Skopje – the capital of statues

by Waterfan

Skopje is a compulsory and entertaining part of Balkan tours, many of which are considered the capital of kitsch. I think it is rather brave. Let’s see why …

Like the Balkans everywhere, the food is heavenly and abundant, great hiking opportunities, emotional music, as well as overwhelming, yet an exciting architecture at friendly prices. And Mother Teresa, for free. Step by step, we’re stumbling into her relics and little copper boards with her quotes.

I really liked it, so it should be the motto of this writing: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

It’s an interesting feeling to arrive here. My first impression is that I am in London with red double decker buses, but I change to food scraps on a plate in minutes, which attracts flies and whack them in vain, but they come back again, and the taxi drivers ask where to go. They are just coming and coming and you cannot get rid of them. It is similar to the Arabic-Turkish way, but it’s not that bad. Fortunately, there was no such thing in the Old Bazaar, but I would have expected it there. After the first minor culture shock, the only question after that is, whether the girls are wearing hot pants and miniskirts here or not. At the mall it turns out that: yes and no. You should note that, whoever it concerns, should pack proper clothes for the travel. I suggest long pants; ladies will feel more comfortable in it.

Skopje double decker bus London

After all, I decide to walk to my accommodation at the Holiday Inn Skopje 5-star hotel, so I see something from the city on the way. From the airport you need to get a shuttle bus or a taxi, because it is not very close to the downtown of Skopje. Taxi prices are fixed 20 EUR. This is basically okay, but considering the condition of the taxis and the local price level, it is a little bit expensive. I came by bus from Sofia, but the majority will probably fly. But the bus is a good and cheaper solution to see both places in one journey. Accurate, climate-friendly, comfortable but old and torn buses run between the 2 capitals. There are newer buses in the city, their average age of the double deckers around 3 years, they were made in China.

Arriving at the hotel, I immediately got caught by the wow fancy again – feeling. Those who often go to 5-star locations will be taken off immediately so that is not exactly the case. Hotels have several decades of operation, they cannot be renewed every year, so there are huge differences between the oldest antique-style hotels and the latest high-tech ones – excluding quality of service of course. This is the same, with the disadvantage that it was built into the middle of the socialist era, not the elegance of Paris. If we accept this, then we will feel and understand the luxury what this place offers.

Holiday Inn Skopje Lobby

They made me wait for a bit while the receptionist to talked to her colleague. If he was another guest, it would be acceptable, but at the 5-star level you should pay attention to the fact that they can continue their meeting 3 minutes later and do not made the guest wait for them. Apart from that they were extremely helpful and kind, they told me every little detail about the public transport here, and how can you get the most of it. They told me that the sauna is open until 10am, if I wish, it can be extended a little bit, but I should tell them beforehand. After I occupied my room, the phone rang, they were inquiring about if I found everything right or whether I need something. I smacked in appreciation, it is a great pity for the first momentary mistake. The room had a wonderful view:

For this view, you need to ask for the room at least on the 4th floor, on the river-side corner, because the trees are in the way until the 4th floor. Look at this texture, this 3 dimensional embossed pattern on the just touch me, pet me wallpaper! And how much it costs? Check it here, for the current prices, it may vary depending on the season, usually for 2 people between 22-38 thousand HUF and the rich buffet breakfast with Hungarian pancakes is included in the price.

By the time you arrive, it might have a different design, as the hotel will be completely redesigned and renovated in 2018-19. The bathroom cannot be regarded as luxury, but it was really clean as expected at this level.

Holiday Inn Skopje Bathroom

Let’s go out, I think we had enough of this room! There is a boat-restaurant opposite the hotel. Yes, the hotel is the yellow building with that ugly fire escape, its main facade is interestingly built perpendicular to the river. Buildings tend to turn towards the water, this is different in Skopje.

Holiday Inn Skopje Restaurant Boat River

For the really good atmosphere they concreted the ships in the center of the city of 540,000 people. Even in close-up, these are all seemingly ship-like creations, but the reinforced concrete structure that emerges from the water reveals that these (there is a lot!) are actually 4-storey houses built in the shape of a ship. Have you noticed the palm trees? It is a mystery to me how they survive the winter, because here is hard frosts at that time. They plant new ones every year (it would be expensive), they are heated under a tarpaulin (maybe) or the whole thing is a lie and it is made of plastic (it can be based on ships and buildings). Maybe we see a miracle, I want to believe that!Holiday Inn Skopje Restaurant Boat River Bridge

But when I see the next mood enhancer, it’s really hard to believe anything I see with my own eyes anymore. There’s something weird on this Vardar river, isn’t it? Well, it’s whirling, it’s almost wild, it’s roaring, in addition they planted ornamental trees in the middle as seen under the bridge pillar. We are talking a small country with burdened history so pride is a big factor here. A really good city must have a massive, big and strong river. They built it for themselves. A narrow, smaller kind of river was pimped up with ornaments, on the bottom with concrete water deflectors, green islands and statues in the water, so it looks so great and real in the middle of the city center. Pimped it up so much that everyone really believe it is for real. It’s such a sincere makeup that you can’t just not love.

Just a few days ago, the local parliament has changed the name of Macedonia, so we are talking about Northern Macedonia from now on. This is not the greatest joy of the Greeks, who did not like that something else is called the same as one of their county in Greece. I don’t want to go deeper into this. But a country that cannot even use its own name freely, it’s perfectly understandable that they are looking for their identity, and if they do not like what they see in the recent past, they just simply redraw it, rebuild it. They build buildings that should have been built, but the history did not allow it to happen. If this is the case, they do it in a modern way, with great underground garages, air conditioning and service facilities connected to the 100 years old, lookalike brand new houses. All of this for around € 7 billion euros, including evident corruption.

