Sun and cement in Skopje

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
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Trip End Sep 30, 2010


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Flag of Macedonia  ,
Thursday, August 5, 2010

Skopje is touted as the "city of seven gates" because it is ringed by mountains with (I'm guessing here) seven passes through them.
"Country of controversial name" might be more appropriate. Macedonia is currently being stalled from joining the EU due to ongoing issues with Greece who claim that they can't have "Macedonia" because it is a geographical region, part of which is in modern day Greece and Bulgaria - which is why the country is currently called FYROM = Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece think that a name change to Republic of Northern Macedonia would be more appropriate. I think it has something to do with Greece's tenuous claim to owning Alexander the Great who came from the modern-day-FYROM part of Macedonia. And you thought tensions in these areas were limited to the religious kind.

Skopje actually has street names and numbers, which you'd think would make finding addresses easy... except for our hostel, which was located on a road with a tiny hidden winding alleyway connecting the two parts of the (same named) street. We discovered this by great powers of deduction (a kindly old lady who leaned out her second storey window, looking like she did this daily, and waved us through the alleyway).
The city does not have a European feel at all, probably becuse of the 1963 earthquake that destroyed something like 80% of the city. As you'd expect, the rebuilding featured a lot of concrete. 

A pretty stone bridge crosses to the North side of the river from Skopjes main square. Suddenly everything has a Turkish feel to it. Minarets grace the skyline instead of church bell towers and all (cobbled, pedestrian) streets lead straight to Bit Pazar, a huge Middle Eastern stlye market. We wandered through from womens clothes, past olives and people very determined to sell us eggplant, somehow emerging from the other side having with a kilo of peaches. Not sure how that happened. 
Also on the North side of the river is Kale fortress, a huge towering ring of walls and rebuilt towers looming over the city and looking very suitable castle-y.
 
We also fit in a trip to Lake Matka, giving in after a few attempts at buses and actually catching a taxi (it feels a bit like cheating). Chatting to the (Macedonian) taxi driver was an interesting experience in itself. We learnt a bit about the situation with Greece - no one wants to change the name of the country (you'd think they would want to lose the Yugoslavia bit at least), yet everyone is keen to be in the EU. He also warned us not to go to a particular suburb of Skopje called Gazi Baba because it was very dangerous - turns out it is where the Albanian minority live. We asked our hostel manager about it and he laughed it off as perfectly safe, telling us the only dangerous suburb in Skopje was the one inhabited by gypsys... The openness with which people talk about their prejudices never ceases to surprise me, although I guess a history of rivalry spanning millenia is hard to overcome.
 
Lake Matka itself is beautiful, located in a canyon which is one of the passes / gates into Skopje. We got there about 9:30 in the morning and it was almost completely deserted. We hiked along the canyon for a couple of hours in the peace and quiet until the tourist boats started up, piercing the silence with a whining noise. The path along the cliffs was precarious to say the least - for the most part a narrow winding path of loose stone along a cliff edge. Wonder how many accidents they have (maybe this line of thinking is something to do with Australians in the news for falling off cliffs in Croatia). Further downstream, the river emerging from the dam wall is a popular swimming, picnicking and card playing area.


 
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Comments

Shelby on

These are amazing looking photos! I wish I had the experience to see the world like this!

skopjetaxi
skopjetaxi on

Hi,

it is exactly but it said Gazi Baba, today is not safe for foreigners traveling tamo.Nie taxi company and we know it well.

If more time running in Skopje Macedonia please call +389 77731333 izlelezeme you in anticipation.

Greetings

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