Jan Menno Rozendal
2018-10-28 21:00 — Bitola, Macedonia
He waves vaguely towards the mountains, the owner of the hippest loungebar of Bitola. ‘This city has everything,’ he explains, ‘with beautiful nature just around the corner. This region should be swamped with tourists.’
The nature he’s referring to is the Pelister National Park, a mountainous area with the Pelister itself as its highest peak. From the moment I’m here, I’ve been thinking: I want to go up there. No, I have to go up there. As a, let’s say, ‘young man’ from pretty much the flattest country on earth, mountains have always appeared mythical to me. Just before I came to Macedonia, I spent some time in Sweden, all the way in Lapland. Of course: reindeer, waterfalls, nature, rest… but most of all: you can find the highest peak of Sweden there. And as John Muir so famously said: ‘The mountains are calling, and I must go…’
Now, Pelister might not be the highest peak of Macedonia, but still: 2601 meters, that counts in my book. My first attempt, however, fails miserably: after five weeks of clear, sunny skies, the exact day I want to go up there, the air is filled with rain, fog, rain, wind and rain. Cold and wet I decide to return at the halfway point, it’s a disappointment I just have to swallow, along with my pride. Pelister 1 - Rozendal 0. The next weekend I make up for it, though. The sun is back and I reach the top: 1 - 1. Who knows if I can still grab a late win in these last couple of weeks here...
While I’m standing there with the world at my feet, my thoughts go to all the people down there, in Bitola, who are drinking their coffee or their Zlaten Dab (a rather delicious local beer, to be honest). Why are they there, and not up here, with me? How can people be living so close to so much beauty, and not take advantage of it every moment they can?
It's probably the same reason I haven’t been to a Wadden-island (foreigners: Google is your friend) in about 20 years. Because I know I can do that anytime, and I’m sure I will sometime... just not today. Because today I want to relax with a book, in my garden, with a cup of coffee. I pet the cat, prepare something in the kitchen, maybe take a stroll through the park, and that’s that. Nothing wrong with that, but here, here I have to go. It’s the fear of missing out, missing something in the short time I’m here. There’s no time to do nothing, to stare at a screen aimlessly, to check facebook one more time...
Or is there? The next day I find, to my amusement, they’re showing Ajax - Feyenoord live on Macedonian TV. From here on, the picture pretty much paints itself: suddenly, I find myself on the couch, relaxing, bag of crisps at hand. Maybe a cold Zlaten Dab (people, really, when you're in the neighbourhood, try it once) to finish it off. While Ajax is scoring 1-0, I’m thinking: the fear of missing out can wait a while.