring village. Fortunately, the retired forest guardian suspected that something can happen, so left us his phone number just in case. I recovered my property, but in the next day. Vide - no pictures from Kokino.
From Kokino surroundings, I was lucky to have the best ride in my life - by legendary Zastava 750. Four people in this tiny car, that is the driver, traditional macedonian "baba", me - smashed between a bag of potatoes and my rucksack, additionally with a girl on my knees ;) The right wheel of "Ficia" was rubbing all the time against the car body, but it was not important to anyone. The level of adrenaline was to high to notice this. We were going with the legend of  Yugoslavian roads. Nothing could stop us.

Macedonian "baba".

Some water to the cooler and we can continue the ride!
"The blue torpedo" in all its glory.

After Kokino, we went to Kratovo - a small town in the north-eastern part of Macedonia, about 60 km farther. This 10,000-inhabitants-city is located in the crater of extinct volcano and famous for several old, stone bridges. Traditional Macedonian architecture, stone towers, narrow streets, cafes and few kafanas where you can eat and drink your fill for very small money - all these things create the special atmosphere of the town. 

Od kaj si? Polska? V picku mater! Bravo!

After the climatic town of Kratovo, the next point was Kuklica - original stone fomations in a shape of dolls. The stone town is 10 mln years old and inhabited by 120 figures, from which the highest estimate about 10 m. The legend of this place says that once upon a time a boy from the village of Kuklica couldn’t decide which girl to marry so he asked two girls to be his brides. He planned both weddings on the same day against the tradition that there mustn’t be two weddings in one day, because the brides must not see each other during ceremonies – it was considered to be bad luck. One of the brides, not knowing about this tradition broke a ban and ran to see who was going to marry. In this way, the groom was demasked, and the girl cursed all of them shouting to turn them into rocks.
According to an another legend there used to be a forest but due to wars it was burned down. Soon, the area became a wasteland. The temperatures became very low and when the army passed through the wasteland all of the soldiers turned into rocks.
In reality, this natural masterpiece was created by tectonic erosion of minerals. Locals assert, that every year observe 5-6 figures more.

The last place in this episode is the Matka Canyon, situated 15 km in the south of Skopje. The smaragd-coloured river Treska creates an artificial lake, where Macedonians built a dam and hydro-power plant. High, vertical rock walls in the canyon are really impressive, the canyon has also few caves. Matka is ideal place for hiking and a paradise for climbers.