Skopje architecture, parking

Ultimately they look better than the alike-LEGOed office buildings on the Pest side of the Danube, or if the following concrete wall that would dominate the cityscape now (left from the socialism) but fortunately they destroyed half of the houses above for buildings; this almost theatrical scene-like houses.Skopje Macedonia house

There are things that do not change, for example, the Opera building itself is significant and it should be on a postage stamp. Those who may still collect postage stamps pay attention to this building.Skopje Macedonian Opera and Ballet

Luckily there are also contemporary architecture here, so the picture is not one-dimensional and not boring. Not to mention the Old Bazaar in the Old Town, where you can already feel like in Turkey.Skopje modern architecture

If I have already mentioned the Bazaar, I also have to mention that it is almost empty at night, but it is cozy. There are umbrella decorations in many places, this is local fashion.

Restaurants and bars are trying to be on their mettle, for example, this original idea has gone viral in social media:Skopje bar drink food

One day for the downtown area is enough to see everything. The streets are nice, spacious and clean, although they are not immaculate. Let’s walk out virtually from this part of the cooling magnet-streets and look around in the city, see what you can do here!Skopje Old Bazaar

We can go in 3 directions, one is Lake Ohrid, and I suggest to spend several days there with some relaxation. With taxi it is 100 EUR, but with the Galeb bus company the return ticket is 800 MKD. The other 2 directions are half-1-day programs, depending on the individual pace.Skopje Matka Canyon Entrance boat

The Matka Canyon is the most popular excursion destination with deep green water and boats, it is not an accident that the area become popular. Apart from hiking, sailing and kayaking can also be arranged here – well worth it. Many people miss out on the caves, while a huge cave system hides here, the most important one is the Vrelo Cave.

Matka Canyon kayak Skopje Macedoniaa

You can also get there by bus, but it doesn’t go all the way to entrance, because there is such a narrow road that wouldn’t be able to turn around. The easiest way to get there is by taxi, and on the way back, the driver will give you their phone number to call about 30-40 minutes before you want to return to the city. Then he finishes his last ride and starts heading to Matka Canyon to pick you up. The prices are acceptable, much cheaper than the usual prices in Pest, even if they pull you off. The most common meeting point is the raft rowing course, which is part of the World Cup series. It is a pity that it is not possible to get the rental kayaks here, but I understand it somehow.

Skopje Canoeing track Matka Canyon

Here, unfortunately, one cannot say that it is clean, because as far as the eye could see, there is tons of waste (poetic exaggeration) thrown at the base of green vegetation. Fortunately, the Vodno mountain hasn’t got so much waste, but it has the world’s largest 66-meter-high cross with Jesus. It is possible to approach the 1066 m high peak with a lift, but always pay attention to the fact that it is still operating downhill, because it is closed relatively early during off-season. Return ticket is 100 MKD, around 500 Ft. The Millennium Memorial was recently build here in 2000, expressing the relative superiority of orthodox Christianity in the Christian-Islamic struggle. The steel structure floats in contour lighting and at night is visible from all parts of the city. Harsh wind blows in the lookout tower on the mountain top.

Skopje hill enjoy

I let myself on the railing and let all my weight onto it, it felt like I was flying. The view is magnificent in all directions, especially if you have a larger zoom camera. The bridge on which there is a fountain on the middle of it, decorated with statues, that is unfortunately cannot be seen from here. The bridge. Yes.

Returning to town, you may want to look for some nice place for dinner. As a water-lover, there was no doubt that a ship-restaurant would be the No.1 for me.

Skopje boat restaurant food drink

If you want to get a lot of for a little money, this is a great place right now. Overlooking the city from the river, in a look-a-like boat restaurant with panorama the prices are almost the same as the Chef’s dinner offer in a suburban kitchen in Hungary. I think you should not miss this, just think about how much the same would cost you in Budapest in a boat restaurant overlooking the Chain Bridge?! Well, there is no Chain Bridge, but the feeling is there, it is highlife.

Skopje architecture bridge boat

I think this image represents the city’s identity of the present. The ornate candelabra, the statues placed every three meters, Macedonian pride, remembrance of writers, musicians, artists, so they have a real content meaning, as well as funny narrow houses, that also carry real features. In one, there is a museum I think it worth’s go in, it has a special atmosphere. They probably expected a lot of people, because the washbasin could serve a whole school group – at the same time.

Skopje palace lights

In the evening lights, the castle is quite impressive, and the public escalator is awesome.

This city has shown great courage when it decided to implement the city reconstruction program. You can criticize it, you can smile, but the fact is a fact. It pushed Skopje up the map of the world, where it had no chance to show up if only it did not take any surprising and drastic steps. It would be one of the former gray, nondescript, nonsensical, socialist cities, and it would not be able to show its true face to the world.

With this amount of kitsch, Skopje created to opportunity for itself to be found, and for the Macedonian people to find themselves. The development started, I wish them good luck!

Skopje Alexander the great square

From history studies, the legendary Alexander the Great should be known to everyone, the statue of him, riding a horse – this fountain was built from 700 million Euros, maybe this amount included the paving of the place. But what is really interesting is that the monument’s official name is:

“Warrior on the Horse”


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