Wild, Wacky Skopje (Macedonia). One of the Strangest Places we’ve been

Wild, Wacky Skope (Macedonia). One of the Strangest Places we've been

Skopje is not the most beautiful place we’ve visited. But it might just be the most interesting and weirdest place we’ve ever been. Everywhere we walked we had “WTF?” moments: “there’s a pirate ship in the middle of the river! WTF?”, “look, there’s a London double decker bus! WTF?”, “those colors all over the monuments! It’s like the Cat in the Hat went crazy. WTF?”. Crazy statues, over-the-top buildings, stunningly contrasting architectural styles, Christmas music playing over loudspeakers in the middle of July…It was just all very bizarre. We loved it.

Lots of photos in this post and they’re basically all over the place. This post is a mess….but so is Skopje. You’ll basically see Skopje as we saw it, walking around the relatively small city core day after day, going a little photo crazy. There’s more to Skopje than just the weirdness though. We met really friendly people, had fantastic food (which was a real surprise) and saw very few tourists even in July. Having come from the Croatian coast it was a relief. Macedonia was also the most inexpensive place we’ve been in Europe by a long margin. I’ll cover that too.

Below: don’t worry, until recently I had no idea where Macedonia was located…

where is macedonia

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The Weirdness starts – the Name Game

Macedonia was part of the former Yugoslavia which included what are now Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro. As part of Yugoslavia it was recognized as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, one of 6 republics in the country. When Yugoslavia broke up in 1991 the ‘Socialist” was dropped and the country simply named itself the “Republic of Macedonia”. This immediately caused problems with Greece who’s northernmost region is named “Macedonia”. Still, today, Greece does not recognize the Republic of Macedonia. The United Nations lists Macedonia as “FYROM” (Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia). The few Macedonians we talked to laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. Macedonia and Greece have also fought a war of words over the Macedonia flag (which was changed in 1995) and over historical figures that Macedonia has incorporated but that Greece considers part of their history and culture. Chief among those is Alexander the Great, one of history’s most famous military commanders. You’ll see his name adorning Skopje’s airport and see monuments of him (and his father Philip II) in the city, including his monumental statue in the main square (Macedonia Square). Greeks claim him as their’s because he was born within Greece’s present day borders (in the aforementioned region of Macedonia) – Macedonians argue that they were part of the old Kingdom of Macedon (which included parts of Greece, Macedonia and Bulgaria) and that Greece shouldn’t have exclusive proprietorship of his name.

The dispute with Greece continues. Ask a Macedonian where he goes on vacation though and he’ll tell you the beaches of Northern Greece. He just won’t have his passport recognized.

Below: the first sign of quirkyness when landing in Skopje: Alexander The Great Airport

alexander the Great airport, skopje

 

Below: Map of Skopje. Click on it for extra large sized version (Map Credit: Mappery.com)

Skopje-Tourist-Map

 

Skopje and the “Skopje 2014″ Plan

main square, Skopje

Above/Below: the 22 m high Alexander the Great statue in Macedonia Square, the centerpiece in the “Skopje 2014” plan to spruce up the city. Built in Italy, it cost 9 million Euros. Total cost of the Skopje 2014 renovations? Approximately 560 million Euros to date. They’re not finished, much of the city is a construction zone. The expensive plans and allegations of corruption are part of the reason for the paint-bombing of monuments you see around the city (further below).

Macedonia square from the top of Porta Macedonia

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Below: 3 ships in the middle of the small Vardar river almost make you forget that Macedonia is a landlocked country. I think they look like Pirate ships. The bottom houses a hotel (60 Euro/night), the top a restaurant.

Skopje boat on river, macedonia

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Below: London double decker buses. Today’s buses are made in China though.
(note: many people have mentioned that the double deckers existed in Skopje prior to the 1963 earthquake. I found this photo dating back to 1954. A commenter brought some light on their history “according to the JSP (SkopjePublicTransfer) page, the first few were imported from England in 1953, AEC-wooden construction. Later in the 1956, a few more “Layland” double decker s(metal construction this time:) were imported, from England too”.  Thanks Skopejanec ).

skopje double decker bus, Macedonia

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Below: A giant rabbit head marks the entrance to the old town.

rabbit ears to Skopje's old town

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Below: Having lunch along the river on our first day, we saw this beautiful couple have their wedding photos taken on the “Bridge of Civilization” (a recently erected bridge).

wedding in skopje, macedonia

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Below: Paint-bombed monuments and buildings, the result of protests against the government. Everyone we spoke to seems to think that Macedonia’s government is corrupt and dictatorial. More here on the “Colorful Revolution”. The arch below is the Porta Macedonia, finalized in 2012 as part of the Skopje 2014 plan. Cost 4.4 million Euros. You can take the elevator to the top for views.

porta macedonia in lots of colors. Skopje

porta macedonia in colors, skopje

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Below: paint-bombed parliament building.

colorful government building, skopje, macedonia

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Below: Paint-bombed monuments.

unique colors in skopje, macedonia

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Below: Statues. Lots and lots and lots of statues everywhere.

various statues in Skopje. macedonia

wall street bull in skopje

Above: All Skopje needs now is a Wall Street.
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national theatre statue, skopje, Macedonia

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Nighttime is when Skopje’s Macedonia Square really comes alive, especially in the summer when you can get 40 C temps in the day. It’s a very colorful square, the highlight being the Alexander the Great fountain – lights and fountain change in rhythm to classical music being played in the square.

Below: the Alexander the Great fountain in different colors.

the colors of the Alexander the Great fountain, skopje, macedonia

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Turning around from above, you see the stone bridge leading to Skopje’s old town. Skopje’s old town is inhabited mostly by the city’s Muslim population* and has a large bazaar, some mosques, and the large Kale fortress which overlooks the city. Very much in contrast to the reconstructed “new” part of town, the streets are cobblestoned and much of the buildings constructed in wood.

*Macedonia’s population: 2 Million (2012). Approx 64% is ethnic Macedonian (Eastern Orthodox), 25% Albanian (Muslim), 3% Turk (Muslim), 3% Romani (ie. gypsies)

Below: the Stone Bridge. Originally built in the 1400s, it was reconstructed in 1994.

stone bridge at night, skopje, macedonia

 

Below: on the Stone Bridge looking back towards Macedonia Square.

Views on Macedonia square and vodno mountain, skopje

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Below: flags atop the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia.

macedonian flags, skopje

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Below: Merry-go-round and colorful train right across from the Archaeological Museum. Fits right in with the rest of the craziness.

amusement park, skopje, macedonia

children's train, skopje, macedonia

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“Highlights”

I put that in apostrophes because honestly there is not much in the way of tourist highlights. It’s more the ensemble of everything than anything in particular that makes Skopje interesting. Having said that, here are a few things you might not want to skip.

1. Kale Fortress. You can walk the walls and see the views over the city. They’re surprisingly not very impressive though. Like everything in Skopje, the fortress is undergoing renovations as I write this in 2016. Might be more interesting 3-5 years from now. Free entrance.

kale fortress, skopje

views from Kale castle, skopje

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2. The Church of the Holy Savior. Plain except for an incredible iconoclast made by 2 Macedonian brothers (and a 3rd artist from a neighboring village) in the 1820s. 10 m by 7 m, it took 5 years to carve. Really, it is breathtaking and in our opinion is the one must-see highlight in Skopje.

iconoclast in the holy savior church, skopje, macedonia

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3. Memorial House of Mother Teresa. Most people don’t know that she was born in Macedonia. You’ll see photos of her from her childhood and with famous personalities. There’s also furniture from the time as well as a chapel.

mother teresa memorial house, skopje, macedonia

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4. The Mustafa Pasha Mosque. Built in 1492 by Mustafa Pasha who was ruler of Skopje while under Ottoman rule (which lasted 520 years from 1392 to 1912).

