Skopje

We had a flight to the airport of Skopje arriving late at night. We thought there wouldn’t be a bus available that late so we arranged a pickup (17 euro for both of us) provided by our hostel, Shanti Hostel 2.  However, when we walked outside the airport with our driver, we saw the Vardar Express bus. That bus will also take you to the city center for a lower price. But whe didn’t mind that our transport would take us directly to the front door of our hostel.

If you are looking for cheap accomodation in Skopje, you’ll probably find Shanti Hostel (1 and 2). We stayed there the first two nights (and later also our last two nights at the end of our trip). We really loved the hostel. The staff there was very helpful and welcoming.

The next day we woke up early, had breakfast in the hostel where we met two Dutch girls who gave us a brief introduction to the city. They told us it’s a bizar city. Why? We would soon find out ourself. So we walked from the hostel along the Vardar river to the city center.

DSC_7128

Does the above photo also make you think about London? It was only when I noticed the steering wheel position I remembered I was actually in Skopje. The next question:

Where do all these colors come from?

DSC_7130

Almost everywhere where you’ll look in the city center of Skopje, you’ll find brand new buildings, bridges, statues and fountains and even a victory arch. All part of a huge city project ‘Skopje 2014’. Most of these items are now covered in paint. Appareantly, the locals aren’t so happy with all these buildings. They say all this costs too much money. Even if all these statues and new buildings were really necesessary, they could have been constructed for less money. They say corruption was involved and the executor of the plans has been paid too much.

Art Bridge in Skopje, Macedonia.

The art bridge featuring statues of  Macedonian artists and musicians was also created for the Skopje 2014 project. I personally like the bridge and the effort of the goverment to make the city more attractive. If you look around, you’ll see the tourist take pictures of these things, so was not the only one.

DSC_7133

Nope, this is not a theme park. We are still along the Vardar river in Skopje. For some reason they’ve built four huge wooden ships. You can see that they are installing the spare lanterns that didn’t fit on the art bridge at the path along the Vardar.

DSC_7134

We slowly reach the city center as we approach the Macedonia Square, aka the main square of Skopje. Including a huge statue of Alexander the Great.

Bridge of Civilizations in Skopje with Museum of Macedonia in the background.
Bridge of Civilizations in Skopje with Museum of Macedonia in the background.

Now it’s time to meet my travel partner (and girlfriend) Lada.

DSC_7150

If you look closer at the photo you’ll also see red paint on the floor of this fountain left by the protestors.

For the first time in Macedonia – obviously because it’s still our first day – we got aware of the heat. Luckily the fountain worked and gave us some cooling. However, one thing the fountain couldn’t help with is the bright light on this square. The sun is reflecting on both the white buildings and white floor. So we moved on into some smaller side street at the back of the square and kept walking until we found some shade.

We were lucky to find a very nice and calm coffee / tea bar. Метаноја Литературно Кафе. They claim to be the only stricly coffee/tea bar in Skopje. You can go there to work or read something while enjoying your favorite hot drink. I didn’t know about the popularity of the ice coffees in Maceedonia yet. But I’m sure you can get one there as well.

We continued our walk and soon found another building covered with paint. This time it’s the Palace of Justice.

DSC_7170

On the main pedestrian street – where you can find some more coffee bars – you will also find the Mother Theresa memorial house.

DSC_7176

DSC_7179

The pedastrian street was a bit to busy for us so we took a side street and finally arrived at a cool foodmarket.

DSC_7187

We bought some fruit on this market and moved on back to the main square. From this square you can take the old stone bridge across the Vardar river to Čaršija, the Turkish old town of Skopje.

DSC_7204

Just over the stone bridge towards Čaršija are there a few new fountains but 100m further starts a typical Turkish old town. We visited it during Ramadan so unfortunately for us we had to find our lunch elsewhere in Skopje.

DSC_7211

DSC_7213

Of course, a bazaar can’t be missing in the old Turkish town. It’s completely covered so the temperature is ok. I recommend you give yourself a budget and go try to find the best value for your money. If you just walk through and buy nothing you won’t really get the true spirit of the place.

DSC_7220

Of course, a bazaar is one thing but what would a Turkish town be without mosques? The Mustafa Pasha is the largest mosque and stands on a hill looking out over the old town.

Mustafa Pasha Mosque in Skopje, Macedonia.
Mustafa Pasha Mosque in Skopje, Macedonia.

From the Mustafa Pasha Mosque it’s only a short stroll to the castle of Skopje.

DSC_7235

The entrance is free to the castle. Even though the only thing left there are the renovated walls, you do get a nice view from those on Skopje and on the mountain with the Millenium Cross in the background.

DSC_7236

We descend from the walls and cross the Vardar river once again taking a passenger bridge, leaving the old Turkish town and the castle behind us.

DSC_7241

As we couldn’t have had anything to eat in the old turkish town – since it was Ramadan – we headed into the city center to find a place to have a light lunch. We found a juice bar serving sandwiches. We stayed there a while to recover from our relatively long walk.

DSC_7243

Next, we got ourselves a free bench on the river side behind the government buildings in Parc de la Francophonie. We bought salty nuts – and they couldn’t have been more salty – and finished a sudoko while watching how the sun slowly descend.

We walked further away from the city center along the river. A very nice walk. Behind the football stadium lies a large park with ponds reflecting the last sunlight of the day.

DSC_7267

DSC_7270

We finished our day in the restaurant Skopski Merak. It was recommended to us by our Bradt guide book and we can only recommend futher. A very nice atmosphere and really great food in a vibrant area with restaurants and cafes outside the city center.

We had a long walk ahead along the Vardar river back to our hostel. With a cool temperature at night and in good company we got back at Shanti hostel in no time.

Tomorrow we are leaving Skopje and we shall see what treasures are to be discovered in Macedonia.