After an interesting first few days in Serbia (during our trip to the Balkans), it was time to head to another country. Next on our list was Macedonia. Our first stop was Skopje- it’s largest city and capital. We were told that the bus ride from Nis to Skopje would take no more than 3 hours but with border crossings it took more like 4+. We spent days 4 & 5 checking out Skopje and really enjoyed our visit. Skopje is a very interesting city. The city center has two sides to it. They can be divided (more or less) into old (old bazaar) and new (main square) with the sides being separated by the Stone Bridge which was first built in the 6th century. The main square and surrounding area is modern with lots of new buildings , statues and fountains. The old bazaar is filled with shops, food vendors & restaurants and one of the largest markets in the Ottoman influenced Old Bazaar. We liked exploring the old bazaar and the nearby food market.
One of the best things about Skopje is that most of the main sites can be reached by foot. The city was also very lively at night with many fountains and buildings lit up and lots of people walking around or just hanging out in the squares.
Here are some of the things we did (in no particular order):
- Checking out the interesting (odd) statues
- Old Railway Station now the Museum of the city of Skopje
- Over-the-top fountains
- The Old Bizarre
- Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia
While walking around Skopje we came across statues that seemed to be randomly placed around the main square and surrounding area. We decided to act a little silly and posed with some of the statues. This was a really fun activity as it drew some laughs and smiles from Lucas. The statues we saw were the lady on the phone shown above, a large bull, a shoe-shine man, a man with his arm out (to put it on your shoulder) and one or two more. Besides these statues, there are many others around the city commemorating war heroes, past leaders and many other things.One of my favorite buildings we visited was the Old Railway Station, now the Skopje City Museum. The building was badly damaged after an earthquake in 1963. It was preserved in it’s ruined state. The thing I found most interesting about this building is that the clock in front is still stuck at the time of the earthquake- 5:17. The museum inside is small but interesting and worth a visit. We learned a lot about the city while chatting with one of the volunteers inside. We talked about the city (and region) and he answered some of our questions. He also told us about some locals products that we should try. While walking around, it’s impossible to miss the massive (and over the top) fountains. They make for great meeting places and somewhere to stop to sit down and relax. There also seemed to (always) be people taking pictures at these grand fountains. The Warrior on Horse in the main square was really interesting but even more impressive when lit up at night. There is also a huge statue in a fountain called The Warrior just a few minutes walk away. My main problem with these fountains/ statues was that it seemed like in some areas there was way too much going on. We wondered if fountains and statues kept getting added just for the sake of filling up empty spaces. The Old Bazaar was fun to walk around and get lost in for a little while. Some of the stores seemed very old and were built into the walls of old buildings. There were many shops selling jewelry, clothing, antiques and many other things. There are also lots of places to eat and we ate in this area both nights. The food was good but nothing spectacular. Behind the old bazaar is a very large food market. This to me was more fun to wander around than the area with the shops. One of the most popular items for sale were peppers. While walking around we saw lots of people walking around with their huge bags of peppers. Kim and I have visited museums dedicated to the holocaust all around the world but found the story at the Holocaust Center for the Jews of Macedonia to be one of the most fascinating . The story of the Balkan Jews was very interesting to learn about and seemed quite different from other countries around the world. When the Jews were forced to leave Spain they integrated pretty well into society and were accepted in many of the former Yugoslavian countries. The Ottoman rules respected the Jews for their skills but once the Nazis came in they suffered harsh treatment and a doomed fate. The museum had no actual artifacts but told the story extremely well through pictures and text. Large displays included English translations.
At the end of the exhibit we watched a touching short film which showed the struggle to survive by actual accounts of Macedonian Jews. Some are still alive today and still live in Macedonia with their families making up a small community .
Keep checking back for more about our trip in upcoming posts.
Here are some other posts about our current trip: