Philip is waiting for me and as usual I am late. He has been on his feet all day lugging heavy samples around, never the less he is still smiling despite the bitter biting winds. An ex pat who now resides in sunny Skopje, Phil’s return to Blighty is to spread some Macedonian love in the form of his exciting venture, The Pelagonia Range.
‘How are you?’ I ask.
‘Great. We are just about to start the first of our 300 days of Macedonian sunshine.’
Macedonia, that little land locked territory at the core of the Balkans, captured my heart when I visited back in 2007. I can understand why Macedonia’s flag was a blazing sun whose rays stretched out like many warm welcoming arms. How I have longed to revisit ever since. I remember Skopje as a vibrant city cradled by lush green mountains. People were friendly there; hospitable and kind. There was a buzz of life and a spiced heat which floated in the air. I was touched by the incredible hospitality of the regions people and abundance of fresh produce on offer; it wasn’t uncommon to see mountains of peppers or melons on offer at the side of the road. On my return to London I searched high and low for anything to appease my want to go back, but in London there was no obvious ‘Macedonian’ community. No restaurants or shops to visit for a quick fix and all YouTube could offer me were songs by pop folk band, Kismi and singer Juli. (But yes, I hummed along to their catchy tunes anyway.) There was no one I could share my enthusiasm with either: Macedonia wasn’t exactly a top destination of travel back then. Although I felt blessed to have visited, I felt doomed to confine the joy to myself.
No one I had ever met held a love for Macedonia as I did, that is until I stumbled upon the Pelagonia range who produce Aivar as good as Balkan mothers make.