Last weekend, my friend C and I took a flight after work to Skopje, Macedonia. It was a fantastic trip as Skopje is interesting in its own right, but even better because we were able to hang out with locals. C had studied in Skopje earlier in her academic career so we met up with her friends she made from the first trip, and even friends of her friends.
After our bleary (and somewhat scary) flight that brought us in at an alarmingly early time on Saturday morning, we woke up and prepared for a hike. C's friend had hooked us up with one of her own friends who would take us to Mount Vodno, located on the south side of Skopje. He drove us to a midpoint on the mountain (thank goodness! the mountain is 1,066 meters tall!) and we began our hike there. It was a nice area, complete with picnic areas, a snack stand, and the entrance to the gondola to ride up and down the mountain.
Even better yet? He gave me a trekking/hiking pole to borrow. I see Germans using them all the time, even on flat surfaces, but have never used one myself. I was wondering if it was just an elderly German lady thing (but kudos for them for rocking out at a good clip on the paths!). During this hike, I was introduced to how useful these poles (or pole, in this case) are. I wasn't really in prime hiking shape (or any shape at all) since I was restricted on physical activity in April. Mr. Hiking Pole definitely made the hike easier as I used him to help propel me up the mountain. I'm now on the lookout for a set of poles for myself.
The trek up the mountain was brisk, mostly because my counterparts were quite fit. I didn't lag too far behind but did need several breaks to catch my breath. We took the trail that our guide considered to be medium in difficulty. There were many bits where we had to trek up what could be washed out areas with loose rocks. I guess a weekend warrior (aka someone who's not super fit) could do the hike easily enough, but the trail is a little rough. Another option is to hike up the winding, paved road to the top.
Our scramble up the mountain was rewarded by a stop at hut at the summit. In the hut, one can buy drinks and snacks or even bring one's own, and sit at wooden tables and benches. The view is wonderful!
Soon after it was time to get back down the mountain. I suggested taking the gondolas. It was really inexpensive at about 100 denars per person (less than $2) and the view was great.