Mustafa Pasha Mosque, skopje, macedonia

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But for highlight was just walking around, seeing the old and new and just shaking our heads at the multitudes of statues.
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new construction in skopje, macedonia

Above: modern buildings including a new theatre and opera house.

the Marriott hotel, skopje, macedonia

Above: The new, 164-room Marriott hotel directly on Macedonia Square.

old building with beer sign, skopje, macedonia

Above: One of Skopje’s nicest remaining old buildings (70 -80% of Skopj’s buildings were destroyed in a catastrophic earthquake in 1963). That’s the Skopsko beer sign up top, the most popular beer in Macedonia.
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views on skopje, macedonia

 Above: Fountain of the Mothers of Macedonia. They have statues and fountains commemorating almost everything…
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marketseller in Skopje, macedonia

Above: Skopje has a lively produce market where you can buy fruits and vegetables very cheaply.

 

overloaded bookstore on main square, skopje, macedonia

Above: Interesting book store right off Macedonia Square. Woman is staring but was sweet when went to talk to her. That’s a Donna Summer  album in the middle of the pile of books.

 

The colors of skopje, macedonia

Above and below: More paint bombing.

graffitti in skopje, macedonia

bleeding lion in skopje, macedonia

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And a lot more statues…

statue, bridge of civilization, skopje

statue and boat along the bridge of civilization, skopje

statues on the art bridge, skopje

along the bridge of civilizations, skopje

statues and souvenirs, skopje, macedonia

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A few more odd photos…

boat in the river, skopje, macedonia

Above: boat hotel on the river.
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horsedrawn carriage, skopje

Above: Horse-drawn carriage
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things on sale in skopje, macedonia

Above: want to buy an old Yugoslav army uniform? You can find one in Skopje.
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souvenir shop, skopje

 Above. Souvenir shop selling all kinds of colorful Macedonia souvenirs.

 

I mention at the top of this post that Skopje is not the most beautiful place we’ve ever visited. It’s a bit of a construction site at the moment. But Lissette and I agree that in 3-5 years it might actually be a beautiful city. They just have to finish those buildings and clean up the river. They recently planted a lot of palm trees along the banks and I can just imagine the effect they’ll have when they grow.

views on the stone bridge and vardar river, skopje, macedonia

 

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Macedonia: The Cheapest European country we’ve ever visited (with great food)
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It actually ranks as one of the cheapest countries anywhere that we’ve visited.

Example 1: Etno Bar, a riverside restaurant serving traditional Macedonian food. We had a Shopska salad (like a Greek salad but with light cheese – its a Macedonian specialty), grilled chicken wrapped in bacon, Spinach quiche, and 2 large beers = came out to the equivalent of $10 US ($13 Canadian). Wow.

food in macedonia

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Example 2: Our favorite cafe (Squeeze Me) in Skopje: great coffee, cakes, muffins, salads and sandwiches. Cappuccinos for around $1.50 US, large chicken salad with mango dressing for less than $3 US, smoked salmon sandwich for less than $4 US. And this is probably the fanciest, hippest cafe in Skopje (really recommend it).

squeeze me cafe in skopje, bar

squeeze me cafe in skopje, interior

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Below: Turkish coffee and tea in traditional Turkish coffeehouse. Less than $1.50 US.

Turkish coffee in Skopje, Macedonia

 

Along the river, just off the main square is a long row of restaurants. We never had a bad meal there. We had very good Mexican food, great pizza, along with fantastic traditional Macedonian food. All inexpensive. In fact, the only bad meal we had in Skopje was at the fancy Pelister restaurant on the main square. Avoid it.

 

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Why we came here: Travelling full-time we have to juggle time spent in Schengen and non-Schengen zones. We had a few days we had to kill before we could get back into the Schengen zone and needed a new base after Croatia. “Why not Macedonia?” we thought. We spent 10 days in Skopje and found it to be an inexpensive and relaxing getaway. It made us want to revisit Macedonia. Next time we’ll go down to Lake Ohrid, Macedonia’s jewel (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in the southern part of the country. Macedonia is known for it’s rugged geography of mountains and lakes. Skopje itself is located in a large valley – look around though and you’ll see mountains in every direction.

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Practical information:

Flying in: we took a 90 minute flight from Zagreb on Croatian Airlines. See here for airlines that serve Skopje.
Accommodation: This apartment in the Center was probably the nicest Airbnb apartment we’ve ever stayed in. 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 balconies. Very modern. For less than $30 US/night.
Official Tourism Office of Macedonia: Exploring Macedonia
Language: Most people speak English. We were surprised by how well.
Macedonia has a great wine culture. You’ll find both wine tasting as well as a brewery making it’s own beer in Skopje.

 

What do you think? Would you visit Skopje?

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Comments

  1. Really great post! Glad to see Skopje! Last year I made it through a good portion of former Yugoslavia, but I didn’t make it as far as Macedonia. I’m now inspired to get back there soon! That paint bombing looks especially interesting.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks so much Lauren. It’s a great area isn’t it? We always love our time in the ex-Yugoslavia.

  2. Great post but unfortunately you told the truth about Skopje. Just one correction: the building under the images of the Arch Macedonia is the Parliament building not the Government building. The Government building also had a new baroque facade recently :( you should check the old one. It was really something…

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you so much for the precision Ivana.
      The Government building – is that the gleaming white building with the million flags outside? :) We saw it from a distance but never actually walked up to it. Yes, our guide told us that all these buildings were being done up in baroque facades – but that previously Skopje NEVER had buildings in that architectural style. So it’s creating a bit of a new history isn’t it?

      • Unfortunately I can see with from your post you are not very familiar with history. .You should to check on youtube how Skopje was look before 1963 so maybe you can learn that architecture what you are seeing today was only giving back old look to Skopje what komunist take from him. .Also you can see double decker buses in Skopje before 1945 while that time in London they still use donkey for transport

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          That’s not quite true Tomas. There was no baroque architecture in Skopje before 1963, they’ve added an architectural style. And as a previous commenter has mentioned, changing the government building from this (at the top) to this is not quite restoring it to what it was.
          I don’t quite believe either that London had donkeys while Skopje had double-decker buses. As I say above, I’d like to find out more myself – my reading is that the double-decker buses were brought from London. Again, if you have something that clarifies it I’d like to see it.

          I’m not pretending to be an expert on Macedonia history Thomas. It’s not a political post either (for those that insist on making it about politics). This is travel blog and this is a post for travellers who might have never heard of Skopje and who might be interested in going there.

          Thanks for the comment :)

          • I found a picture from the old bus 1960 in Skopje. Im not sure how i can posted it. It was a postcard from Macedonia maybe i u check on google u can see it. ✌

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            Thank you Maya for the information. Maybe this one? Its from 1960.

