Monday, April 30, 2018

Eko, Idomeni, and Skra

Well – long day today. This little donkey tracked 17 kilometers today and can certainly feel her feet. Tomorrow, Eleni Fearless Leader said at dinner, will be longer.

We started out driving to the Eko Station which was one of the camps in the Idomeni area. It is hard to believe that this motorway station, on the arterial road between Skopje and Thessaloniki was, two years ago covered by tents; that children ran about and played around cars filling their petrol tanks; that tens of thousands of desperate people pushed through here on their way north. But it was so.

Photo: Kelly Anne Lund

It is hard to imagine, from our comfortable hotel rooms, with showers and dining rooms; from our relatively easy walks carrying day packs, with a bus to back us up if we get sick or tired, how it would have been for those tens of thousands of men, women, and children -- carrying what they had left from their flight, eating what they could find or were given, wearing dirty clothes, ill-fitting shoes -- it is difficult to imagine what they went though; the pain, the fear, the uncertainty.  They came flooding through slightly earlier in the year than we are here now, the sun may have been a little less hot (though we were blessed with overcast and a breeze for much of the day), but the road was hard and the days were long. Still they came, and they kept coming -- only to be brought up short at the Macedonian border.

Our first walk was a 3 km ramble through country lanes. Poppies, redder and larger than those in Cyprus filled the edges of the fields.  All through the day we saw smears of scarlet through the green of ripening wheat, grass, other crops -- truly spectacular... 

Our destination was a nearby Lidl, where many refugees stocked up with supplies. We did, too, then boarded the bus for Idomeni. The village is quiet now, but the border area immediately around it is still sensitive, so after a coffee in the village kafeneion, served by cheerful though bemused women and watched by some doubtful soldiers, we greeted the one living soul in the railway station, a hungry but timid young dog, and set of AWAY from the border and into the hills.

We had a bit of a detour, through 'undulating' country – that seemed to mostly undulate in an upward direction for quite a few kilometers to the village of Skra, where we had lunch, and later walked to look at some waterfalls. I counted about 232 stone steps on the path up. By this time we were all feeling our feet. Or as if we didn't have any feet.

Then we boarded the bus and drove to Kilkis. Tomorrow, we cross the border.

Wifi is really bad here. I want to post some 'before' and 'now' pictures of the Eko Station and Idomeni, but it might not be possible.

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