We're finally in Macedonia, a country that a few of us (ahem...) didn't know was a modern-day country until today. That's embarrassing. But the Balkans are so hard to keep straight! So many shifts in boundaries over recent years are a result of so many wars, so much violence, such great heartache in this part of the world. Our guide explained that the Balkans are the land bridge between the West (Europe) and the East. Whenever the West felt powerful, it charged through the Balkans to conquer the East. Whenever the East felt powerful, it charged through the Balkans to conquer the West. The poor Balkans. Always stuck in the middle. It has been eye-opening to journey through these countries and learn our history all over again.
Yesterday we were in Kosovo, a land that now knows a fragile peace. We ate lunch at a restaurant just across the border yesterday afternoon, where the restaurant owner gave Lena some Christmas decorations to play with. (They made a pretty picture but required some close parental supervision... yikes!) We spent the night in a city nearby and then visited this magnificent monastery the next day, which is the oldest monastery (built in the 1300s) in the Serbian Orthodox church. So very lovely and very peaceful.
Next up, Skopje! The only two things I know about Macedonia are:
1) Mother Theresa was born here. Thank you, 8th Grade research paper.
2) Alexander the Great was from Macedonia. My mother read the guidebook and passed that info on to me today.
3) Skopje is pronounced SKOP-yeh. I've said skop-GEE since that 8th Grade paper, so this was fun to learn.
I shall learn more!