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Macedonia, Serbia & Bulgaria on Vespa

From Thessaloniki to the capital of North Macedonia Skopje, passing through Serbia via Nis, to the capital of Bulgaria Sofia for Serbian Vespa Day 2022!

Hello Vespa friends!

This year the Vespa was not used a lot (and neither was the motorcycle) as we concentrated on wandering around the islands and islets of Greece thanks to the smart working granted by our companies.

Before our scheduled return to Italy in July and the trip to the Balkans with the Tenerè that awaits us in August, we signed up for the Vespa Serbia Day from Friday 24 June to Sunday 26.

Since the road from Thessaloniki to Nis and vice versa would have been too exhausting both for us and for our PX, we opted to break all these km by adding the stage of Skopje (Macedonia) and that of Sofia (Bulgaria), and lengthening by two days from Thursday to Monday.

First step: Thessaloniki-Macedonia

Km 240


On the afternoon of Thursday 23 June, I take the Vespa from the Scootershop workshop, where the owner is also the president of the Thessaloniki Vespa Club, and after having fitted the semi-new cylinder and piston, I go home to prepare the bag. Fortunately, the rear rack can hold a gym bag which for two people is just fine to bring clothes, rain gear, etc. for 5 days.

As soon as Federica is ready, we go to the garage, prepare the Vespa, take the usual photo, and off we go.

We were hesitant and hoped to arrive safely at our destination because with the Vespa any problem or breakdown can be around the corner! We leave at 5 pm, also to avoid the heat of those days in the city, and we head out of Thessaloniki towards Skopje. The road we take is smooth, fast enough and we keep a speed of 65km/h. After about an hour and a half, we arrive at the border with Macedonia, little traffic so we wait in line.

A guy advises us to overtake the cars and go in front of everyone, but the situation is already chaotic with the cars trying to overtake in every crack and so we remain in line. It only takes half an hour before it's our turn and within two minutes we are finally in Macedonia! A new country to mark!

In the meanwhile we were in line, there were some people who smiled, pointed, or took pictures of us.. in short, the Vespa is beautiful but seeing it traveling outside your own country makes it even more beautiful!

We continue the journey to Skopje as it gets late in the afternoon and we have to cover ourselves because we are climbing a few hundred meters and the air is no longer hot (in Thessaloniki it was about 35 degrees), so we stop in a pitch and put on long pants, jacket and neck warmer. The last kilometers to get to Skopje speak of a very hilly or mountainous country, barren and with very few points of historical-tourist interest.

We were informed about what to visit in Macedonia and ..... unfortunately nothing in particular! Pity.

When it is now dark, we finally arrive in Skopje, with the navigator offline (we are not in the EU) we arrive at the hotel and park the Vespa in the back. This Macedonian woman who did not speak English welcomed us and tells us to pay cash immediately, even with Euros, for a total of 26 euros for a night in the center, with air conditioning, a private bathroom, a third bed, and a sitting area! Welcome to Macedonia! Oh, I forgot .... breakfast included!

Skopje is the capital of Macedonia and is populated by more than half a million inhabitants. It grew rapidly after the Second World War, but in the 1960s it was razed to the ground by a devastating earthquake in 1963 which destroyed several notable monuments and many historic areas. The reconstruction of the city was entrusted to the famous Japanese architect Kenzō Tange and the works were completed around 1980.

Among the monuments of the city, there are Byzantine churches, the stone bridge built by the Turkish conqueror Mohammed II and the bazaar. There is also a commemorative plaque in memory of the birth of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to whom a mausoleum was recently erected in the center, of the Makedonska Ulica (Cit. Wikipedia).

Finally, Skopje in the evening is very charming and full of lights and colors. Along the canal, there are sailing ships with hotels and restaurants inside. The main historical fools are surrounded by beautiful iron lampposts and then the city is very clean.

What impressed us about the city are the gigantic statues, buildings with gigantic columns, everything is giant! At every corner of the city, there are bronze statues such as horses, bulls, or people of all kinds.

Second step: Serbia

Km 210


The following morning we get on the saddle to reach Serbia. Once at customs there is an endless line of cars .. if we had waited in the queue it would have taken at least 3/4 hours to cross the border. Fortunately, the Vespa is not the size of a motorcycle and we zigzagged among the cars until we almost reached the document control. Without this little moped, we wouldn't have arrived at our destination in time!

