Two major contradictions I kept thinking about during our three days in Skopje, Macedonia’s capital.
- It may be my favorite Balkan city but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone as a travel destination.
- Skopje feels like a truly Macedonian city yet its main square is dominated by a Greek king, its main attraction is a Turkish neighborhood and its national hero (Mother Theresa) is of Albanian decent.
Skopje has an embarrassment of statues
At the center of it all is Alexander the Great who was the ancient Macedonian king (which gives him no relation to the modern Slavic Macedonians) who conquered all the known world.
The statues are so grandiose in nature they almost look bazaar. But they range from Alexander and his father King Phillip to 19th and 20th century Macedonia Nationalist leaders, World War II heroes, Orthodox Saints who spread Christianity to Macedonia, King Samoil (who built the Ohrid fortress) and even a fountain to honor motherhood.
The Balkans’ Most Athletic Corso
In the Balkans there’s a concept called “the corso” where townspeople take to the street about an hour or two before sunset to spend time walking with friends and families. Teenagers flirt, grandfathers carry their grandchildren, couples hold hands, people exchange hellos – it’s wonderful and it happens everywhere, mostly along the town’s main promenade. The Skopje version of this took place in the park, where friends and couples congregated in track suits to jog and rollerblade along the river.
More Turkish than Istanbul
We’ve heard this expression to describe several places in the Balkans – Skopje’s old Turkish bazaar being one.
Just downright pleasant
For tourists seeking major European capitals, Skopje wouldn’t make the list. But it’s just downright pleasant – families and children filling the streets, friendly people, an active cafe culture,
weird cool statues, a nice park, affordable beer and pretty mountains. What’s not to like?