Details, Details, Details
As you all know, on Black Friday, Lori and I officially moved to our site, Demir Kapija. The name of the town is of Turkish origin and means “Iron Gate”. The reason for the name stems from the fact that Demir Kapija is located at the mouth of a large gorge carved by the Vardar over thousands of years through the Кожуф (Kozhoof) mountains. Throughout recorded history the location has been significant because whoever controls the gorge controls access from the south to the fertile Тиквеш (Teekvesh) plain and the rest of Macedonia. Up in the mountains archaeologists have found evidence of towns dating as far back as 3,000 years ago. During World War I the German army built a rail line through the gorge that runs the length of the Balkan peninsula and on to Athens. A bunker still exists from that time on the outskirts of the town. Below is a picture of writing that the Germans carved above the tunnel they dug through the gorge.
The current incarnation of Demir Kapija is not nearly that old. The town itself is not very big (roughly 3,500) people with another 1,000 or so in the outlying villages, and did not hold the title of municipality until 1996. The local economy is largely based on grape and wine production. One of the local wineries “Villa Marija” was built by Yugoslavic King Aleksandar Karadjordjevic as his summer home and personal winery. It is the oldest winery in the Balkans that is still operating.
Now that you’ve all fallen asleep thanks to my history lesson, I’ll give you some details about where we live.
Lori and I are staying in an apartment on the second floor of a house. Our landlord’s aunt and uncle live below us and his mother and father live behind us. The apartment is nice and spacious. We have a living room/kitchen, bedroom, mudroom (with washing machine…I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it’s tough being a PCV), and finally, a bathroom. Luckily for Lori, we don’t have a Turkish toilet (her one stipulation about the Peace Corps was that she wanted a working toilet). In addition to the rooms, we have three balconies. One is attached to the front of our living room and faces the gorge, one is attached to the front door, and the final balcony is attached to the side of the house and overlooks the old Royal Winery and Popova Kula.
The living conditions are very nice. We have a huge heater in our living room that works very well (though we’re not sure yet how expensive it is to operate), and a wood heater in our kitchen. We just bought one square meter of wood and it should be here on Friday. I figure that once I split that by hand, my Dad won’t be able to hold it over me that, “when I was young I split four cord o’ firewood by hand, barefoot in the snow with a dull butter knife”. But who knows. I think the best part is that we have a boiler attached to our shower which means hot showers every morning. As long as I have that, I don’t care if the roof blows off! I’ll try and post pictures soon of the place. The only “Posh Corps” problem that I can think of is that we might not have internet until after Christmas (oh the sacrifices).
Until next time,