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Visiting Skopje the Capital City of Macedonia: One Place You Must See!

Four years ago we met Macedonia for the first time. Huh.. what? Is this the country that has a nice seaside or is that Albania? What do you mean Macedonia has no seaside? Yup, these are typically the reactions people have when they hear about Macedonia. So, to recap, Macedonia had no seaside, it has two really big lakes (Ohrid and Prespa), it has plenty of mountains and a lot of cool spots that are worth visiting. The country is inhabited peacefully by Christians and Muslims alike and from ancient times it has strong Greek influences that can be best seen also in Skopje, the capital city.

It is really interesting to visit a city and to see its evolution over a couple of years and you can best do this in developing countries (economically and culturally). If four years ago Skopje was largely under construction now we returned to find some of the building completed, some brand new constructions we never saw and all of this in a short time frame. The effects of this rebranding seem to have filled Skopje’s streets with tourists from all around.

The city is situated on the Varna river and like any establishment close to the water it has a special vibe. Along the river, in the central part, you will find governmental buildings, museums and cultural centers all build with classic greek architectural elements, with massive columns and statues.

There is plenty of controversy behind the rebranding of the city and in most cases, it revolves around the idea that the authorities are trying to erase the identity of the Albanian minority (one-fourth of the total population). This can be somewhat seen in the old part of the city - The Old Bazar - where even though the place has an interesting and specific feeling, of times long gone, you can notice it has received absolutely no renovations in a long time. In any case, I am not going to get any deeper on the subject.

But wait, there’s more… this time… prior to our visit… something went wrong… or right. We arrived in the capital shortly after the “Colorful Revolution”. There were some massive protests going on against the president and the government which ended out with lots of colorful paint all over the place, on most of the brand new white buildings, the statues and central areas. There will be a lot of cleaning up.

We wandered around Skopje two times, the first with the aim of finding a pleasant spot to eat, that ended in the Old Bazar with some beers and the second early next morning when we had a relaxing walk and a great Turkish coffee.

After our adventure with Titov Peak we set out to our accommodation in Skopje, a hostel we reserved one week before. The host there is absolutely amazing, in the best way possible. We checked-in got a well-deserved shower and by the time we finished times flew. Maya (our host) was kind enough to search the internet for the public bus timetable (we wanted to ditch the car and drink some beers) and insisted on giving us an escort to the bus station and to ask the bus driver to give us a shout when we should get off. She even offered to come and get us with her personal car when we were done because we wouldn't catch the last bus back. We kindly declined her offer and came back on foot, enjoying the chill of the night, as during the day we caught about 40 degrees Celsius.

We started our visit from the Church of Saint Clement of Ohrid, a big and ugly building that you can’t miss and made our way to the Old Bazar, passing close to the paint covered buildings on the banks of the Verdan river.

We made our way to Fort Kale and found Star-Grad-Pivnica - one of the oldest beer factories in Macedonia and a great place to eat - double hit! From here, with our bellies full we slowly set out to our accommodation.

Going back to the new part of town we chose to go over Stone Bridge. This particular bridge represents the emblem of the city, it is the oldest one here dating from the XVth century and it takes you from Macedonia Square to the Old Bazar. The are a lot of tourists around, street artists and locals - too much commotion for our sleepy heads so we head on back to catch some shut eye.

The next morning we had breakfast - some baguettes and yogurt - on the house and after we gathered our stuff we drove out to the center of Skopje. We were pretty lucky to find a parking spot on one of the main boulevards. We continued mindlessly walking on foot afterward.

We started our walk with Kale Fortress where we didn’t stay for too long as it seems things were getting renovated (or so we hope) and the view wasn’t that great.

In the close vicinity, you can find the Mosque of Mustafa Pasha that managed to retain much of the original structure and architecture from the time it was built in 1492.

We continued to the Orthodox Church of the Ascension of Jesus which was built in the middle of the XVI century and that features a small inner courtyard full of tranquility.

We passed by the Chifte Hamam - the Islamic version of the roman public baths built in the XV century. The baths are no longer operational but you can visit them as part of the national Gallery of Macedonia.

Murat Pasha Mosque is a peaceful place where people are used to tourist, nevertheless, you are still required to cover your head as a woman and to take off your shoes.

On our way to the new part of town, we pass over Stone Bridge and close to the Holocaust Museum. Since our last visit on the river, we found two huge sail ships (buildings on water made to look like ships) that looked really good and hosted restaurants and accommodation facilities for people willing to pay a bit more for the extra mile.

Say hello to all the 29 "hardcover" people on the Arts Bridge, a bridge that brings homage to the greatest s artists of Macedonia.

The next objective is another bridge, this time the Civilization Bridge of Macedonia that marks the entrance to the National Museum of Archeology. We didn’t have time to visit the inside but I think there are plenty to see. From what we saw on Trip Adviser you need about 2-3 hours to visit it.

We continue the tour in the direction of the humongous statue and fountain of Alexander the Great. Skopje is the capital of statues… the sheer density of statues per square meter present here is more that in any other country we have been to. It is not that they are ugly or anything, it’s just that there are too many! It looks like there was a statue making contest and at the end everybody exhibited theirs wherever they found a free spot. It is quite funny.

We passed by Mother Teresa’s Memorial House - she was an Albanian born in Skopje but lived for most of her life in Ireland and India, combo! Not really a big fan of hers. After watching a few documentaries on the subject it seems she might not be such a great persona after all, or not as much as the media would like you to think. Anyway, we just passed through there, nothing interesting.

We also took a peek inside of Saint Clement of Ohrid Church, but moving on because we are running out of time and we need to get to Korab!

Where do we sleep?

There are plenty accommodation options in Skopje. There are plenty to choose from and the price varies on what level of comfort you want. Last time we slept at Shanti Hostel and it was nice but for this trip, we choose another small hostel, positioned in a quiet part of town, that goes by the name of Hostel Infinity.

The place is really comfy with cool, clean rooms and the host is one of the best I ever met! We warmly recommend the place! We paid 14 euros for two people per night in a room of 6 (we were lucky the place was empty). The price also includes a small breakfast but nothing too substantial so if you are a big eater you will need to get something more. The place also has a common living room and a small common kitchen with all utilities.

Where do we eat?

There is simply no way you can't find some place to eat in Skopje because the place is packed with all kinds of diners, outdoor gardens, restaurant, fast foods and places with fine foods. I will recommend two of them that we personally tested and that left us a pleasant feeling.

Star-Grad-Pivnica - some sort of a pub with an outdoor garden where the food is great. Last time we were here we digged in some cevapcici (minced meat rolls on a grill) but this time we stuck to vegetarian dishes. We ate some national specialty - some cheese made in the oven… OMG, my mouth is dripping just thinking about it! You need to wait a bit for your food because the place is really crowded but the waiters are nice and everything was great in the end!

Somewhere in the vicinity of Murat Pasha Mosque, you will find Kapan Han, hidden in some inner court, where you can serve an excellent traditional Turkish coffee. Right next to this place there is a restaurant with good food and nice romantic atmosphere.

This being said we bid farewell to Skopje because who knows when and if we will ever return to this place. It is really nice and it is totally worth it to take your time and explore. A capital city that has a special charm, something different than what you can find in the western part of Europe.

Visiting Skopje the Capital City of Macedonia: One Place You Must See! Reviewed by Alex on 09:52 Rating: 5

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