31 May 2010

Driving from Skopje in Macedonia to Edessa in Greece

Getting out of Skopje was a lot easier than getting in, as at least the motorway was signed. We needed to head for Athens on the E75, because although our destination was Edessa, a small town north-west of Thessaloniki, the E75 goes all the way to Athens, by-passing Thessaloniki to the west.

The road from Skopje to the Greek border was a mixture of two lane road and motorway and once again passed through some spectacular mountain scenery. Motorway speed limits in Macedonia are 120 km/h with good conditions, so progress on these newer sections was good, and the light traffic meant that there were no real delays even on the older two lane sections.

Tolls were charged on the motorway sections, amounting to about 4 euros, also payable in Macedonian Dinars, a good way of getting rid of our few remaining Dinars as they are worthless outside Macedonia. This was also the case with Hungarian Forints and Serbian Dinars, so try and get rid of them before leaving the respective countries.

The border between Macedonia and Greece was our last potential hurdle before rejoining the EU, but once again the crossing was completely trouble free. Once in Greece we found ourselves on a long, quiet toll-free motorway with a signed limit of 100km/h. Given the state of the road surface this was probably a sensible speed. The normal motorway speed limit is 120, although some newer sections are signed at 130. Direction signing is in Roman script as well as Greek, so no problems there.

This north-western part of Greece is called Macedonia, like the country we'd just left, so when in Greece do not refer to the country of Macedonia by that name or the Greeks get annoyed. Most of them seem to call the country of Macedonia by the name of the capital city, Skopje. Or else "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". All very confusing and typical of this part of Europe where boundaries have changed many times, often in living memory. In the case of the former Yugoslavia not long ago at all, of course.

After a rather boring journey across the plains of this region, with the traffic getting progressively heavier, we finally left it all behind and reached the foothills of the mountainous border regions and our destination Edessa, a pretty town perched on the edge of a plateau with fantstic views across the plain, waterfalls, and so many coffee bars there must be practically one for every inhabitant!

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