          • One of them is that one and has on the same website one more picture from 1930

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            Thank you Maya. But 1930 – are you sure? The earliest double deckers in Skopje it seems came from London in 1953…

          • That’s what says on the post card 1930. U can find it on the same page like that one before

          • No, but you obviously pretend to know the history, and you don’t… These ‘new’ buildings look like the old ones with just a bit of a modern touch. If you’ve seen 15 pictures of old Skopje, doesn’t mean you know how everything looked like. We are raised with our history, and personally I was raised with those old pictures from my grandparenrs, so trust me, everything’s the same. And those buses were in Skopje long time ago, before the big earthquake in 1963. And about Alexander the great, you should also learn your history, because there are more and more proves that he is Macedonian (ancient Macedonians), and there is a proof that he concured old Greece, they were under his control, which means he is not from there, there were some theories that his mother had origin from Greece, but that was proven wrong too. Also, you can’t say that this or any other place on this Earth is weird, because some people that are going to read your post, will take the word ‘weird’ as negative. What is weird for you, might not be for other people. Just because someone else’s culture is different than yours, doesn’t mean they are weird. And last, write on google translate ‘ World of mother’ and put it from english to Hindu language, and play it om pronouncing, you’ll hear the name of our country, which is connected to the old language or the bible, where our country is mentioned a few times and is the last land mentioned in the bible. Please, learn first, then play smart. Thank you.

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            I think you’re being a little bit too sensitive Ana.

            I don’t think I’ve heard anyone NOT say that Skopje is weird. The paint splattered buildings? The boats in the river? The millions of statues? It’s actually a compliment because it makes it unlike many boring cities…and if you’ve read some of the comments this post has made some people actually interested in visiting Skopje.

            About Alexander the Great I was merely stating fact as it is stated in history. I’ve had many many comments on this post by people who fight about the history. I delete those. I’m not going to allow people to fight over their own version of history (or “theories”) because this is not what this post is about. I’ve tried to be neutral.

            I’ve addressed the buses and have mentioned that they date from 1954 (look at the text above the photo). There’s also about 10 comments on that subject on this post.

            Yes, I’ve seen photos of old Skopje. But did they have the bridge of civilization, the bridge of art, or all these new baroque style buildings? No. So it’s not the same.

            I’m sorry you take offense, this post was nothing but complimentary of the city and our experience.
            Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…August 31 Newsletter – Sevilla, Brazil and the Olympics, Crazy people, and on having a post go ViralMy Profile

          • Frank, you already implied that the building with the Skopsko sign on it is one of the older buildings that survived the earthquake! And of course there were other neo-classical and baroque style buildings like the old theater, administrative buildings from the Ottoman period, etc. but unfortunately they were destroyed. I agree though that they overeacted with the monuments.

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            Thank you Marko :)

        • It says “SKOPJE-KRALJA-PETAR-square-ca-1930s-ex-Yugoslavia-postcard” not surehow to send u the link

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            Hi Maya. I didn’t find that when googling, maybe it gives me different results when googling in English. You can copy the link and paste it if you’re able to find it. Thanks :)

      • Hi frank… first of all, nice job, really well done. Second, smart people do not talk about politics,(you) we are not getting payed for this… i wish u all the best and contignue with your passion… all the best…

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Thank you Allen, appreciate it. It’s basically a photo essay with some background information thrown in. I’ve tried to keep any bias out of it but people, especially in the Balkans, will always find something to fight about. We’re in Serbia right now, can’t wait to see the reaction when I write about that ;).

          Thanks for taking the time to comment here. I don’t bother with the people commenting on facebook, I find most people there just talk crap.
          Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…The 4 places on our “Expat base” shortlistMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      PS I looked it up the change on the government building here. Yes, that’s a really radical change.

  3. Kristijan says:

    Great post. Almost everything described like it is, except the part with double deckers. Actually there were double decker buses in Skopje in the middle of 20th century :) Too bad I can not post a picture here in a comment.
    Cheers.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      THAT I did not know. Really? Would you know the origins of that?
      But I’ll bet they didn’t come from China at the time, right? :)
      Thank you very much for your feedback Kristijan, appreciate it.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Wild, Wacky Skopje (Macedonia). One of the Strangest Places we’ve beenMy Profile

      • In 1963 Skopje was hit by a devastating Earthquake which you mentioned in your post i think. Lots of countries donated various things to ruined city in Yugoslavia (back then). The info i have – but can’t verify is that City of London donated red double decker buses to the city. They were used for a while then changed to newer regular ones but kept the red color. Recently the city of Skopje decided to honor that memory and a way to Thank the city of London of the support back then by ordering new Double Deckers. Thats the story i know.. if anyone can verify with facts and news pages.. please do !

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Thanks Samer, that’s very interesting.

          • Kristijan says:

            I don’t believe that is a true story because there are pictures of double deckers in Skopje before the earthquake. On many of them you can see buildings as army hall, and few others that were completely destroyed in the earthquake in 1963, which means double deckers were here before that.. And fore sure they were not Chinese :) I will search for some pics and send you Frank.

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            Thanks Kristijan. Yes I know that now – did you see the link with the buses from 1954? It says they were from London. Is that where double deckers in Skopje originally came from? I don’t know the history behind that and commenters seem to have different opinions. I’d love to know the true story.

        • Check the official web site of the Skopje Public Transport Co. (JSP) the DD buses were introduced in 1954 and were brought from London, later on more were purchased in the 60s. So, definitely before the earthquake. This company was created in 1947 so there are no records relating to the times in between the two WW. There is indeed a postcard showing the main square (Macedonia square) with a DD bus parked in front of the then biggest department store (NA-MA) opposite the House of the Officers (the Army House). Although it claims to be from 1930, I doubt it given there are more modern vehicles that can be seen on that photo. At last they look more modern to me, when zoomed, the photo is blurry.

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            Hi Blasko. Thank you, yes, that seems to confirm what Skopejanec (further down in the comments) found in his research. I also have my doubts on the 1930 claim as I haven’t read anything to suggest that there would have been any double deckers in Skopje prior to those brought from London.
            Thank you for having looked into this, I appreciate all the helpful comments on this post.

  4. Looks very cool. Your blogs proves there are many gems away from the tourist crowds. Millions gushing over the Eiffel tower and co whilst they could be experiencing more unique places at 10% of the cost.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Tom. I actually felt rejuvenated in Macedonia, it reminded me why I love travel. It’s not to go to popular, overrun places, it’s to discover these strange, off-the-beaten-rack kind of spots. It’s been our first full summer in Europe and honestly I’ve felt fucked over at every turn. Macedonia aside, we’ll never spend July and August anywhere in Europe again. I’ll be writing about that in the next little while.

  5. Great tips, Frank! We are heading that way this fall. Based on your review, I think we will like this city! ;)
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  6. wow! Really what to say? very colourful city:)
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels) recently posted…Bank of England Museum, LondonMy Profile

  7. I love the mish-mash. It is exactly as someone described it to me years ago. It’s great that the food is so cheap. Hopefully, in 3-5 years like you say, it will be cohesive even though l sort of like it like this. Great pictures as usual. The only time we had that cheap of a room was in Budapest at an airbnb in the 5th district.
    Kemkem recently posted…Borghese Gallery in Rome with LivItaly Tours. Do it!My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      That is pretty cheap Kemkem, District 5 is a nice area in Budapest. Doesn’t it sound like the Hunger Games when we talk about districts? :)
      But Skopje even cheaper and you get great quality for your money.
      So when are you going to finally go to the Balkans?

