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Chapter 3: The Riders of the Zodiac.

""
Woe is me... what a pain! Mountains!
A day to start out with a Greek moan...
Woe me! Mountains! And loads more!
Thus one more opportunity is summed up.

Passports presented and passports accepted. We were officially on Macedonian territory, my thirteenth country and who knows how many countless cities and towns I had already passed. And from the Albanian border to the region of lake Ohrid, it was downhill all the way, and up ahead I could see a dark, overcast sky, precisely in the direction we were going. Down by the lake, near a place called Struga, the rain started falling and the air became even colder. Bruno had been complaining for a long time of pain and tiredness, and if it were up to him we'd stop in Struga, but our original plan was to head to Ohrid, because the chances of finding shelter there were greater.

""
Then it was time for the recreational-tourist-technical tour of the beautiful and friendly Ohrid, or Ócrida. Unfortunately, the sun wasn't with us that day and that annoying chill kept following us around. And so we got lost in narrow stone-paved streets, with their houses and walls also made of stone. Between the houses, we found a tiny old Greek amphitheater, completely abandoned, then we kept going and passed Samuel's Fortress, which was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire during the rule of Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria, at the turn of the 10th century, and which, according to recent archaeological excavations, was built on top of an earlier fortification, dating from the 4th century BC, probably the work of King Philip II, who was king of Macedonia from 359 to 336 BC and father of none other than Alexander III of Macedonia, better known as Alexander the Great... Phew! Time for a breather... We continued with our tour of the fort, went along the path until we had a beautiful view of the huge lake Ohrid and of a small church that stands there, the orthodox church of Saint John, the Theologian. I believe that, on a sunny day, the view from the place is even more beautiful! We followed the path through the trees and around the lake, curiously two random dogs had started following us from the beginning of the tour and continued to follow us, so we had to name them, one became Miroslavo and the other became Serginho.

""
Time to hit the road and march towards the conquest of Greece!
Cold. Climb. Cold. Climb.
Climb. Hot. Hot. Climb.
Descent. Cold. Cold. Cold!
Descent. Cold. Damn, so cold!
Amid trucks, cars, cold, heat, uphill, downhill, at some undefined point along the way, we spotted from a distance a lawn with a broken table and an old chair, and stopped to brew some coffee and eat bread with hazelnut spread. There was a tiny house on a pilaster near the table, falling apart, there were saints inside, very sinister by the way, a lit candle and a saucer with random coins, it must have been an offering to some Balkanic saint, I left a coin there as an offering too, for the mythological heroes of Macedonia.

""
We then started our descent into a valley, and found ourselves in the middle of a thick fog and a temperature drop, minutes later we were already in Bitola, it was about a 5 hour trip, with some short stops, a total of 70 kms cycled at temperatures and altitudes that varied throughout the day.

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Bitola is the second largest city in the country, and not far from there was the border with Greece, and also not far from the center where we were, about 5 kms away, were the ruins of Heraclea Lyncestis and its mosaics, the place was an ancient Greek city in Macedonia that later came under Roman rule. It was founded by Philip II somewhere in the 4th century BC, after having conquered the surrounding regions and incorporated them into his Macedonian kingdom.

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We didn't stay in Bitola for long, we arrived at the hostel at around 4 PM, so we left without a destination in mind, following along the river Dragor and its already yellowing trees, many of them were bare, the area had a very bucolic mood with that winter weather and the old cars and houses.

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At the end of the boardwalk stood a monument to Philip II, looking all imposing on his horse, and just behind it was a large mosque and another one further behind, and the square with the clock tower off to the side, all to the sound of crows in the sky, who squawked wildly as they surrounded the entire region. In Sweden, according to ancient stories, it's said that crows squawking at night were considered the souls of murdered Catholics who weren't properly buried, other European countries also have quite unpleasant tales of these intelligent birds, but in Greece, people believed that crows were the messengers of the gods. Now, put these stories together with a freezing night in a place where a lot of shit has happened and you'll know what was going on in my head at that moment.

""
And like Alexander III of Macedonia, who contributed to the spread of Greek culture in the far East and whose conquests brought West and East closer together, giving rise to a new Helenistic culture, I was taking steps towards my own personal conquests, that didn't require bloodshed, but which had in my legs and body the same Phalanges that Alexander used to win his battles. And just as bravely, it was also necessary to sometimes think outside the box to undo a "Gordian Knot" or another that appeared along the way, and without a tutor like Aristotle by my side, I learned by leaps and bounds the mental game of knowledge, in a different way, it's true, but it gave me freedom of choice and time, at a speed and pace that depended on me and me alone! And between Cronos and Kairós, with their personi- fications of time, I kept cycling into what would become the final chapter of this adventure, proceeding in a Hellenistic march all the way to Hellas!


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