Here, too, we cross the border easily and quickly under admiring gazes and take the Serbian highway that would have taken us directly to Nis. Serbia also resumed the Macedonian geological conformation, but it seemed that a more modern climate reigned in the country with infinite green fields almost from South Tyrol.

In fact, once we arrive in Nis, we notice that the city is tidy and clean, all the cars stop at the pedestrian crossing to let people pass. The hotel was practically 800m from the Vespa Bar, a meeting place for Vespa and Serbia Vespa Day. Before reaching the others, we meet the owner to whom we pay a total of 40 euros for 2 nights. Even here in the center, large, air-conditioned room, a new bathroom with a super shower, private parking, coffee with kettle, etc ... we are amazed! The structure also housed the main radio of the city where the owner of the B&B Smart City Studio worked.

We take a fast shower and join our group at the Vespa Bar, we pay the registration fee of 50 euros each which seemed crazy at first but then it was a real bargain. The fee included two personalized t-shirts, stickers, and gadgets, 10 drinks at the bar during the two parties on Friday and Saturday, two breakfasts, two dinners with all the Vespa clubs, and entrance to the museums. All this without having to queue for payments but organized coupons to be ripped for every drink or entrance. After dinner, we return to the Vespa Bar where the Vespa clubs of Thessaloniki, Bucharest, Kavala, and 2 other Greeks, one Croatian, and several Serbs gathered for the occasion, for a total of 150 people each with their Vespa!

During the party, we meet Roberta Leonardo, President of the Vespa club Romania, an architect for 16 years in Bucharest who presents her colorful striped Vespa to us, and with her, we get to know her group, where we regularly exchange various stickers of the club she belongs to!

As soon as it gets late, we go back to the hotel after a quick tour of the center of Nis, very nice and full of young people and blaring music. The next morning we had breakfast, a Vespa tour of the city, the Cegar war memorial, and the tower of skulls. In the afternoon then the program included the Vespa Game (speed tests with prizes, slowness tests), a Gala dinner, and Dj set at the Vespa Bar.

At 8 am we have breakfast and as usual, we take pictures all together with both drones and photographers (all included in the participation fee). The day was already hot but soon we set off to reach the first stop, with the police following that stopped the cars to let us pass and within 20 minutes we arrived at Cegar, a monument tower in honor of the Serbian rebels who fought in a conflict of 1809 with Turkish soldiers.

A bit of history...

"The Battle of Cegar" (also called the Battle of Kamenica) was a very bloody battle, which broke out during the first Serbian uprising, in the Sanjak of Smederevo (an Ottoman administrative division) between the Serbian revolutionaries and the Ottoman forces on the hill of Cegar, located near the city of Nis, Serbia.

Before the battle, the Serbian revolutionaries had built six large defensive positions to force the Ottoman defense from the fortress of Nis to capitulate, but the Ottomans used the negotiations to delay the conflict… and just in time to get 20,000 reinforcements from Rumelia.

The battle lasted a whole day, with fierce hand-to-hand combat that resulted in thousands of casualties on both sides, and which ended with the Serbian revolutionaries forced to retreat, defeated, in the city of Deligrad. Not only the damage: the Ottomans seized the opportunity of the Battle of Cegars to literally make a mockery of the Serbian revolutionaries.

As a warning to them, and also to avert new future revolts, the Ottomans beheaded the heads of the fallen Serbs, then peeled off their skins and stuffed them with straw to send them to Mahmud II, the Ottoman sultan, in the Imperial Palace in Istanbul to celebrate victory.

The skulls were then brought back to Nis and used to decorate a four-and-a-half-meter-high tower.

The tower was set, on all sides, with over 950 skulls, which were arranged in 14 rows.

During the last years of Ottoman rule in Nis, Governor Midhat Pasha would later order the removal of the skulls, as he felt the tower fueled resentment among the locals and no longer served as an effective means of discouraging revolution.

After the Ottomans retreated in 1878, the Serbian royal army searched the city in search of the missing skulls, finding some buried nearby and one found in the depths of the tower walls.

The tower later became a monument to the Serbian resistance and was covered by a canopy, surmounted by a Christian cross, to honor the fallen.

This was then followed by the construction of a chapel, in 1892, around the tower, which now contains 58 of the skulls initially incorporated into the walls of the tower.

In 1948 the Tower of the Skulls, together with the chapel that encloses it, was declared a Cultural Monument of Exceptional Importance and was placed under the protection of the Socialist Republic of Serbia as a Serbian pilgrimage site.