  8. Seems like “weird” is the word most people use after they visit Skopje. It does look a bit bizarre, yet it also looks like a place worth visiting. When we went to Albania in 2014, we did a side trip to Lake Ohrid and I wish we’d stayed longer. Even that area of Macedonia was incredibly inexpensive. And I did know that about Mother Teresa, but I knew it from visiting Albania. Her family was Albanian and they are very proud of that in that country.
    Travels and Tipples recently posted…Nine Towns In Four YearsMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      We really enjoyed it Patricia – we spent a lot of time in Europe this summer and honestly got so sick of all the tourists we saw everywhere. We’ve learned to never again spend July or August in Europe, unless it’s a country like Macedonia or Albania (we have a new found friend who’s in Albania right now and loving it).
      Yes, I always thought Mother Teresa was Albanian, I didn’t know about the Macedonian connection. But she lived in Skopje until she was 18, so it was a large part of her life. I guess just like Alexander the Great, everyone trying to claim ownership in the name of national pride.

      • Well, mother Teresa is born in Skopje, and the memorial house was build on 50 metres of her real house she was born, about Alexander the Great he was Macedonian u can understand this if u read about the history of Macedonia where Macedonia was devided by its neighbour and the part of Macedonia where was the Alexander capital city and its history is now in greece with all the other cities, Macedonians are under presure and genocide in greece

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Thanks Tomi. I don’t want to get into the political aspect too much, it’s usually the same bickering over tiny details and old political borders that plagues conflicts all over the world. I tried to be objective in the post but people will always have a strong opinion when they are in a position of conflict with unfriendly neighbors.

  9. Wow… great job on this article!
    I grew up in Skopje and i havent been there for ages. It made me smile and bringed tears in my eyes in the same time for some reason…. i guess i m missing my hometown more than know

  10. Interesting, you talk about skopje 2014 and how much money is spent on construction. Do you think we all going to belive that a tourist cares about some revolution that has passed? Do you think someone else who is not living in that country cares about any of that bullshit? No! They care how Skopje looks what are the best places to visit, eat and sleep! People what to know the good and bad about their future plans for visiting Skopje. This article only shows that you are payied to say things that can be used against the current government. Look a non Macedonian webcite reviewed the shitty thing that youve dont with that money blablabla

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Some people actually care to know a bit about where they are. It is what travel is supposed to be about, that is to educate yourself about other places and what’s going on in the world. To see places that are different and not the same old places that every tourist goes. It might not apply to every traveller (or “tourist”) but it applies to many and it certainly applies to us.

      Oh, we’re getting paid? Well, that’s news to me.

      I have no idea what you are trying to say in the last sentence…If you have certain political views, feel free to write them out in a logical way so people understand your point.

  11. First of all, I would appreciate if you rechecked the written here. The double decker buses were in Skopje since 1960. First bus in Skopje is Double Decker bus.
    However, I agree with lot of things written

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you Marko. Yes, somebody else said that maybe it dates to 1963 as a donation after the earthquake. But I found this that shows that they had double-deckers back in 1954 and that they were from London. I’m curious about why these buses ended up there.

      I only mention that the current double-deckers are from China, I don’t mean to say that they did not exist before. I found this on the Chinese double-deckers.

      If anyone knows more about the history I would really be interested to know.

    • Dude.. you’re wrong…

  12. You should visit Matka :)

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, I know! We almost went but got very busy with other things. Next time for sure, everyone says it’s beautiful.
      Thank you for mentioning it :)

  13. There are more than just a few statements and details that are not…entirely accurate….also wordings of several statements without a slightest doubt point to a political interference by the hooligans and “journalists’ paid by Soros…..but the pics are very high quality….and yes it is one of the cheapest places you can visit especially for beer and wine….

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you Lovee. I’ve tried to be objective and relate what I learned speaking to a few locals, our guide, and a bit of reading. I’m not Macedonian so you would know intricacies more than I would. I in no way condone the paint-bombing of buildings by the way, it just costs society more to clean up and it is frankly an embarrassment. I’m just stating some of the reasons behind the unhappiness with the government. I didn’t want this to become a post about politics, I was just adding a bit of background to explain why buildings are in such colors.
      But thank you for your comment :)
      Ps. You’re the 2nd person that’s said something about being “paid”. We’re travellers and travel bloggers, we do this for ourselves. We’re not journalists and have not been paid a cent by anyone.

      • Mate don’t mind them.Unfortunately the situation in the country is dire.If you say something bad or complain about something our dictator did,you will be branded a traitor or a mercenary paid by Soros.Sorry for bothering you,I know this is a tourist site,but I had to explain the current situation in the country.Cheers and hope you visit Ohrid next year,it really is breathtaking.

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Thank you, much appreciate Abaddon :)
          Don’t worry, doesn’t put us off. For sure we’ll be back!
          By the way, Macedonians we met were all very friendly and welcoming. Like anywhere, once people get on the internet they’ll let all their frustrations come out…
          Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Wild, Wacky Skopje (Macedonia). One of the Strangest Places we’ve beenMy Profile

        • Abaddon the same goes for you people. Whenever someone says that Skopje is beautiful now or supports some of the projects managed by the government you say that “you are corrupt and paid by the government”. Open your mind mister.

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            Thanks for sharing your opinion Alexander. Just appreciate that this political conversation doesn’t get nasty or dominate the post. I’ve had to delete a lot of comments that went over the line…

  14. The art installations look a little over the top, don’t they? That Alexander the Great statue is overwhelming, to say the least… But Skopje isn’t drab, is it? Very colorful… Does the government plan to do anything about the paint bombing? It would sure get tourists asking questions — which is what the people probably want…
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted…Best beaches in Victoria, BC, for swimming in summerMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I’m told the government leaving it for now because to clean it would be too much and protesters would just do it again…so until protests end they’ll just leave as is.

  15. Great text. Next time when you come to visit Ohrid and Macedonia, also visit Bitola its like an hour drive from Ohrid. Some of the foreigners actually like it more then Skopje.

  16. alexandra says:

    Great Blog .You hit the nail on the Head .I currently Live in Bitola Macedonia .Fellow Canadian here :) Yes Macedonia is a Nice little Country to come Visit very Cheap Food and Drinks .If you say you loved the Food in Skopje then Wait until you go to other Places :)

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      A fellow Canadian living in Bitola?!! Wow. Great. How did that happen?
      Good to know about the food in other places. I think the great thing is that it’s not made for tourists. When places get touristy locals don’t care anymore what they produce. Not the case with Macedonia, restaurants catering to the local population.

      • alexandra says:

        I do have Family Ties here. Well Ohrid is sadly one of those Places where the Quality of Food is lacking in most Establishments because of the High Volume of Tourists . But the Region is Breath taking and well Worth the Trip .I myself have not seen all the beauty of Macedonia wich there are many .

  17. You are not allowed to take photos of the iconostasis at The Church of the Holy Savior not to mention posting them publicly. That’s against the law. A lot of Macedonian National heritage was stolen and sold and those are some of the few left.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      1) took a guided tour
      2) asked the ticket guy if we could take photos
      3) stolen = taking photo = stupid comment. Churches/museums charge you 2 Euros for the same photo in the gift shop, it’s called another way of making money.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Wild, Wacky Skopje (Macedonia). One of the Strangest Places we’ve beenMy Profile

      • Frank, it’s true what Ljupka wrote. Taking photos in Sveti Spas Church is not allowed. And you must have seen the big sign on the left next to the entrance, the one showing a camera crossed out in red, which has universal meaning – that taking photos inside is not allowed. The ticket guy must have been the guard if you went there later in the afternoon. Otherwise, during working hours, the church guides never let people take photos if they are around. There are even cameras installed inside for that purpose. What Ljupka wanted to say by national heritage being stolen and sold is that thieves first take photos of the interior of a church and then they come back with an elaborate plan what to steal and how to steal it (mainly valuable icons from prominent Macedonian icon painters that are later on sold abroad to icon collectors). But, of course, she didn’t mean that you’ll steal anything. It’s just that we should observe the rules whichever country we go to. We should show respect. If the sign says don’t do it, then don’t.

