Macedonia (4 days)
About this blog
It's all about Alexander the Great here in the Republic of Macedonia. Though few pay much attention to this tiny country today, it's long been right in the middle of all the action between Greece, Rome, Turkey, Serbia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and all the gods and religions they all invented along the way.
Recently independent from the short-lived Yugoslavia, Macedonia is currently aggravating the crap out of Greece by claiming the name "Macedonia" for itself, though Macedonia and Greece overlapped so much for so long, and ancient Macedonia was a state of ancient Greece, most consider Alex to be "Greek" though he's "Macedonian" and all of this was way before Roman emperors even mattered.
This whole "naming" dispute is huge, affecting everything from UN, EU and NATO membership (the latter vetoed by Greece in 2008, a move recently ruled illegal by the UN's International Court of Justice) to using the provisional name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" anywhere the Greeks are listening, including the UN and the Olympics. The latest is that Greece is pushing to resolve the issue by accepting the name "Republic of Northern Macedonia." Stand by for new maps!
In the meantime, Macedonia has been busy building statues of Alexander the Great and his daddy, King Philip II, all over the place, and naming all they can after these guys, like Skopje's Alexander the Great airport.
Anyways, the whole capital (Skopje, say SKO-pee-ah) is under construction/renovation/statue building. Its huge fortress, the main historic highlight I came to see, was closed to visitors. Awesome.
Favourite historical tidbits: When Alex died, his empire was split up among his top generals, and Ptolemy ended up with Egypt, headed over there, called himself king, locals soon figured he was the successor to the pharaohs, and on it went for 300 years or so until the last Ptolemy finally died, by suicide...Cleopatra (the VII), the last pharaoh of Egypt, girlfriend of both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, famous as the queen of Egypt, and 100% Greek...or is that Macedonian? This is also why the Rosetta Stone included an ancient Greek version of the king's decree and the same in Demotic and ancient Egyptian. Since Greek was still around, that's why it became the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics when it was rediscovered in 1799.