It was my first night dining at a Macedonian restaurant; we stood on the uneven stone street waiting for a cab. When the cab approached, I could smell the driver's cologne from at least 10 meters away¹. When he pulled up, it smelt like a boys locker room when Axe was popular. Rather than trapping myself in this cab and absorbing the scent into my skin, we decided to take another cab, and walked to a street where there was a lineup of taxis. The drivers pushed their car unless they were driving someone or going to pick them up. It was strange to see taxi drivers pushing their cars to save gas, but completely made sense.
We found a taxi and he took us to International Restaurant, one of the nicer downtown restaurants. Often you will find a lot of tourists here as their hotel suggests it. As I walk into the basement of this large building I can't help but wonder if we are in the right place. Then we enter the dining area, a warm and mellow setting filled with decorative Macedonian statues and art. The old stone walls and candle lit tables give a romantic feel, but that is shattered instantly by the live music being played beside the bar. A beautiful singer with a whole lot in her t-shirt and a fat man on a keyboard make up this symphony - and like professionals they play constantly throughout the night.
When we sit down, the waiter brings us salad then takes our drink order. His eye was about to get fired it was so lazy, but the service was excellent. As soon as you speak English they think you have money and the service improves greatly.
We have a few drinks and I ask everyone if they want to see what 1,000 kevabs look like all at once but they explain that this place has Macedonian dishes you can not get at every restaurant².
After a tray of cheese, some Shlivo and Macedonian salad we are ready for our meals. The table is filled with Macedonian dishes and drink and the six of us do our best to finish everything. But the food keeps coming.
We drink our coffee, and then comes the dreaded bill bill. After buying all the food and booze that six people could possibly consume I expected it would cost us a lot. I remember looking at the bill and being woah, 2000 denars, then converting it and it was less than $50.00 Canadian. I payed the $50.00 for everyone's meal. I was unsure what to expect from living in Macedonia, but after this night, I knew it was going to be a lot of fun.
1. For some reason Macedonians wear incredible amounts of cologne. At times I was convinced they bathed in it. When I received my transcript from the University of Skopje in the mail, my mailbox smelled like a cologne magazine-advertisement for a week - even though it had travelled across the ocean.
2. I wanted to do what my dad did back when he was done college and visiting Macedonia. Him and his friends went to a restaurant and demanded the waiter bring him 1,000 kevab. He knew they probably wouldn't finish them, but just wanted to see what 1,000 looked like. With the exchange rate, it would cost them something like ten dollars. The restaurant owner tried to reason with them, like “I will bring you 100 now and once you finish those, I'll bring more." Once my dad showed him the money, he couldn't say no, and brought 1,000 kevab.