For many reasons I dislike hotels. When I decided to take a road trip to Lake Ohrid Macedonia I checked online to see what the hotel prices were. The last few years I have tried to stay away from hotels, preferring instead to rent a condo or apartment.
I find it not only less expensive but in a lot of cases you get added benefits that you wouldn’t at a hotel. After all I spend most of the day away from the room and no need in wasting a bunch of money on something I am not going to be using much. I have never been a Hostel kind of guy. I snore enough I don’t want to listen to someone else doing it. And I don’t particularly like sleeping in a dorm setting.
After a little research I found Antonio Guest House consisting of 6 rooms for rent and the price was great. For 15 Euros I had my own room at a place that had great reviews from multiple online sites. I booked through the internet and got my confirmation and was ready to go.
Upon arriving in Ohrid I found the place with no trouble. I am not sure what I expected but the place is basically a house. The door was locked so I rang the doorbell and Stojna, the lady of the house answered the door, pointed her finger at me and said “Robert”? I answered yes and she waved her hand and said “Come”. Entering the house she pointed to my shoes and then pointed to a shoe rack. I took my shoes off and closed the door and she started pointing at the door, then a button that unlocks the door. Then she waved her hand again and said “Come”. She took me upstairs and opened one of the rooms with a skeleton key, she pointed to the two single beds and then opened a window that looked out over the garden and said “smoke”. Then she waved her hand again and said, yep you guessed it, “Come”. She pointed at the common use bathroom and then we went downstairs where she took the other key on the ring and showed me that it unlocked the front door from outside and then waved her hand and again said “Come”. Now by this time I was starting to like Stojna, something about her said we were going to get along okay.
We went into the kitchen downstairs and sitting at a table was her husband Trajce who seemed to be waiting for the door to open and next to him was a well used notebook. Trajce tells me he speaks a little English. His son Antonio, who speaks good English, is currently giving a tour of the city to some Japanese tourists.
Stojna looks at me and asks, “drink?” To which her husband asks if I want brandy, juice, coffee or water. Trying to be polite and not go for liquor just yet I said water is fine. At this Stojna points and says, “Brandy”. She quickly produces a clear glass pint bottle with no label and clear liquid. Now having had more than one drink out of a no label liquor bottle I knew what was about to happen. She proceeds to pour me two ounces and then gives her husband about a teaspoon full in his glass. He smiles and says to me, “It is good brandy almost like schnapps, drink.” Drinking about half the glass and feeling molten lava run down my throat, with just a hint of fruity flavor, he smiles again and says “good, finish.” Always being one to please I drink the rest of the liquid fire and before I can put the shot glass down Stojna pours me another two ounces.
Trajce asks how many nights am I staying, after answering 3 he says “Good” and pulls out a sheet of paper with a map of the city. The map has all the famous tourist sites listed and he starts by showing me where we are. Then he tells me we are 700 meters from the old town and shows me the route I need to take. He circles several churches and tells me why they are famous drawing a route along the old town and back to the guest house. He then says “You take this tour, it will take you 3 to 4 hours”. He then tells me we are 15 Km from the town of Struga. He circles the bus stop where I need to be and turns the paper over which has all the bus times to various locations. He tells me Struga will cost me 40 Denar or about .80 USD. He then tells me we are 30 Km from St Naum Monastery and it will cost me 120 Denar or about 2.50 USD. He then circles a couple of banks and money exchange places along with a few restaurants. After this he asks for my passport and opens his notebook and dutifully writes down my name and passport info, then begins looking through the passport. He points and shows his wife my Cambodia Visa and tells me his son was recently in Cambodia and then he points to my shot glass and tells me to drink. I am really starting to like these folks. After downing the last of the brandy his wife comes at me with the bottle and now it’s my turn to wave my hand and tell her no thanks I have had enough.
The next day after a couple of British backpackers leave Trajce moves me into their room, which is a little larger and has a balcony. The rooms have free wi-fi, television a small table and a couple of chairs. Outside the room there is a refrigerator a couple of electric burners with a few pots along with silver ware, glasses, instant coffee and tea bags.
I spend the next couple of days getting up early and seeing the sights of the Old Town and having a few beers in the evening.
The last day I go downstairs in the morning and tell Trajce I will be checking out. I have someone coming to pick me up in the early afternoon so I ask if I can I keep my pack downstairs while I walk around town a bit. Trajce puts my bag in the corner and Stojna appears asking if I want coffee or tea? Having just had a couple of cups of coffee upstairs I tell her no thanks I am going to walk around a bit. Stojna doesn’t really seem to like that answer, points outside to the garden and tells me “Sit”. Trajce and I sit down and start to chat when Stojna comes up from nowhere and pours me a double shot of morning Brandy along with a slice of her home made walnut cake drenched in Brandy. So here we are at 7 am chatting and drinking Brandy. That’s when Trajce tells me he made the Brandy from the grapes growing in the garden. He also tells me he has 80 liters of the fire water and sometimes sells it to guests at a whopping price of 5 Euros per liter. Now for my American buddies that is roughly $6.20 a Quart for some high quality Moon Shine.
