Thursday, July 28, 2011

Skopje, Macedonia

Okay, people, Macedonia is a country, let’s get this straight from the first sentence. Since 1991. Macedonia is also a state in the north of Greece. These countries don’t get along. Greece will probably prevent Macedonia from joining the EU for as long as it can (although as I understand there is plenty of trade between the two countries, guess Greece might be a little hypocritical here).

I arrived in Skopje (the capital), 2 days after the government erected a 9.5 million euro statue of Alexander the Great in the very center of the city. Now this is not just any other statue. This is a statue you build to define your city or even your country. Like Christ the Redeemer in Rio. And, to piss off the Greeks. So, they are officially pissed.

9.5 million euro statue of Alexander the Great:

Skopje is a massive mix of cultures and religions. Mosques, Catholic Churches, and Orthodox Churches all next to each other in a small area. The city has the largest bazaar in Eastern Europe, which was really awesome and cool to explore. There is an old town that was created by the Turks during their long rule in Eastern Europe, so it still retains a massive architectural influence from the Turks.

Other than that, there was a ton of construction on new bridges, statues, etc, in the center of the city. A few people I talked to aren’t sure where the money is coming from or what the purpose is. To me, nobody knows of Macedonia or Skopje, so, it may give it a slight reputation, let along at least give tourists a surprise when they arrive.

Another thing I noticed in Macedonia is there is tension with Albanians. Macedonia has 25% population of Albanians. On the train ride to Skopje, the Macedonian guy, although he spoke no English, managed to point out many of the Albanian rural villages on the way to Skopje. I didn’t get a necessarily positive vibe in his reason for pointing them all out. I’m not too well versed on the history between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians, however, I am sure that the rights of these minority groups have changed a lot over the last 20 years. Wikipedia has a massive page on the history of Albanians in

Fun fact: Mother Theresa was born in Skopje. Though she was Albanian.

Cevapi Sarajevo. Cevapi is a huge dish throughout Eastern Europe, but the Bosnians are considered to have the best. Thus you can find this 'Sarajevo' style everywhere. It is pretty much spiced meat (beef). Meat culture here is an understatement:
The fortress overlooking Skopje, also from the 6th century by Justinian:

A main street in the Turkish part of the city (of which many tiny streets come off of):

Entrance to the Bazaar:

This arched bridge is from the 6th century built by emperor Justinian:
Train stop near Serbia-Macedonia border. Patch of concrete with one run down 3 story building:

Tribute to Mother Teresa:

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