An old city which is in construction
Skopje and North Macedonia itself might not that famous about their beauty or their lots of points of interests today, but rather the political news regarding the country. However, a lot of tourists still go there, and if someone asks them why, the answer often may be: Because it’s cheap.
And indeed, you can visit Skopje with mainly low-cost flights from a great part of the europian countires, and believe it or not, the accomodation for two night for two people in the middle of the city center costs no more than 50 Euros. We make no excuses, we admit, that one reason for us was also the fact that we can have a holiday with not much expense, but on the other hand we also hoped, that the we will find the city beuatiful.
Skopje the capital and the biggest city of Noth Macedonia. It is inhabited by approximately 540000 people, 66% of them are macedonian, but there are also plenty of albanian and turkish inhabitand living there. The national currency is the Macedonian denar, one Euro equals to apporiximately 60 denars.
The easiest way is to go to the city center from the airport is by taking the shuttle bus, which costs 180 denars for one person. Taking a taxi is not that expensive either, one way will cost you about 20 Euros.
Our first impression about the city was, that it’s not ready – at all. As we got off the bus and started to walk towards the main sqaure, we faced a lot of new arty sculptures and buildings, but there was just as many semi-finished building among them all around the center of the city.
80% of the city was unfortunately destroyed by a catastophic earthqake demolishing also most of the buildings remaining from the osmanian ages. The city was helped by a great amount of international support, and it was given a completely new shape by the new buildings built in the brutalist style, a characteristic trend of the architecture of the sixites and seventies. What remained from the ancient city is the turkish bazaar on the north side of the city with lots of typical turkish shops, markets and mosques. Most of the turqish inhabitants of the city lives in this quarter.
The main points of interest of the city:
The Skopje Fortress
The city park
Vodno Mountain and the Big Cross
The Millennium Cross on Vodno Mountain was built in 2000 and it is the biggest cross of Europe. It’s one of the most attractive spectacle of the country. Getting there is theoretically simple: you have to take a local bus going to the bottom of the mountain where from a chairlift takes you directly to the cross. However, you can easily run into some problems: On the one hand, the whole site closes at 5pm, on the other hand, it’s not that easy to get tickets for the bus – which will come only once per hour. We asked in all of the tobbaco shops and news-stand around our bus stop but nobody could even tell, where we can buy the tickets. Only one thing they knew: you cannot buy them on the bus.
It’s a long walking street in the city center with many shops, restaurants and clubs. You will find a lot of good-looking buildings the similar to the picture above. You may will be surprised that in fact they are renovated panel buildings.
Memorial House of Mother Teresa
If the notion of typical balkan really exists, and you want to experience what a real balkan city can give you, then Skopje will provide a lot of these characteristics. For example there are a lot of alley cats and stray dogs, moving rambling around the city in flocks and sunbathing on the main square not disturbed by the people.
Besides the stray animals you will meet a lot of beggar childern around the Macedonian Square and the Stone Bridge. You should pay attention in this neighborhood, because sometimes many of them will try to approach you and try to make you give them money or find something in your pocket.
Further pictures of the city
The public transport is operated mainly buy buses, mainle those double decker buses you may used in London several years ago – Skopje bought these buses in the frames of the Skopje 2014 city reconstruction program.
We spent a long weekend in Skopje, from Friday afternoon till Sunday noon. We had the impression that the city still tries to find in which direction they want to improve and it kind of still searching for its character. What seems to be sure, that the city reconstruction program, Skopje 2014 started by Nikola Gruevski will stop now, there will be now more systematic constructions of new sculptures and buildings, even those building operations are stopped that are already semi-finished and were started only several years ago. Despite of these many cafés and restaurants are opening day after day saying that the city is ready for the visit of a lots of tourists. Now its their turn to go there.
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