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          I didn’t like the tone of her comment and don’t like being scolded as if we were breaking the law. I honestly didn’t seen the signs as we were with our guide who was talking and leading us through, maybe we were distracted. But we did ask which we always do when unsure and were told it was fine.

          But I’ll be honest – in many places the whole “don’t take a photo thing” is just a money grab. I’ll never forget when we were in Peles castle in Romania (incredible place) where we asked if we could take photos. “Yes” we were told, but we had to pay a photo fee which came out to about 15 Euro. It was crazy. We paid it because we are bloggers and like to document where we go. But in 99% of cases it is just because they want you to pay for their expensive postcards. I’ll never take a photo with flash because it has long term effects on paintings. That I take seriously. Otherwise if I can get away with a photo I will take it. It’s not about a lack of respect, I feel that these places are sometimes charging you 6-10 Euro (per person) to see something and I want my money’s worth. I’ve been to too many museums/palaces where we’ve spent lots of money and felt ripped off. People will tell you “yes we respect the rules, blabla” and will take photos. I’m being honest on how I feel about it.

  18. It is a lot photos from old Skopje. I found also old bus photo from 1930.

  19. skopjanec says:

    Great post!
    About the double deckers, according to the JSP(SkopjePublicTransfer)page, the first few were imported from England in 1953, AEC-wooden construction. Later in the 1956, a few more “Layland” double deckers(metal construction this time:) were imported, from England too.
    Next time dont forget to visit Kokino (a bronze age observatory) near Kumanovo :)
    Best!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      FANTASTIC! I think you have found the answer that we have all been looking for. Thank you very much for your research!

  20. Was the paint-bombing an effective strategy? Did the government changed its policy? Or people just mutilated their city?

    Very interesting post by the way, informative. Thank you, Frank.
    Victor recently posted…What to Visit: Naples in Italy or Naples in Florida?My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I think the last.
      Although it makes for interesting photography, I never agree with vandalism – in the end it will just end up being more money that the government will have to pay to clean it up.
      Thanks for your comments Victor :)

  21. Interesting that paint is the weapon of choice for the disenchanted over there, I guess it could be a lot worse, and the colour possibly livens things up a bit. Not that it needs livening – what a bonkers place. Seems like it struggles with it’s identity a bit, but that probably adds to it’s unique charm. I do like the harpist statue, could totally see that here in London on one of our bridges, would certainly brighten a dull day. Interesting reading of somewhere I knew absolutely nothing about before!
    Heather Cole recently posted…The Wheatsheaf Inn – a stylish Cotswolds weekendMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, they could be burning and vandalizing I guess (things both the US and UK are familiar with).
      I’m not quite sure if there actually was a plan behind “Skopje2014″. Almost seems more haphazard than a plan. Or maybe they are just a bunch of really brilliant lunatics because here we are writing back and forth about Skopje :)

  22. I live in Macedonia and i recommend you come here. EVERYTHING is cheap but not for us cause the usual monthly salary here is 200$. Yes i did say MONTHLY.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Andrej. I am sorry that this is the reality in Macedonia. We saw the same in most of the Balkans, people who say they make $500 – $600 a month. But $200 is very low.
      Everything is relative isn’t it? I’ve been to Switzerland and found it INCREDIBLY expensive and I could never stay there for a long time.
      The biggest thing we’ve learned travelling full-time is how fortunate we are to have been born in Canada/US where we had opportunities to have good careers and make money. We are very lucky. I’m sorry that people live on the other side of this reality. Macedonia is a beautiful country and I hope things change in the future.

  23. I’m sure I would love the eccentricity of Skopje. They’ve certainly embraced the statues. I like that they’ve left the old town alone and I wonder if the paint bombing of everything will get reforms or just an enormous clean-up bill. Your photos tell the story well. I hope to get there one day.
    budget jan recently posted…Explore the beaches of Split and Marjan Park in CroatiaMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you Jan!

    • Forgetfulness says:

      What you, quite dishonestly claim as “eccentricity” is obvious state propaganda geared towards irredentism. Greeks warned everyone in good faith not to ridiculously call these Greek hating trolls Macedonians. Names are not always just names as some people lie to hide their prejudices towards Greeks. The masses of bigots trying to whitewash obvious irredentism to hide their mistake of calling them “macedonians’ are effective colluding in a subtle attempt to ethnic cleanse Greeks.

      You ALL very well know Slavs have nothing to do with ancient Macedonia. No excuses left.

      • Frank (bbqboy) says:

        Sorry Forgetfullness – I’m allowing this one comment which basically sums up your feelings and touches on how some Greeks feel about “the misappropriation of their historical figures” (in quotation marks because not everyone will agree with your version of history). But I’m deleting your 6 other ones, some of which verge on hate speech. This is a post on travel to Skopje which touches on politics and history because you can’t talk about the present without talking about the past. But I’m not going to allow it to be a forum for people to argue about what happened thousands of years ago and to toss around comparisons to Hitler or the Soviet Union.
        Look at the Middle East. Time to move on.

        • You lecture about ethics but have none. Not hard to notice Skopje’s changed ethnic narrative into “ancient Macedonians” Herr BBQ. The comparison to Hitler is valid seeing as those that call themselves “Macedonians” are now effectively morally complicit in a subtle attempt to ethnic cleanse Greeks. Your behavior amounts to attempted genocide of Greeks — in particular Macedonian one whose identity you “generously” and bizarrely gave to another state. Perhaps next your will claim Greece’s Slavic neighbors are “ethnic” Athenians? Ethnic Spartans?

  24. There are a few mistakes in the text: 1st mistake: “I was told that of the 50 buses bought a few years ago about 30 are still on the road.” – There are many more red double deckers imported from China than the number you mention. You can check this with JSP (the Public Transport Company). About 70 arrived in 2011, and I am not quite sure how many more arrived in the following years until now. (The number initially ordered by our Government was 202 double deckers and about 15 open top double deckers). It’s true that we had double deckers imported from England in 1953. 2nd mistake: “There’s also furniture from her Skopje home” – The furniture in Mother Teresa Memorial House is not from her own house but from a city house dating back to the same period when Mother Teresa lived here (1910-1928). 3rd mistake: ” Fountain of the mothers of Macedonia showing the different stages in motherhood. They have statues and fountains commemorating almost everything…” Not true at all. These are statues of Olympias, Alexander the Great’s mother. One of the statues depicts her pregnant with Alexander, and the other three statues depict her with Alexander (in her lap/arms) at a different age – a baby, a toddler, and a little boy. 4. “Skopje’s old town is inhabited mostly by the city’s Muslim population* and has a large bazaar, some mosques, and the large Kale fortress which overlooks the city. Very much in contrast to the reconstructed “new” part of town, the streets are cobblestoned and much of the buildings constructed in wood.” When you say “inhabited” – do you mean people live in the old town? Because if you meant that, then you should know that they don’t. They have shops, cafes, and restaurants there but it’s a bazaar, not a residential area. Except for mosques, there are two Turkish baths ( or hammams) which nowadays function as National Gallery of Macedonia and three caravan sarays (all dating back to 15-16 century). What do you mean by “much of the buildings are constructed in wood”?) I don’t think so. The old buildings are mostly built with stone and bricks. The new ones with bricks and concrete. As far as I know, after the big fire of Skopje in 1689 (after which there was a tenfold decrease in population), wood was avoided as a building material.
    If I find some more mistakes, I’ll let you know.

