Skopje, City in the heart of the Balkans
January 1, 1970
Most of you probably never heard about Skopje, and this is one of the reasons I am sharing this story with you, and other reason is because of my opinion that “the place from where the traveling begins, and you’ve “traveled” most of the days in your life, is part of you.” So here it is. Skopje is proud to be the capital of a small country on the Balkans called Macedonia, and yet if you have never heard of it as well, there is a commercial on CNN called “Macedonia timeless”. If you search for Macedonia on a map, its form to me looks like perfectly fried egg in the middle of the Peninsula. It’s easier to remember this way right? I believe it’s a place worth visiting. To be honest, I believe every place is worth visiting, what makes the difference is individual tastes. Skopje is located in the north part of the country, and lately most crowded, because it is the biggest business center and also city where famous country’s Universities are placed, so students and employees, both with their career ambitions are building their life up. With current population of nearly 1 million (the entire country population is approximately 2 million), Skopje surely has something to tell. Of course, the best way is to witness, to fell, to smell, experience, to have a story of your own , and hopefully you would have the chance for it someday, therefore I will certainly point out the “must see” things in Skopje for your to do tourist list.
Prices, food and things to see as tourist
About the financing, Skopje is considered as cheap city with low every day costs, but individually this measurement depends of your country standards. There are hostels as the cheapest solution for short stay, but for better conditions, there are apartments offered for short and longer stay as well. For example if you have work arrangements you can find very nice place to stay for 300-400 Euros monthly. If you need a taxy you should always search a number online and call for a one, because in Skopje, as almost everywhere street taxy can be a “little hard” on foreigners. Normal taxy charges are 5Euros for 8-10km. The public transportation is by buses only, with tickets costing 25-35denars (50cents). Everyday grocery costs are also reachable, homemade products are a must try. I would compare Skopje with Prague, if someone is familiar because I am, and I would share the experience through my eyes in other writing occasion, but these two cities have almost same price standards, Skopje is just a bit cheaper. I point out that Balkans have “that thing” over politics and history, which I believe is very important for identity, but when it comes to food specially I believe it belongs to the geographical region where can be harvested and should be shared with the world.
Traditional food should be tried
1. Ajvar – Made from red bell peppers and eggplant as main ingredients, hot one is my favorite, you take hot bread and put ajvar on it, next you put the second must try- cheese, and you can’t stop eating.
2. Cheese – The milk here is good, that’s why the cheese is tasty, and the others milk products. With Ajvar it’s “great must try in lifetime” combination. The tastes simply complete each other. But we combine cheese with many salads and with many meals in every day life.
3. Salad and rakia as appetizer before a meal, than before every meal, than anytime. But there are a lot of homemade tasty dishes also like musaka, baburi, sarma, grav (beans) etc that are tasty and healthy as well. Than different kinds of bakery with cabbage, leeks, cheese, meat, or other milk products, and also different stews and many other dishes.
You also must, but a big MUST try the highly recommended Macedonian wine, best in the region. We also export it because of the quality.
Places to meet, landscapes to see
When it comes to “must see” places, first you meet the Public Square of Skopje with all monuments and sculptures, most of them are new built as 2014 project which describes national history of different periods. When you see this you get the impression that the nation wants to express loudly over national questions. You have good restaurants and coffee places all around and also night clubs and discos are not far depending on what season you visit, for example in summer most of the disco clubs are located in the Central Park which also is not so far away from the center. You walk all the way on Street Macedonia, than by the river Vardar, and if you decide to past by the bridge that leads to Old Bazaar, which I recommend, you will see the culture that Ottomans left for the period of 5centuries, architecture that is old and authentic, craft stores and also food like baklava or kebaps made by old Ottoman receipts. Observing this you can see history of the Balkans on one place in the same time. There is a big Fortress called Kale Fortress dating from the Turkish period also that looks like it is still guarding over the city.
For those that are interested in nature, Canyon Matka is the place that must be visited. I must say honestly, I think is one of the best nature paradises in the country. You can listen the music of the nature spirits while life happens in silence. There are caves naturally shaped in the rocks and deeply underwater that are still explored by divers. The water is uniquely beautiful, the vegetation is untouched by humans and since there is a short tour (30minutes) by little boats you can completely lose yourself and admire divinity you can’t see in the crowd. There are restaurants on the shore with the up listed food plus some fish and barbeque dishes you may like, that would keep you energized and ready for new adventures.
Next place is the Millennium Cross on the Mountain Vodno. You could go there by bus, or taxy where you reach Middle Vodno from where the great view over Skopje is noticeable and for that reason Skopians go there at night by cars of course, just to hang around and see how the City lights express like a mirror of a starry night. Assuming you go there by day time, from here you could use the cablecar, or just go by foot but this action requires 2-3 hours uphill walking. It happens to be the most favorite place for Skopians to climb or visit for the weekends. After you reach the top of the mountain there is nice area for resting and again to see Skopje and its surroundings from sky like perspective.
Once you come to Skopje you will make friends since people are considered friendly, and I believe would like to present the city in best light, mostly the youths that will show you where the party is. Or you could just get out start walking through the streets and observe! I bet you’ll like it! It would be great time spent “lost” in the city.