It was a very fun weekend. On Saturday after digging we went and roamed around the older part of town. We started by checking out the Swan English Pub. It was even more disappointing than the Irish Pub. We therefore went and had pizza at a really good and cheap place in this little walking mall area.
After that we walked up to the castle and walked around its battlements. The castle was originally started by Justinian I and was in use for basically a millenium finally occupied by the Ottomans. It’s a fascinating ruin because you can see bits and pieces of a variety of building techniques. It’s also got a good view of the mountain which the hotel and the dig are on. I’ll have pictures of that soon.
After that we went and roamed around the Bit Bazaar, which is a fascinating place to shop. It’s what we would envision of a bazaar: vibrant, cramped, loud, and really interesting.
After that we went to the National Art Museum which is in the old Turkish baths. I’m not much of an art guy, but the architecture was awesome. There was also a room filled with a variety of beautiful icons. Finally, we roamed around a bit until we decided to go back to the hotel. Since we’d started early because we only had a half day of digging I even had time to relax for a bit.
Sunday was really neat, though it started on a very worrisome note. I was concerned when the bus drove up and it was painted a horrible salmon color. I thought the bus might be fishy at that point. OK, so they didn’t like the pun either, but I was right. First, the bus driver forgot to go to where we were to pick up the Macedonian students. Then, about 20 miles out of Skopje, the bus broke down.
Fortunately, the bus company sent a new (and newer) bus. This one was white so it didn’t have the same sense of impending doom the other one had. Anyway, Macedonia is a beautiful country with a lot of mountains which we drove through. It was great.
Our goal was the ancient town of Heraclea. It was originally founded by Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s dad. It was also extensively used by the Romans and the Byzantines. It has some beautiful mosaics and a lovely amphitheatre. Unfortunately we couldn’t see it, but they apparently were doing a Greek tragedy last night in that theatre.
After that we went around the town of Bitola, which basically surrounds ancient Heraclea. We went to their museum, which is in a very interesting building. I wasn’t really paying much attention to the building as we walked up to it, as it was simply a big, fairly unattractive nineteenth century style building, but as I walked up I noticed a sign which said that Kemal Ataturk had attented high school there.
The museum itself has a lot of stuff, but the most interesting thing is a Byzantine cataphract spangenhelm. It separated into a bunch of pieces, but they were found together and they showed how the pieces went together. It was beautifully decorated, with coinlike images in the metal piece around the head.
We then went to lunch in a nice outdoor cafe with a little roof between two trees. Lunches here often take a long long time, and Dr. Fuller was a little concerned it would take too long, and he wanted to give us time to explore more of downtown Bitola. I chose something that I had no idea what it said in Macedonian, and what I got was something like a Macedonian haggis. The filling was regular meat, however, and was very tasty.
Despite our desire for a quick lunch, it took quite some time, but it turned out not to be much of a problem as most of Bitola was closed. The bazaar was empty. What was open was the Orthodox Church which was extremely beautiful. That was well worth the trip in and of itself.
After that we lounged around until heading back to Skopje. On the way back the driver put on a radio station that played a bunch of 80s songs. At one point I mentioned Cruel Summer by Bananarama, and we all laughed when it came on. I then said that what was needed to finish the 80s day off was Safety Dance by Men Without Hats. So, of course, the next song was indeed the Safety Dance. I then predicted Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant, but my prognostication abilities had failed by then.
We finally made it back for a late supper at the hotel around 8ish. After having Macedonian salsa and soup, we crashed.
Today we got up and headed by to the grindstone. I dug quite a bit today, and found a lot of roof tile and bone, but nothing particularly spectacular. There are hints that something nice might be there though, so I’m going to continue digging away there.