After a few drinks I leave and walk around town for the last time picking up a few things to take with me. Returning to the Guest House I still have about an hour or so before my ride shows up. I tell Trajce I will just sit in the garden and wait. Trajce sits down with me and we begin chatting about his life, he used to work at the train station and also at a travel agency, and Stojna worked in a garment factory. Now they run the Guest House while their son Antonio promotes the Guest House and works as a tour guide in town. At this point Stojna pulls out a bottle of wine pours me a big juice glass full and gives Trajce a little. Trajce asks me how the wine is and I respond pretty good. He smiles and says “I made that too I have a lot.” Well of course you do ya little moonshiner. So for the next hour we chat and drink wine until my ride arrives and just like family they walk me to the car wave goodbye and tell me to be careful on the road.
Now you tell me of a hotel where you can have that kind of experience. With such hospitality it is no wonder I dislike hotels.
Marianne at BestTravelDealsTips says
I have stayed in hotels for almost my entire travel “career” but do enjoy the occasional vacation house rental. You bring up some very interesting points regarding some wonderful savings, time soaking up the local culture and experiencing real life at the destination, etc. At the end of the day, I just need privacy, but I’m open to your cool travel tips for sure.
Oh I agree I need some privacy. I had it here, other than a shared bathroom with 2 other rooms, which except for the first night weren’t occupied, I had my own room balcony etc. I usually try to stay in a rented apartment or condo if I am going to be somewhere for over a week. That way I get more room usually with a kitchen all to myself. But more and more people are renting their condos out on a short term basis even for a few nights.
Doc Wends says
This is an awesome experience, similar to couch surfing only they ask for a pay which, to me, remains affordable. I have never been to Europe and if my feet leads me here in Macedonia, I will get myself this kind of treat. Move spending time with the locals, they are honest and usually, gives u more time and gives u the effort other hotels don’t.
I love this! Cheers!
Thanks Doc. It was a great time.
Great post! What a great experience, and a story well told!
That personable experience is exactly what I too am seeking now when travelling, and why I am loving sites like airbnb
Thanks for the comment. There are a lot of site where you can find accommodations some places are not listed on the more popular sites but a search using (City) rooms or (City) short term rental can yield some great results also.
AnitaMac at traveldestinationbucketlist says
Awesome! What a great story. You are so right – you don’t get that in a hotel. We often rent apartment style villas while in Europe as we like to have access to a kitchen, but they have always been in a hotel style format with a front desk as opposed to a home style. Love your interaction with the family – makes for a more personal experience. Love that they had everything so well laid out for you including the buses. Nice touch.
I usually opt for the apartment/condo style myself. This was a first. If I can another one, especially with home made hootch I may do it again.
it seemed like a very nice experience. given the opportunity I would stay at one rather than a hotel as well. it gives you an opportunity to meet real people. 🙂
It was a lot of fun. I still stay at hotels and a few beach resorts from time to time but this gave me the opportunity to talk to some great people and get their perspective on things.
Jade Johnston - OurOyster.com says
Oh that sounds so so so awesome! and so affordable as well.
Charles McCool says
I prefer vacation rentals to hotels, almost always! Finding unique private rentals, as you describe, is definitely icing on the cake. So fun!
Agree it makes the trip more memorable. Thanks for stopping by.
One of my biggest gripes when staying at a hotel. I like good LOCAL food. I don’t want a chain restaurant, and I don’t want to eat at a local tourist trap of a restaurant. I want to eat at that place that is off the beaten path that they local go for a good meal. It irritates me to no end when I ask a hotel employee where to get good local food and the direct me to Ruby Tuesday, Boston Market, Applebee’s or some other chain restaurant where everything was frozen at one point. Thanks for the great story/post about your trip.
I agree. I had an acquaintance that when he travels to a foreign land always looks for McDonalds because in his words “I know what I am getting”. My response? What a waste.
Wow! Why not just stay at home then. Seriously, food has been a leading reason as to where I have traveled many times (when I had the extra time). I guess if I didn’t enjoy eating so much then I would find another “leader”.
I feel the same way at times, like you said hotels can be very expensive and I hardly spend any time there if not only to sleep and shower.
Have you ever tried CouchSurfing? We’ve been doing quite a bit of CS during our travels and loved it. It doesn’t always give you much privacy (it depends on the situations) but you get to stay with locals which means learning more about the place and the culture.
You should give it a go 😉
I haven’t tried it yet but may give it a shot. Sounds interesting.
Darby- GreenTravelAntics says
I enjoyed this post, it gets me looking forward to all the interesting people that I have yet to meet!
I’m in total agreement, if you want to get to know the culture, you’ll do best with home stays. It’s getting easier and easier to find them, with AirBnB, couchsurfing, Workaway, etc.
It literally opens up doors. You meet people, and get to observe quirky details….
Hi Darby, I have never done couch-surfing but I have spent time in condos, small pensions, etc. Meeting people is what makes the travel enjoyable for me. I like learning about new places and the people that live there.