  25. The caption under one of the photos that says: “Above: modern buildings including a new theatre and opera house” is not correct. The white building which is just slightly visible in the picture because it is behind the new buildings (which are part of the project Skopje 2014) is the Macedonian National Theatre (MNT) and at the same time Macedonian Opera and Ballet House (MOB) built in the 1970s. The caption probably referred to the building in the middle of the picture with the big domes. That is going to be a concert hall of the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra.

  26. “The Church of the Holy Savior. Plain except for an incredible iconoclast made by 2 Macedonian brothers in the 1820s. 10 m by 7 m, it was carved out of a single piece of wood and took 5 years.” The church is plain from outside because it was built during Ottoman times when a church was not allowed to be big/bigger than a mosque or beautiful/noticeable from outside. That’s why it was even built ten steps underground and it is unremarkable from outside but Christians compensated for the plain looks with making the interior beautiful (with frescoes and icons). The iconostasis was made by three woodcarvers, not two (they were the most famous in Macedonia, but were popular in our neighbouring countries at that time as well) – two were brothers, indeed, and the third one was from their neighbouring village. It isn’t true that the whole iconostasis was carved out of a single piece of wood. How could that have been possible considering its dimensions – 10m (wide) x 7m (high)? Each column was carved out of a single piece of wood and what’s special is that the three columns on the left and the three columns on the right of the royal doors (which are in the middle of the iconostasis) are with three-dimensional woodcarving. A single trunk of a walnut tree was used for each of the columns. It is said that modern/contemporary woodcarvers cannot repeat the work of these 19th century woodcarvers.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Suzana, I appreciate your precisions and have corrected the more obvious errors. Some of the others are more about the wording and interpretation and for the purposes of this post don’t warrant changing (too much detail for the average reader).

      • Frank, you forgot to correct this caption: ”Fountain of the mothers of Macedonia showing the different stages in motherhood.” My explanation above: “These are statues of Olympias, Alexander the Great’s mother. One of the statues depicts her pregnant with Alexander, and the other three statues depict her with Alexander (in her lap/arms) at a different age – a baby, a toddler, and a little boy.” I don’t understand what “mothers of Macedonia” mean and I don’t think any other reader will understand if you leave it that way.

        Thanks for correcting some of the other mistakes (I am a tour guide of Macedonia, so that’s why I took the time to go into detail. However, I know that it is too much detail for the average reader).

        In general, I liked your text about Skopje and the photos, too. Well done! Come to Macedonia again!

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Hello Suzana,
          I have simply referred to it on the post as “Fountain of the Mothers of Macedonia” which is what I am told is the name of the fountain (it seems to be the common name on the internet). Maybe you have to refresh your page? I don’t want to start having a detailed description of every statue, the idea was to give readers a visual of the sheer amount of statues in Skopje.

          We will definitely come back to Macedonia and hopefully get to know it in greater detail. Thank you :)

  27. I am glad you had a great time in Skopje, it is a city with a soul. grew up there as a kid, wished could return there. I can say that agree with you a lot the way you described it. I hope you guys will be again here, so maybe can see more of Macedonia.

  28. We’ve been thinking of visiting Skopje later this year. I think this post confirmed that we will. Good on you for getting A/C in your Airbnb. Second year in a row we didn’t. There won’t be a third.

    Cheers,

    Michael
    Michael recently posted…It’s here! Guide to America’s Classic Car MuseumsMy Profile

  29. wow through your pics in genuinely looks beautiful! This has gone way up on my ‘must visit’ list thanks to your post. I’m honestly intrigued now!
    Andrew recently posted…Accommodation Review: Laos – Luang Prabang & PhonsovanMy Profile

  30. Good job on sponsoring the post to get more viewership. I did not bother reading the comments, but I am sure someone has mentioned that you should’ve climbed the Vodno mountain and visited Lake Matka. They are just a short bus ride from the city center and offer plenty of activities and beautiful nature. You are right, though, Skopje is ugly af, and doesn’t have a unique personality. However, there are many talented people and artists, who if given the chance would’ve taken the whole “Skopje 2014″ project in a completely different direction. One thing I realized when I started traveling was how the rest of the world views us (or how the rest of the world is not even aware of our existence). Nevertheless, our lives are not much different than those of the people who live in the Western world, really. The architecture and the kitsch are a different story. And not a very pretty one, obviously.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Actually I don’t agree with you Bojana: Skopje isn’t ugly and DOES have a unique personality. Yes it’s weird and it’s all over-the-top – but it’s interesting. And judging by some of the comments here people WOULD come just to see it. We enjoyed the city.
      We knew about Matka and Vodno but we had one free weekend and temperatures were about 45C in late July. We’ll save it for the next visit.
      PS not quite sure what you mean about sponsoring the post. Just to make clear (because someone suggested it) we are not getting paid and are not ‘sponsored” by anyone – we are travel bloggers travelling on our own and nobody has paid us a cent for anything.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…August 31 Newsletter – Sevilla, Brazil and the Olympics, Crazy people, and on having a post go ViralMy Profile

      • Yeah, and so does Las Vegas. I was merely summarizing the points you had made in your post – London double decker buses, pirate ships in a landlocked country’s non-navigable river, etc. I never said it was not interesting, or not worth a visit, but a unique personality in my definition is something that is typical for the place and doesn’t exist elsewhere. For example, what makes London unique among other things are the buses it is known for. Anyway, I am glad you enjoyed my city. By sponsoring, I mean, you, yourselves paying for it to appear as suggested post for audience in a certain region. It is not an attack on your authenticity or anything. I mean, if nobody is paying you anything, and money comes in handy when travelling, I’d suggest trying to generate income from your blog. Cheers!

  31. Just while you were in Skopje you could see more attractions, except central square :)
    You’ve missed the old central park, the mountain Vodno,where you could climb to the top and shoot some breathtaking pictures over Skopje. Also, you should have visited the canyon Matka, which is in top 3 places to see in Skopje. There is located one of the most deepest underwater caves in the world, Vrelo cave. So your post could have much more amazing photos,instead, the bomb painted photos. But, after googling about these places I bet next time you gonna visit Skopje, will know where to find the beauty of the city. Overall, great article guys!
    Cheers

  32. Great photos of what appears to be a very “Disneyesque” destination. Paint bombing is a lot prettier and colourful than the usual graffiti that “decorates” so many of our N American and European cities… and I can well understand it…. If the average monthly income is around $ 200 , it means the Skopje 2014 plan is costing each and every Macedonian citizen close to 2 months gross pay … I an imagine the outburst , protests – and graffiti (paint bombs sound good too..) if our ‘western’ governments even attempted to spend 2 months of their citizens gross average monthly pay on an ‘artificial’ beautification project ie: around $ 10.000 plus per capita !!! Or a statue that cost each Macedonian about 4 Euros ? That I guess is the ultimate dilemma – small population countries (and even some large ones , like Brasil) can’t afford the basics, never mind big public work projects, and especially if they are ‘poor’ . Very lively post, Frank, that obviously ignited a lot of passions !

