The time has come to write about one of my favorite destinations of 2008, a city that got itself a place in my heart in such a way that I stood there for 4 weeks in a row, and a couple of months later made me go back for an extra week.
Skopje (Скопје) is the capital of Macedonia (Македонија). It’s also its largest city, as with a population of a little bit more than 500,000 inhabitants, it has about one quarter of the population of the whole country.
The area that now occupies Skopje is know to be inhabited since at least 3500 BC, and during all this time it has been invaded by several empires and cultures, such as the Romans and the Ottomans. This gives the city a really nice feeling of cultural diversity.
The city is full of contrasts, mainly due to the earthquake that devastated it in 1963. That caused the city to be rebuilt during the communist regime (with an Slovenian architect taking responsibility of many of the main buildings) giving it the feeling t has now of being at the same time modern and decadent. Also, for the mentioned contrast, we have to take into account the presence of the Turkish Market.
Skopje is full of small churches and some mosques that gives color to a city in which most of it’s buildings are low, the sidewalks are in very bad conditions, being completely irregular. Also, the street illumination is not very good, as it’s really bright and produces a lot of light pollution that prevents you from being able to see the stars.
People in this city is great. They’re very helpful, funny and perfect hosts. And if you have any kind of problem any stranger will help you as much as they can. Curious things are that when they’re behind the wheel they drive like crazy, and that when they’re walking the sidewalk seems to be just orientative, except on the main streets.
For the nightlife, it’s like everywhere, that some places closes early on the night, and others open until it’s daylight. But the advantages is that discos are usually really cheap, and that there’s a wide offer of live music. For something more relaxed, close to the Macedonia Square, in the bank of the river, there are dozens of chill-out pubs in which you can enjoy a relaxed evening.
The feeling you get by walking on the streets (and if you don’t take the cars into account) is that the city is quite calm and relaxed. And even more, it’s really safe, or at least I sense it safer than, for example, Madrid.
The core of the city is quite small, and you can go practically wherever you to just by walk. Anyway, if you need to move farther away, if you are a group the cheapest and best way is to take a taxi. About the public transportation I can’t say anything, as I didn’t use it. But a Spanish friend of mine who also went there in summer said that she can’t imagine why someone would pay to get into one of those buses!
In the surrounding area, a place really worth visiting is Matka, an impressive valley with a dam some caves around the river and a really amazing wild nature. One of the best visits you can do from Skopje.
The weather is quite extreme along the year, being really dry and hot during the summer (you can see thermometers saying 40ºC), and wet and very cold during the winter.
The truth is that I loved this place, but I know plenty of people that wouldn’t appreciate it, as it’s kind of special. Anyway, for me it’s a must, and I hope I have the chance to go back there soon.