Skopje – from architectural splendor to untouched nature

Skopje, capital city of Macedonia, surprised me in many ways. This is a lively enough city deep in Balkans, offering different kind of experience right there in Europe. I adored the atmosphere there, I enjoyed the beauty of the city and I loved those contrasts, about which I’ve already written. However, I cannot continue telling my experience there without adding a few more contrasting aspects, which sometimes can become really funny.

I’ve heard a lot using the epithet of “kitsch” when speaking about Skopje. Even from locals. Of course, it depends on how one considers “kitsch”, but yes, you can really find some kitschy elements in there. But I always have a smile for such things, never giving them a negative shade. These are particularities of the country, where I am an observer, not a judge.

So, what easy and funny can be told about Skopje together relating it with the main things to see and do in the city?

***

Skopje has a new really modern airport, but the main bus station in Skopje still brings you twenty years back.

My eyes once accidentally caught a modern and very artistic parking, but at the same time in the street along it a horse carriage was passing by… I even didn’t know that horses are allowed to go in the busiest streets of the town…

In the center they do have the Old Railway station, represented as one of the “must visit places in the city”, which is now just an abandoned building. But then the pedestrian road from there will lead you to the Macedonian square with renovated splendid buildings, grand statues, carefully lightened up after the dark. Locals are even laughing, that you will never know what new you’ll find in the city after not being there for a while, because Skopje is being renovated, rebuilt and in other ways beautified very intensively.

Millennium Cross is one of the city attributes, which is impossible to be missed. Located on the Vodno mountain, it is perfectly visible from everywhere in the city. It looks brilliant both as grey in the fog and lightened up at night. To go up there you need to take a cable car. If day is clear – beautiful panoramic view of Skopje is guaranteed. Once you are there on a cold day – don’t forget to enjoy a cup of tea at the bar for 0,3 Euro. Good prices on the most tourist spots, huh? Despite the fact that cross was built in a bit more than ten years ago, bar over there brings you even more back to the history. Don’t miss the specific restroom too…

If one is searching for nice bars and other chill places, the Old Bazaar is the best place for that. This I was told by locals. “All is good there”, they replied when I ask about the best place. The Old Bazaar, spreading the charm of old Ottoman Empire and some sprinkles of Byzantine Empire, is located in the opposite side of the Macedonian square and can be reached after crossing the Vardar river. It is even considered as the next biggest after Istanbul’s one. During the day some interesting walks, people-observing and shopping can be done there.

In the evening the Old Bazaar is perfect place to have dinner. There are plenty of party places too, but expect to see the Bazaar empty around nine or ten in the evening: Macedonians are already after the dinner, but still not out for the nightlife, which starts at midnight or even later there.

Putting a few steps outside the Old Bazzar will lead you to the huge Kale Fortress. It is clearly written at the gate that due to reconstructions visitors are not allowed. However, when I was going there in reality they were allowed…

After enjoying perfect panoramic views of Skopje don’t forget to go uphill a bit more and check out a modern Contemporary Art Museum too. By the way, I had a pleasure to participate in the opening of a new exhibition over there and really got impressed by everything: starting with the reception and finishing with artworks.

If one is willing to run away out from the city, Matka Canyon is one of the best choices. I even heard from locals that actually no one knows for sure, how deep the water is there…

Some possible choices in Matka canyon: to take a boat trip and see some challenging caves or simply enjoy picturesque views and Monasteries built around on foot. By the way, Matka canyon is famous for its huge populations of bats. Unfortunately I didn’t see any of them as I enjoyed this nature spot in the middle of the day…

There are plenty ways how to spend time in Skopje. Consider personal interests, mix them with local charm and enjoy the city!

by Gintarė Adamonytė

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