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Tony. A few people said it “they’ve spent all this money, but how is it going to better my life? It is just creating more debt that we are going to have to pay”.
      You hope that it brings in foreign investment but who knows? And that fancy Marriott – I wonder how many rooms get filled up? Hopefully more in the future.
      But we enjoyed it – nice people, good food, not congested, a laid back place that we wouldn’t mind coming back to.

  33. That’s the way it is:
    For some (usually foreigners like you) modern day Skopje is eclectic, for others (usually locals as me) Skopje of today has gone insanely eccentric. Yet we both love it. Nowadays it is halfway between Tricky and Freaky, Quirky and Cuckoo, funny Disneyland and freaky Neverland. That’s why I would recommend some of the older architectural buildings and more natural sights (for the next visit).

    1. Regarding the architecture, my personal favorites are:
    a) Some monuments from the Ottoman rule, located in the Old Bazaar like: Kurshumli An, Kapan An (caravanserai’s kinda resembling cloisters), Daut Pashin Amam and Chifte Amam (hammam’s). They are really magical!
    b) Some examples of the Brutalist style (did you know that after the earthquake Kenzo Tange, the renowned Pritzker Prize winner had very interesting visions for Skope as a futuristic city?). Briefly listed they include:Postal Office (in the heart of the city by the river), Museum of Modern Art (with fantastic panoramic overview of the city), Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (however, this is more impressive on the inside).
    2. Regarding the natural sights, as many mentioned, I would re-confirm that canyon Matka is simply breathtaking, and mountain Vodno very convenient place for one day field trip.
    So, I guess, you must come back!
    :)

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Great comment Biljana, thank you so much. Yes, you described it perfectly. We’ll pay more attention to the monuments in the Old Bazaar area when we come back. Yes, we heard about the famous Japanese atchitect. Even that is strange story. Now they’ve basically trashed his visions and trying to bring back history associating the city with ancient times.
      I’m starting to be sorry that we missed Matka canyon. Everyone says how beautiful it is.
      Thank you again Biljana.

  34. I found this article the biggest bullshit and pure propaganda. Macedonia or Fyrom will cease existing after few years and it will be given back to Albania where it belongs.

  35. After the 1963 earthquake, Skopje was beautifully reconstructed almost from scratch by the best architects and urbanists. As another commenter mentioned, it was a very modern city with great urban features. “Skopje 2014″ scheme practically ruined with excessive kitsch and fake history what already was a great city. Such a shame… Anyway this is just my opinion. Interesting blog btw. Hope you visit Balkans again. You’ll find a lot of other cities with similar cultural clashes of western, eastern and oriental influence. Cheers from Tirana :)

  36. Hello your post recently Frank and i would like to add photo of fruits and vegetables bought today from Bit Pazar, old market place in Skopje.
    This on the photo cost me 300 denars or 5 euros.

    Regards,
    Goce

  37. Yes it is :)

  38. Was interesting to read this post from tourists out of the Balkans :) Everything you wrote is true, infortunatlly also the part of silly monuments and new buildings everywhere around the city-centar. But most important is you liked the friendly people and the food also.Macedonia is not just Skopje,my country is much more than just one cuty,i could write so much about our beauties and the nature,but i`ll be short :) I recomend you next time to visit our pearl Ohrid,(as you said you will),also Bitola,Kratovo,Berovo,Strumica,the wonderful Canyon Matka(sout-west from Skopje). We have the third oldest megalitic Observatory in the world, Kokino (about 30 km nord from Kumanovo).I live in Kumanovo and i especially recomend you to not miss visit this place. I`m very happy you enjoyed your stay here and i hope you`ll be back again and feel the spirit of Macedonia again.
    Best Regards,
    Sanja…:)

  39. Macedonia/Canada says:

    I am happy that you enjoyed Skopje. I was in Skopje for more than 4 months this year. Seems like anybody added up to your story, so I am going to add one thing. The bar along the riverside where you have taken few pictures (in your blog post) and where you ate salads and chicken with bacon. is called Etno bar (or “Ethno bar” as in US/Canada/UK would write it). People also mentioned Matka and Vodno. I am just gonna add up the Skopje Aqueduct, as something to see, which is a remain from Roman time.
    Skopje is a very special city, nothing extraordinary or wow. However, it has a special energy that if you go and flow with it and use it well, you wouldn’t wanna leave the place. And as crazy as it sounds, I am sad every time I leave Skopje to go to Canada.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Etno bar? I thought it had a name that ended with an a, a woman’s name…but you just might be right. Thank you! Excellent food and they advertised themselves as having traditional Macedonian food. Does that sound right?
      As far as your last paragraph, you’re exactly correct. We just spent a month in Lisbon which we didn’t really enjoy. But we enjoyed Skopje. People will say “how can you enjoy Skopje and be disappointed with Lisbon??”. Sounds crazy right? But Lisbon was packed with tourists and we never had a ‘local’ experience. Despite it being pretty we didn’t connect, it was a completely unauthentic experience (part of that was being there in the summer, something I don’t recommend). In Skopje we found a relaxed mood, almost no tourists, and the people were friendly. For us that counts for a lot.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment :)
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…August 31 Newsletter – Sevilla, Brazil and the Olympics, Crazy people, and on having a post go ViralMy Profile

      • Macedonia/Canada says:

        Yes, based on the furniture and the traditional dishes, it has to be Etno bar. Two places down, there is a place that ends with an “a”, but that one is Casa Cubana. And yeah in Etno bar they advertise traditional food and there is a girl that greets you before you enter the place and suggests you if you would like to seat and enjoy something traditional.
        Skopje is authentic in its own way and like you said relaxing. No problem, hope you go back to Skopje again and for a longer time. :)

  40. Nice article, I am glad you liked Skopje. Of course, you should know that Skopje is much more than the main square and the Old Bazaar. In addition, be honest and tell us who you hanged with when you were in Skopje? It is obvious that you were misguided by some members of the so-called Colorful Revolution (a fictional organization financed by Soros). Feel free to visit Macedonia next year when these paid “revolutionists” will miraculously disappear because they will lose the upcoming elections. No one supports them, no one I tell ya.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Alexander. Actually we talked to a few people who fell negatively about the government and, judging by facebook comments and what I’ve read in the news it seems to be the majority opinion.
      This is not supposed to be a political post and I tried writing it impartially – but I can’t write about the paint-bombed monuments without mentioning what is behind it.
      I also tried to focus on the things that make Skopje bizarre. Next time I will focus on some of the natural sites in and around Skopje.
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…August 31 Newsletter – Sevilla, Brazil and the Olympics, Crazy people, and on having a post go ViralMy Profile

  41. Well, I’m at a loss for words. Bringing the photos and the comments posted, I am as I said, at a loss for words. Highly entertaining on both counts though! :)
    Patti recently posted…The Atlantic City Beach & Boardwalk ~My Profile

  42. Alexandros Letsios says:

    This is ridiculous, the Skopja-land should be called…east Bulgaria or Vardaska (its old name before the WWII) because they have closer relationship with Bulgaria. Skopja people have No connection with Alexander The Great and old Macedonia what so ever….

    I was born Greek, I was born Macedonian…long before this fake FYROM state existed…

  43. Aleksandar says:

    Next time when you decide to visit Macedonia you should come to the town of Kavadarci and Tikvesh valley-recognized as on of the best wine regions in Europe.There are some great wineries that produce some of the finest wines.You can see for yourself. http://www.tikves.com.mk http://www.stobiwinery.mk http://www.popovakula.com.mk .Nice article about Skopje buy the way.

