Sunday, October 16, 2011

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje is the capital city of Macedonia. It's home to around 1/3rd of the entire population. It's about a 5 to 6 hour bus ride from Sofia, plus the one hour time change (Bulgaria is an hour ahead).

Like many other Balkan cities it has a long history. It was part of the Roman Empire and then under the Ottoman Empire for more than 500 years. In 1912, it was conquered by Serbia and after WWI it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In WWII, it was invaded by Bulgaria and later became part of Yugoslavia.

In 1962, there was a 6.1 earthquake and Skopje suffered significant damage. So a lot of the architecture here now is that 1960s Socialist prefab stuff. However, most of the old Turkish section survived the earthquake.

Today, there are cranes everywhere and most of Skopje looks like a construction zone. The Skopje 2014 project is rebuilding the Old National Theater and the Old National Bank that were destroyed in the 60s. Plus there is the new Macedonian Struggle Museum, the Archeological Museum, a national archive, a constitutional court, a philharmonic theater,a triumph arch, lost of new monuments to famous Macedonians and expansions bridges, the national stadium and the airport. I wonder where all of the money is coming from to fund this? I heard that Skopje 2014 should now finish in 2015. I wouldn't mind coming back in 2016 to see everything completed.

The crowning glory of all this construction has already been completed. The Alexander of Macedonia monument is huge!! The bronze statue weighs 30 tons and sits on top of a 15 meter high pedestal, with a fountain, in the central square. You can see this thing from everywhere. This monument alone cost over €5 million ($7.5 million). And you know that this statue just got Greece riled up.

The Millennium Cross is the biggest cross in the world. It sits up on Mt. Vodno and was built to celebrate 2000 years of Christianity.

The Kale Fortress overlooks the city and was built by the Byzantines in the 6th century.

The 6th century Stone Bridge was built by Byzantine emperor Justinian. It has always been the city's symbol. Somehow I think that this will change now with the arrival of the Alexander statue.

The central post office kind of looks like a space ship. It's pretty funky. And inside are all of these Socialist Realist paintings. I heard that security doesn't let you take photos inside but when I went to buy stamps there was only one clerk working. She was nice, spoke basic French and let me snap a couple of photos.

Mother Teresa may have been an ethnic Albanian but she was born in Skopje. In 2009, the Memorial House of Mother Teresa opened on the very spot where she was baptized. The only problem was that I got there at 4:30 PM and it closed at 4 PM. Dang it.

Skopje's Old Town reminds me a lot of Istanbul or Sarajevo. But I guess that's normal for a city that was under Turkish rule for over 500 years. There's a clock tower, lots of shops, a huge bazaar and it's a great place to take a break and grab a coffee.


  1. Please change the earthquake year its 1963 not 1962 that is actually known for the great flood in Skopje.I`m Flattered to see someone from such a lovely country as Czech Republic to create a website for Macedonia.Thank you. :)