In the Eastern European city of Skopje, Soviet-style houses dominate the skyline and grey chunky buildings line the riverfront – but don’t let that put you off. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a charismatic city and resilient people striving to get over their troubled past. Having only gained independence 20 years ago from its ex-Yugoslav ruling, Macedonia is considered one of the world’s newest countries and Skopje one of the youngest capitals in Europe.I visited Macedonia in January 2014 and was surprised by what this relatively unknown country has to offer.
Beyond the decrepit communist buildings, Skopje’s bustling modern port is a hip and lively enclave buzzing with fashion-forward locals. The Plostad Makedonija square is sprinkled with stylish boutiques and cafe-bars where locals feed their addiction to rajika – a strong grape spirit that has been the national firewater for centuries.
|Skopje “Alexander the Great” airport|
Cross the Stone bridge and you will find yourself in a different world. The old town of Carsija is floored by cobbled paths and dominated by Ottoman minarets, domed Turkish baths and Orthodox churches. There is a clear division between the Muslim and Orthodox halves, but that’s where the intriguing roots of Macedonia can be traced.
|theatre in Skopje|
Outside of Skopje, one can visit Lake Ohrid with its beautiful emerald waters, a popular summer destination for the locals as my host told me. While I liked the old town of Skopje, I was not so impressed with the town square because it is too modern and out of place. Did you know that Skopje was the birthplace of Mother Theresa? There is a church where she was baptised and this has been converted to a memorial house on the top floor, acting as a tribute to commemorate her. I always thought that Mother Theresa came from one of the wealthy Western European countries, but I learnt something new when I was in Skopje. She is such an inspiration through her kind deeds and helping the poor, leading a humble life.