Why go? That’s easy…
Macedonia is, if we’re being completely honest, a country we had never even heard of. Sure, we’d studied classics at school and learnt of the wondrous feats of Alexander the Great – but we just figured it was akin to the likes of Persian and Arabia and, well, Macedon, in which it existed hundreds of years ago, but was part of someplace else now. While that might have been partly true not too long ago – Macedonia became a country once again in 1991 when it declared independence, decided on “Macedonia” as a moniker, and pissed a tonne of people off in the process. As the locals will tell you, there’s still a lot of animosity that surrounds the naming of the country (mostly from the Greeks who say Alexander of such Greatness was hereditarily Greek, and the Macedons are all but stealing their history), and there’s even more animosity within the country. Skopje is in the midst of a bit of an overhaul, and millions of euro are being poured into erecting huge new buildings that look like they might have existed during an Ottoman Empire or Greek conquest – but were really dreamed up in the noughties and forced on the people, who are essentially paying for it with their taxes. That’s why most of these ‘brilliant’ structures are, on top of their gleaming white edifice, smeared with fluoro paint and other visible signs of protest.
But! We digress….
Skopje on the whole is a bit weird, and good if you have a couple of days spare. Read on to find out more about the weird sculptures, how to hike from Mount Vodno and the creepy hilltop cross to Lake Matka and Matka Canyon, and the excellent gangways of the Old Bazaar.
Then, after you’ve wiled away a good 24-48 hours in the capital, spend far longer in the south on the shores of Lake Ohrid.
Then, eat. Eat it all.