After the historical tour, we continue to the Cair Park inside the Fortress, where music and a DJ set by Monster (the brand of the drink) awaited us together with refreshments and catering for lunch (always included in the fee). Once the boys' strength regained, they installed a speed detector on a straight and drew starting lines on the ground, for the next speed competition with prizes. The first to leave was Ray, an American from San Francisco belonging to the Lambretta Club of his American city who had as a friend the president of the Serbian Vespa club, whom we had met and made friends the night before. We got along very well with him and we chatted about a lot of things...

At the invitation of his Serbian friend he took a plane and flew to Nis, ready to start the race with a very nice elaborate Lambretta! Ready Set Go! Ray starts like a rocket to fly and then flies to the ground at the end of the road, he and the Lambretta!

Smiling, he got up and was rescued by the doctor present, luckily nothing was broken but bruised and bleeding. Nicknamed the FLYING AMERICAN, he was the first to open the races and stayed first until the end, winning what? A motorcycle jacket that he would need at the time of the race XD

At the Gala dinner, the prizes for the race, for the most beautiful wasp, the most particular, etc. were awarded. and after several photos and a lot of "grappa" (Italian liquor), we return to the Vespa Bar for the last evening all together. Federica and I go back to the hotel for a shower and at that moment we meet an Austrian couple who had been waiting for an hour for the owner of the hotel who had to leave them the key. We invite them into the hall by opening the door and communicating the wifi password to them. We then invite them to the party by saying we have free drinks (and it was true because there were still so many). We say goodbye, in the meantime we get ready to go out and join friends at the bar.

After a few hours of music, toasts, and parties, it is getting late for us that the next morning we would have to reach Sofia and we would have had to get up early. But when we go home, the couple from Vienna arrives to say goodbye, we have 4 beers and talk about our travels. They were returning from a journey that departed from Vienna to cross the Balkans, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia. Nis was the last stop before returning to Vienna.

They made this trip in 3 months with a Nissan Micra and without a smartphone!

Third step: Bulgaria

Km 190


We leave our friends the next day with real regret, both the Greeks and the Americans and Austrians. After a hearty breakfast and two coffees each, we head the Vespa towards Sofia. We were warned that the road to the border, on the Serbian side, would be not only a wonder of nature but also perfect. Instead, pay attention as soon as you enter Bulgaria, the bumpy road, the stones, the dust, the trucks, and the endless road works.

In fact, we can confirm that the road from Nis to Dimitrovgrad, on the Bulgarian border, really leaves you speechless. Lots of nature, rocks, mountains, landlords with a garage for the Service and petrol on the ground floor which cost at least 40 cents less than in Greece.

Here too, once we arrive at the border, we pass a kilometer-long column of cars and arrive at passport control and then cross the border in five minutes!

As expected, the road is terrible and also dangerous. The works force the cars of the opposite direction to invade our lane and the trucks that raise the dust make everything slow and annoying. After about 3/4 kilometers the normal road begins and within a couple of hours, we arrive in Sofia.

Upon entering the city, there are many Soviet-style buildings, a bit run down, which give the impression of being in some Russian village. The capital does not make a great impression on us, we almost regret having stopped. It may have been the heat, the fatigue or something else but we were a bit skeptical about this stop.

We arrive at the hotel in the center without parking and I leave the Vespa on the sidewalk. Outside the door, sitting on the ground, this Bulgarian plump lady looks dirty, and unkempt, she smoked like a crest and didn't speak English. She passed the owner to me with her cell phone and even the cell phone was greasy and she smelled of smoke. I omit the most difficult particularities out of respect. Once inside the room, even here there was the smell of smoke masked with air freshener, at least there were the comforts but the sense of hygiene, even if it had been clean, neither I nor Federica had it.

I open a parenthesis by saying that when searching on Booking for a Hotel in Sofia, those with reviews above 7/8 were very few if you didn't want to spend a fortune. This Hotel was the only one with a rating of 8.5 and I wonder why ... I guess the others.

Before going out we pay 35 euros per night (not so cheap), and we walk around the city. The prices are very low, a large slice of pizza costs 70 cents, the coffee at the bar in a cup (Italian) costs 40 cents while for two beers at the Italian embassy (which I will tell you about shortly) we paid 3 euros. That's why the hotel seemed expensive to me ...

