What makes a city

Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
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Where I stayed

Flag of Macedonia  ,
Saturday, January 16, 2010

You ever been to one of those cities that you know you just don't like even before you set foot on the ground?? Is it the view from the bus or train of depressing, grey apartment blocks? no trees? dirty streets? a concrete lined 'river'? Well Skopje has all of those and more. Experienced one of travel life's really bad on-arrival taxi rip-offs. Stopped for a smoke at a deserted 'high' table outside a cafe, with no stools and was informed by friendly locals that you will get fined for smoking there, you have to stand next to the ashtray 2ms away.  Inquired from them about taxi fares and directions, bargained hard, ignored of the drivers offering less than I ended up paying, and settled for the one who had a 'meter' and still got done for about 12Euros ouch...Welcome to Macedonia!!

The common room of the hostel was friendly and decorated with very bad aerosol art, I was the only one there, and warm, had wi fi, but the dorm was like a very cold prison. The art bit ended in the common room. Went for a walk to the local shops (am self catering to save money) ... everything closed except the supermarket, instant pasta for dinner and a 1.5l plastic bottle of beer for dinner, cheap and flat. Back to bus station for Lake Orhid the next morning, left 3hrs for a walk around the city (far too long!!), just to confirm that it was as bad as I thought... walking along the river got surrounded by about 6 kids 'begging' grabbing at my clothes and going for my pockets, definitely not taking NO for an answer, so I matched push with shove and thumped them by swinging my shoulder bag in a large circle in the general direction of their heads. Worked a treat, but left me feeling rather stressed when I actually managed to club one. Had no idea self defense could be so debilitating!

Walked on through the cold grey streets, surrounded by cold grey people along the dingy brown river to the old town that was wall to wall crumby shops selling cheap nasty western clothing, alll made in China. Got my shoes repaired for the third time and bought some cheap reading glasses though, that was a bonus. Stopped for a tea and sat outside so I could smoke, no you can't smoke at the outside tables, you have to stand on the other side of the railing and put your tea on the tables, so that was why all the tables were lined up against the railing, live an learn.

Back to the bus station to buy a hamburger (where everyone smoked at the outside tables) and catch the bus. Hamburgers in Macedonia are served in paper bags open on two sides, think cone shaped, with great open gaping bread roll 'mouths' stuffed with chips, smothered in mayonnaise and acidic ketchup, with cocktail forks stuck in them to eat the chips until you can close the burger enough to actually bite it. Had indigestion for hours after...yummm. On to the overcrowded, over heated mini bus for some stunning scenery and Lake Orhid, which was a completely different story...

Not my fault if all the pics are grey, it is that kind of place!! I have put all the pics I took up because I just couldn't decide which were the worst...and delete them!
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Comments

Rupert on

Hey Liz, reminds me a bit of Belgrade when I went there in 1983.... only Skopje looks rather nicer.... I especially dig the brass prostitutes.

Liz on

Hi Rupert, Good to hear from you! You back in Blighty or still in India?? If Belgrade was worse than Skopje it must have been bad, but that also means there is hope for Skopje! I guess to be fair it is just emerging from a very bad period, give it time, like Albania it is country in transition, an interesting time to go there. You been back to Belgrade since?

Bob on

This is the most accurate travel review of Skopje I have ever seen. I live in Skopje and try to get people there to understand why the place isn't flooded with tourists - its a S%&t hole! The terrible experience begins at the airport - bad attitutde passport control, followed by bad attitude Customs Officers, then the crush of taxi drivers on departing the airport - ripping off customers. On arrival in the city there is nothing on offer. Bad service in restaurants and coffee bars. The potential of the Old City has been destroyed by lack of planning and no vision on how to make it into an attraction. Perhaps if more tourists would be as honest as you - instead of not wanting to offend the overly sensitive Macedonians who actually believe Skopje is the center of the known universe and culture - the people may remove their collective heads from their b&^tts and clean it up.

Thank you for your honesty.

Stef on

Skopje is not the best place to visit as a tours, it is a wierd city. I hated the taxi drivers the best way a rule is just say the address as coreclly as possible and shut up do not say a word after that. I do not smoke so I do not care about the smoking rules. Althought the city is gray still it was intresting and strange well it is not touristic or fun city by any standard but if you what something new and diffrent is OK.
Only the taxidrivers/official should stop thinking that foreinger are idiots :-D

Bob on

Went to Skopje with my neighbours last year (They are Macedonian). They convinced me and my girlfriend to go with them and stay with their family. Their family were nice (after a couple of days of not really trusting us), but the city was ugly as hell, and our friends were really embarrased about the state of the city (garbage everywhere!) and a lot of the rude attitude from service industry people (getting directions at a small hotel, the cab drivers, waiters, etc.) The trip improved when we travelled to lake Ohrid, to Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, and to Athens for a weekend.

travela on

My blog on Skopje seems to have stirred some reactions from people! To be honest I'm kinda surprised and flattered that people who I don't know are even reading it, let alone writing comments, with the number of travel blogs out there in cyberspace I guess I assumed that the only people who would read mine were those on the mailing list, wrong! It also seems that I'm not the only person less than impressed with Skopje, but as I said to Rupert it is a country in transition and it would also seem that it has quite a different attitude to the rest of the country, at least Ohrid anyway. Both the young girl in the hostel and a friend of the guys who worked in the Ohrid hostel said that Skopje was the only place of 'opportunity' for the young in Macedonia, this is both sad and a good thing. Maybe they will change the attitude of the city, but no doubt it will take time!

World traveler on

I was born and raised in Skopje, but I'we been living in 4 cities around the world and I'm curently in USA, so I will try to give an objective perspective as much as I can...

World traveler on

It's a little been hard-breaking reading about "the reality" of the first impression that someone may have visiting SK. I totally agree that Skopje is kind of ugly ( wih mixed architecture from the socialistic period and "new" modern style, although it looks much much better when it's sunny ( there is really a difference!).
Important thing is that you may not get right sense of the city only from one day, no matter where yoy stay ( motel is WRONG chose, practically they are dumbs) and just walking around with no one to show you the city can be disapointening

World traveler on

Skopje has very much :hidden spots" and the best places are not in the "downtown"... It was funny reading that you had a hamburger on the bus stop to. LOLL, nobody eat there because the food is terrible! There are several places for a GREAT burger, and you CAN"T miss to eat BUREK with yogurt and drink BOZA, but again you have to have someone to show them to you. Drinking tea or coffee is also a matter of "finding the great places for them". And shopping in the Old city?! I totally understand what kind of "garbage" you have found there... although there are few really good stores for hand-made jewelery and leather bags, but again YOU have to KNOW THEM.
Most honestly, Skopje is usually very dynamic city and surprisingly "life" for a night live and events, if you take the economic situation of the state in mind. I compare Skopje with several big cities that I've been living in, and I may confidently say that it has maybe the best spirit for going out. Also, SAFETY is incredible! You may walk at 4 in the morning ( I've done it MANY, MANY times) and you'll be surprised how many people actually there are on the streets. I'm sorry that you meet those kinds ( I suppose that they were Gypsies?!)asking for money - I know they've done it because you are foreigner ( they can "smell" foreigners :))) easily) but they are FAR from dangerous, they are just over the people to much. Bottom line, Skopje may be terrible for first expression ( TAXI, airport, architecture...) and that was the case with every foreigner whit whom I had been speaking about the city, but they all LOVED it after a week or less spent in Skopje... I really think that" tourism" is one of the worst thing to do in Sk ( it's a pity,but it's reality) and having friends there to show you the REAL beauty of the town is a key to visit it...

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