Macedonia & Vienna Travel Log
Part Seven: TV, Food & Museums
Today was relatively relaxed. In the morning, I and Marija Todorova, the translator of Torrie and the Snake-Prince (who has also translated The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan in Scarlet, and Dick King-Smith's The Water-Horse) were interviewed on national television, on the breakfast show Ranoden on A1. I thought the interview went quite well. The interviewer asked me to talk a little about what the book was about and how it was received by children in Canada. I took the opportunity to talk about the depth and complexity possible in children's fantasy, and how I don't believe in writing down to children. They're as intelligent as any other human beings; what they lack is experience, acquired knowledge, and their understanding of psychological complexity matures as they do. Books are part of how they acquire that, and writing as if all children are stupid just makes bad and worthless books. (I didn't say that.) Apparently children's literature isn't highly regarded as a literary form in Macedonia; it's not seen as "real" literature. My publishers, and from the look of the displays at the book fair, some others, are trying to change that.
After that, I visited the Skopje City Museum, which is located in the old railway station. I had gone by on Monday and photographed some of the Roman gravestones outside, but the museum was closed then. Today I went in. They don't get many visitors. The security guard had to run ahead of me to turn the lights on. The display was small, but well organised, with artefacts going from the Neolithic to late Roman. Some were labelled in English as well as Macedonian, but some weren't. The labels were minimal, a simple statement of what the artefact was and its date, with no further details. Still, it was interesting to see, and admission was only 50 denar (about $1.10). The roof was leaking very badly and some of the display cases had been moved to avoid the leak, so it must be an ongoing problem. I hope they're able to patch it up before it gets worse.
My hosts had planned an outing to the Matka Gorge for this afternoon, but rain and the press of organising events ended up changing that and instead, I enjoyed a traditional Macedonian meal cooked by Marija's mother. It was delicious. I especially liked a dish of white beans baked with ajvar, a red pepper preserve. There was also pita, which is a pie with a phyllo pastry crust and a filling of spinach and cheese, and stuffed vine leaves. For dessert there was melt-in-the-mouth halva.
Tomorrow my schedule becomes very intense, with interviews, the Day of Canadian Culture at the American University College of Skopje, book signings, the official launch of the Macedonian translation of Torrie and the Snake-Prince, and a radio interview. I'm hoping to squeeze in a visit to the National Museum of Macedonia too. Tonight I need to get a speech written, if young Ema's fascination with my computer will let me!
Skopje City Museum