After a trying week #3 of Veganuary, you might be expecting me to say that week #4 was even more dire. It wasn’t. It was better, because we’ve just got used to it.
It feels like we’ve broken through a wall to a stage of indifference about dairy products this week. We’re not bothered that there’s no cheese, yoghurt, or eggs in our diet. Physically we feel very much the same as we did as when we were vegetarians.
We’re still travelling, hiking, exploring cities and working remotely with just as much energy.
Plant-based milk and muesli have become our breakfast staples, we snack on nuts like there’s no tomorrow, bread is featuring more prominently in our travel diet, and we’ve eaten loads of local dishes from Bulgaria and dishes that are vegan in Macedonia too.
Vegan in Plovdiv
Last week, we’d been in travelling vegan in Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria. We’d initially thought that there was only one vegan restaurant in Plovdiv but we unearthed two more and a number of places that had vegan options, or even whole vegan menus.
There was a Mexican place out of town called Sombrero, where we ate a feast of rice and beans, tortillas and grilled veggies. A juice bar, Vitafix, which had oat-based crackers that were much more like chewy savoury cookies and salads. Be Fresh Bio was all vegan and had amazing rice stuffed peppers.
By the time we’d uncovered all those cool vegan-friendly places and had the welcoming hosts of Hostel Old Plovdiv making us vegan breakfasts – I became pretty addicted to stewed apple, muesli and soy milk at this point – we were feeling much more confident and back to full health after a less than filling time as vegans in Bansko.
Then, the temperature dropped…
Oh my gosh. The temperature in Bulgaria has been gradually creeping downwards, but as we excitedly explored Bachkovo monastery with frozen solid toes we realised it was getting colder. We hadn’t decided where to go next and had a number of places in mind – we checked the temperatures of Veliko Tarnovo which had hit -11℃ and Sofia was down to -9℃. In Plovdiv it was just -5℃ and that was cold enough for us.
We decided that instead of heading deeper into Bulgaria and risking that all the villages would be closed up for winter, we would take a whole day to travel across into Macedonia where the temperatures were a bit warmer. Sure enough, when we passed through Sofia it was bitterly cold and our faces were numb from being outside.
Of course, there was no way we could pass through Sofia without grabbing lunch at one of the vegan restaurants we’d missed when we were there before. We’d heard glowing reviews of Soma Vital Food and it wasn’t too far from the bus station, so went there. The food was really yummy and I could have sat there eating chickpea curry all day.
Vegan in Macedonia
From Sofia, we took a long bus to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. As you can imagine, Macedonia is not the most vegan-friendly of countries (well, not that we’ve found so far) but we had to knuckle down to catch up on some work for a few days so mostly cooked vegan food in.
Fortunately, the supermarkets were well stocked and had a huge choice of plant-based milks, nuts and vegan crackers, fruits and veggies, breads, peanut butter, muesli and all the staples that we needed to whip up some quick vegan meals in our amazing little Airbnb apartment.
When we ventured out into the city, we quickly found that you could grab simit, a round bread not dissimilar to a pretzel but covered in sesame seeds for just 15 dinar (around 15p). Traditional Macedonian food seems to be very focused on meat and kebabs so far, but after checking out an article on Macedonian dishes we found that there are some traditional dishes that are vegan like tavce gravce (white beans stewed in paprika) and ajvar (a relish made from peppers).
After a lot of research, we also found that there’s one vegan place in the city – which is more like a raw, health food vegan take-away – and we ate some chickpea burgers, protein salad and a raw lemon cashew cake there.
Now, We’re at Lake Ohrid
We heard that Lake Ohrid is the most beautiful place in Macedonia, so we couldn’t resist heading further south to spend some time marvelling at the lake. We have unexpectedly ended up in a lakeside guesthouse that’s way out of town. It’s a wooden place built by the couple who run it and they grow their own vegetables and make their own red wine.
When they offered to cook dinner for us, there was no way we could say no. We explained that we were vegan but they didn’t mind at all – in fact they knew that all of the cool kids are vegan these days.
The meal was nothing short of incredible. They cooked a vegan version of a hearty Macedonian stew called turli tava. They made it with potatoes, carrots, green beans and other vegetables from their garden. There was also a white cabbage salad with olives, and a sweet, sticky fig for dessert.
It’s quiet here at Lake Ohrid because it’s low season and the weather is foggy, but we feel lucky to have ended up in another lovely, accommodating place where we feel comfortable being vegan in Macedonia.
What’s Next for Veganuary?
We only have three days left of our vegan travel challenge and we can’t believe that’s it’s nearly over. Really, this past 10 days or so has gone so fast for us. We’re not sure exactly what’s next for our vegan travel in Macedonia this Veganuary, but I can guess we’ll be eating more traditional Macedonian food and bread this weekend – and we can’t wait!
Any tips for travelling vegan in Macedonia? We’d love to hear them!