  44. It’s good to see you’ve had a good time in Skopje, but obviously you’ve been mislead a bit perhaps by a sided guide you took. It’s also a pity you didn’t make it to the Millennium Cross, Matka Canyon or the Roman Aqueduct in 10 days. Besides Mother Theresa, there is a Roman emperor born here. You have a lot to catch up on your next visit. Ohrid is a must-see, but there are lots of other places around. Check the website of the official tourist office (which is not the one you have linked above): macedonia-timeless.com

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you Pane for the comment.

      “Mislead” – in what sense do you mean? I’ve had a few people say this but they never say anything more. Most locals who’ve commented either here or on Facebook seem to be in agreement in their opposition to the government. So if I’m mislead please feel free to expand on that. I can see that politics something that people can’t agree on in Macedonia.

      We work as we travel so we don’t spend all our time walking around exploring. We do our regular 9-5 hours from wherever we are. But the real reason we didn’t see Matka Canyon or go up Vodno were the temperatures – it was over 40C while we were there. We’ll save the natural highlights for our next visit :)

      As far as the “official tourist” site. Both come up as “official”.so I’m not quite sure what the deal is. But the one I have loads a lot faster so I think I’ll keep that one.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Photo Essay on Lisbon, Portugal. And why we were happy to leave…My Profile

  45. I love the post about Skopje, it is indeed a strange city when you see it for the first time or second! I live in Skopje for over 2 years and it takes a while to get used to all the crazy and weirdness around you, but I think you did an excellent job in showing it :) And don’t be bothered by negative comments, they are pro-government and its expected from them to react when they feel attacked (they are a bit sensitive…)
    You mention next time you will go to Ohrid, have an awesome time its beautiful there! And if you will visit Skopje again, just come in Spring, you will be able to see way more of the nature around the city.
    Keep up the great work, cheers!
    Lise recently posted…Apartment hunt in SkopjeMy Profile

  46. Wow, who would have thought there would be so much interest in the Double-decker London bus! Personally, I think the newly-designed Routemaster is a piece of art. Perhaps the powers-that-be in Skopje may wish to consider spending some of their (abundance) of cash on a few of them and helping out a fellow non-EU member!!
    Mark recently posted…Street Art in George Town, PenangMy Profile

  47. Thank you for being so polite towards Skopje, and not calling it for what really is – a grotesque & tacky city!
    I know you’re not supposed to talk bad about the city you live in, but I’m truly ashamed by its looks.
    I’m glad that you liked our food and recognized our English speaking abilities.

  48. Spot on description of Skopje, great job! Put a smile on my face! Am living in Germany currently, so it actually made me a bit homesick. On the other hand, all those colored monuments and some comments on here reminded me of why I left in the first place :)

    I actually didn’t know that cafe “Squeeze Me” existed, must be quite new, because I haven’t been to Skopje in over 6 months! I myself come from Ohrid, and you really should visit it, I’m sure you’ll love it. Even though Skopje is generally empty in July and August due to the scorching heat, Ohrid certainly isn’t. So, I would suggest going there from mid-August to mid-September if you want to avoid the crowds. The weather is normally still wonderful, and you can enjoy the beaches and monuments in relative peace :D

    p.s. sorry, hit POST by mistake before I had finished :)

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Jana. Yes, the “Squeeze me” cafe is new and opened by a local who came back from London. Tanja I think her name. Very nice.

      Ohrid is a place we wanted to visit but it was hard finding an automatic car in high season and expensive. Next time we come a another time of year. You’re very right, it was so hot that we were not that active…walking around, stopping at a restaurant or cafe…we were not going to go hiking in late July.

      But the best thing were the locals, very nice and we WILL come back;)
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Avoiding Europe in the summer…and other places to go instead.My Profile

  49. I have heard quite about this strange city. Hoping to check it out one of these days. Love the photos!
    Gaz recently posted…Sal Lavallo – 151 countries …  and only 26!My Profile

  50. It’s wild – I love it. Must go there if I get a chance (no I won’t duplicate your fotos). Good food at decent prices (woulda cost you aroudn 100 bucks in London).

    The paint bombs, I assume they were planned or remains from a demo.

    Skopje seems to have stepped outside the box of most traditionalism.
    Ted recently posted…Rebagging a bagMy Profile

  51. One important thing about issue with name.The problem is not name.Name is only cover for real problem. And the real problem is citizen war 1945-1948.When the Greek together with England,France and USA they made massacre on Macedonian people,and if they recognize Macedonia they will need to back private property on Macedonian who were exiles in to many countries after the war.This was the biggest exodus in 20 century.And everybody take a silent about that including UN. By the way the communist party in Greece they win together with Macedonians in this war before England and France intervention on site the king of Greece.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you for bringing this up.
      I’m sorry, I only know basics about it. It was a Greek “civil war” with one one side the Greek communists (supported by Yugoslavia and Albania) and on the other side the Greek government supported by the British and Americans. Basically a proxy war in the region by the cold war countries. But my knowledge of it ends there.
      I don’t understand however how that impacts ex-Yugoslavian (present Macedonian) territory or current politics. Did ex-Yugoslavia lose territory in that war to current day Greece, is that what you are saying?
      Thanks for the comment. The Balkans are a complicated place and there’s a lot of ugly history…the one thing that always strikes me is that everyone has different versions of the same thing and people in the Balkans never forget. I think for anyone not from the region it is hard to understand.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…The Craziest show we’ve ever seen – Tokyo’s Robot RestaurantMy Profile

  52. You know I was looking at Skopje briefly as a place to visit and now after reading this and seeing your pics I totally want to go. I may look at heading there later this year. Cheers for sharing your experience.
    Mike recently posted…Balkans Multi Destination Trip – Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and HerzegovinaMy Profile

  53. I am sorry to disappoint you, but shopska salad was created in Bulgaria by Balkantourist as a local replica to the greek salad (choriatiki) for the foreign tourists during the socialism. Shopluk is a region in Bulgaria, the plains where the capital city of Sofia is located and the salad is called after that region. Check wikipedia at least and don’t be fooled by the nationalistic propaganda in FYROM ;)

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Only in the Balkans will salad be an issue of ‘nationalist propaganda’.
      I’m including a link here for those interested but honestly I find it trivial to the conversation.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Armenia Travel GuideMy Profile

  54. I have been searching quite a lot about Macedonia and it seems that Skopje is not the right city to visit, instead you should visit Ohrid, Krusevo, Bitola and Strumica. Great post, yu captured some great aspects of this city.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, all nice places that we knew about Agness. But we had heard interesting things about Skopje and wanted to see it. No regrets.

  55. Ok so we’ve recently returned from Sofia & I was pretty stunned at just how cheap a city that was but this seems even more so! And it looks so quirky, bonkers & random that I absolutely love the vibe I’m getting from your photos and descriptions, like those giant bunny ears & as a Londoner, that red us would throw my mind into all sorts of confusion!
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  56. Skopje is just too crazy! I was only there briefly making my way for a nature holiday in Ohrid and I noticed how odd but quirky that city was! I can’t wait to go back and explore further! Great photos!
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  57. Wow! Cheap AND weird? I’m there they are my perfect combination. You should check out Astana and also Ashgabat I hear is right up there in the weird stakes (high on my places to go list at the moment). Lovely photos frank.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      We’ll get to that part of the world someday Andy! Yes, I think you’d really like Skopje.

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