Skopje – Macedonia
It was a 2 hour bus journey from Pristina to Skopje, not too bad at all. I was expecting a large coach but it was only a small minibus and there were still free seats so I could spread myself out, just as well as the leg room was non existent!
We were making good time but then got delayed at the border as there were some issues with one of the passengers when he handed over his passport. The border police came and took him off the bus; I don’t know what happened after that. He seemed like a nice enough guy though!
Being tight with my money, I once again refused to get a taxi. As soon as they realised I was a tourist I would probably get ripped off anyway.
There seems to be a special inflated tourist rate all over the Balkans. Oh and then there’s the tourist tax that everywhere seems to add to accommodation prices!
Instead, I walked to the centre of the town and to my surprise I discovered a statue, then another, then another 10! So many statues!
In Skopje there is literally a statue every few metres. The city certainly likes its statues and its marble too! Once I worked my way past a 100 or so statues and past the huge one of Alexander the Great on his horse, I made my way out of the other side trying to find the hostel.
On the website it says ‘we are 15 mins from the centre of the town’ Well it took more like 30 mins. I haven’t yet stayed in a hostel that has good instructions or is realistic with the time it takes to get to them.
Of course I got lost once again and stopped some random people on the street hoping they would speak English, luckily they did.
Rather than pointing and waving their arms, these 2 girls walked with me and helped me to the hostel door. Meeting some friendly people was a good start in the city.
I intended to take the walking tour the next morning but I overslept so went exploring on my own instead. I discovered even more statues, they are everywhere! I do like the city though, it’s clean and friendly and feels like a Budapest/Vienna love child.
There’s even a piece of Paris in the city in the form of an arch and looks exactly like the Arc de Triomphe!
I was also offered a lot of sunglasses during my stay, the seller chased me down the road shouting, Rayban Rayban. Even though I was wearing my £5 boots originals he still persisted.
In the afternoon I met up with Jude who was also in town, stopping off on her way to Sofia. We walked around the old town, had coffee and went to the bazar, a large market.
I’ve never seen so many wedding and jewelry shops, how they can all stay in business is a mystery!
The next day I met up with the girls who showed me to the hostel on the 1st night. Sophie showed me around and talked about the history of Skopje and about how the statues came to be.
The square used to be cobbled but the government sold the stones to Italy for lots of money and then replaced them with a modern equivalent. Apparently the statues are part of the Prime Ministers obsession with Alexander the Great. Well that and money laundering.
What struck me about the city is that it looks clean and modern but the buildings are new but designed to look old. Basically faking history within the town. The old bridge is an original feature as are the Turkish baths and a number of old statues which weren’t on display for all to see.
There are definitely too many new/old statues in Skopje but I kind of liked the city. The people were nice and friendly and there was just something about the place that won me over.
The locals I met aren’t too optimistic about Macedonia joining the EU. They don’t see it happening for a long time due to the corrupt government and the fact that the Prime Minister allegedly bribed people to vote for him.
I guess there will be some ‘recommendations’ from Germany about what needs to be changed or maybe that’s just me being cynical!
I will probably go back to Skopje again in the next couple of years and check out the nearby canyons. Apparently you can go caving, rock climbing etc but I think it’s something that’s best done in the summertime.