A bit of history:

° The date of Sofia's founding is not certain. The Romans who conquered it in 29 BC refer to it by the name of Serdica. Under the reign of Aureliano, it was the capital of the province of southern Dacia. In 345 a religious council was held in which 70 bishops participated with the intention of finding an agreement on the Arian heresy. The attempt failed in the bud and the Eastern bishops defected by holding a separate council in nearby Plovdiv. In 441 the city was sacked by the Huns.

At the time of Emperor Justinian, it was equipped with a military garrison. In the year 809 A.D. it was snatched from the Byzantines by the Bulgarian Khan Krum and from that date passed several times from the hands of one to the other contender.

In 1382 it was conquered by the Ottomans and remained firmly in their power for the following 5 centuries, except for an attempt by the king of Poland, Ladislao III Jagellone (1424 - 1444) to reconquer it. He managed to conquer it in 1443 but found his death the following year in Varna, surrounded by siege with the intention of driving out the infidels. Since then Sofia has grown into a sleepy provincial town with a typically Ottoman look, with mosques and many Turkish baths.

The Russian cavalry woke her up from that long hibernation and made a triumphant entry on January 4, 1878. The Treaty of Santo Stefano in the following March sanctioned the autonomy of Bulgaria. Sofia, which became the capital of the principality, experienced a rapid development passing, in just over fifty years, from 25,000 inhabitants to more than 300,000.

Although it is considered a very ancient city, the vestiges of its past remain scarce until the Byzantine period while the testimonies of the Ottoman period and even more those of the Belle Époque abound. In memory of when she was one of the socialist republics adhering to the Warsaw Pact, Sofia also offers notable examples of the style called "Socialist Realism" with cold and pure forms, so dear to the dictatorial regimes of both right and left, but which today tends to be re-evaluated and no longer mocked °

(remember our impressions of Soviet-style buildings ?? XD).

Just outside the hotel, we took some photos of the sculpture of Sveta Sofia, dressed in black and which in 2000 took the place of the statue of Lenin. This Hagia Sophia was considered too erotic and pagan to be referred to as a saint, but it is still there today.

Very nice is the women's market (Zhenski Para) where you can find fruit and vegetables in abundance, huge mushrooms, raspberries, blackberries and cherries that we stocked up from stall to stall. Historical signs tell us that once upon a time this market was only frequented by women who came here to buy spices, fruit and vegetables. Today, however, this market a few steps from the mosque is frequented by everyone.

If you like markets, really poor ones, you can visit the Bitaka market where everything is sold! Books, post-war leather suitcases, tools, or things never seen before. It is open every Saturday from dawn to about noon.

For those who want, you can also visit the Rotonda San Giogio, the Banya Bashi mosque, the Sofia Synagogue and the National Archaeological Museum.

During our downtown tour, we stopped for a beer in the garden of the Italian Embassy, ​​in the center, perfectly preserved in Mussolini's style. Here young boys have set up stands to drink beer and eat pork for very few euros and on the one hand, a Stand up Comedy was organized in the original language where naturally we did not understand if not a few words. XD

Before returning early to the hotel we visited South Park, really huge, sunny, and full of young kids where the National Palace of Culture is also present.

We also say goodbye to Sofia, who in the end proved to be nice but not essential and the following morning, with an alarm clock at 6, we leave for the return to Thessaloniki.

Halfway we stop in a parking lot with toilets, without a service area where this quiet but nice gentleman and his wife who wanted to take a picture with the Vespa and the husband who wanted to ride with her in the parking lot worked. Very nice, they ended this trip in style!

After 5 uninterrupted hours, we arrive home where the usual good hot of the city was waiting for us ...

Once at home, we think back to our new friends and the possibility of visiting them one day in the United States or Austria, or in Bucharest with Roberta and her team! It's always nice to travel, and to know places and people, mostly if you have a Vespa :)

Suggerimenti utili:

- In Skopje life is cheap, it is better to take a hotel of a higher category

- In Nissecurity is high. We left helmets and wallets on the tables with other people who weren't in the club and nothing was touched as the locals had guaranteed us

- If you have a two-wheeled vehicle, at the border do not queue in the sun behind the cars but move forward, thank the driver in front of whom you stopped and you will pass the border quickly

- In Serbia, on the highway, the service stations are even 50 km away from each other, if you have a Vespa or a scooter, fill up before entering otherwise you will be forced to go out for refueling

Must places:

Skopje old town and old Bazaar, Vespa Bar Nis and Tower of Skulls, Sofia area of the National Theater

Total km: 1.000 ca

Itinerary in map:



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