We took an evening bus into Skopje, the capitol of Macedonia, after an extended stay in Ohrid.
Skopje (pronounced like skopie in macedonian), is much livelier than Ohrid as the city center that it is. It's also much more humid which is why it's not the best place to travel to in the summer. I ended up narrowing down my Skopje trip to a day in order to spend some more time in Ohrid's perfect summer climate.
We got in on a Thursday night, walked along the Vardar river from the bus station to the main square, passed through Skopje's lit up monuments, all part of the Skopje 2014 project which only just recently got completed and pondered over how much the space reminded me of vegas in the most bizarre way. Once we got to the main square, we crossed over to old town where we had some decent kebab for dinner at a place called Turist, recommended by a local.
Some things you may want to keep in mind when visiting Macedonia:
* Greece and The Republic of Macedonia quarrel over the name Macedonia because Macedonia is also the name of the western region in Greece. The Greeks argue that the ancient Macedonians were of Greek nationality and that this has always been the case. Hence, to have a neighboring country with the name Macedonia in it would be preposterous and unacceptable as they believe the Republic of Macedonia is a slavic nation that was only given the name Macedonia after the break up of Yugoslavia. The Republic of Macedonia on the other hand, claim otherwise, that they have every right to call their nation Macedonia as they've always been a separate entity from Greece, and have always been rooted in ancient Macedonia having undergone the numerous wars and oppression under its neighboring countries throughout history. So when Macedonia proceeded with the Skopje 2014 project which includes statues and monuments of figures like King Philip II, Alexander the Great, and some others you may or may not remember from your AP history class, they received a lot of criticism as they were accused of borrowing the history and culture of Greece that Greece claimed does not belong to them. It's a ton of history to dig through to really understand all of it but all this to say, this issue still remains a controversy and is an ongoing argument in the Balkans today.
* East europe has the biggest gypsy, otherwise known as Romani population in the world. I didn't run into a single gypsy in Ohrid but once I got to Skopje, I was approached by some women, and then a few children at night when my friend and I were having dinner outside in old town. It's a different story when you're with a large group of people but when you're with one other friend and you both clearly look like foreigners, its best to avoid these kinds of situation. One of the ladies shoved her coin tray into my face at one point to which I just ignored; they can get pretty aggressive. Don't put your guard down, don't show any emotion and they will eventually walk away.
* Coffee culture is very different in Macedonia and all over the Balkans really. Coffee shops are bars which are called cafes. You go to these cafes to be seen and when you've finished at one place, you move on to the next like you would when you're bar hopping. Ideally people consume more coffee during the day and save the alcohol for later at night but this of course varies. The best part about this hybrid though is that this means your late night coffee cravings can be satisfied even at late hours, something I've found to be very difficult to find in the states. Additionally, I've come to understand that Macedonians really love their house music and have a thing for latin music.
* As explained in previous Balkan posts, it's rare to find American tourists, let alone, Asian American tourists in Macedonia. So do be prepared for the stares.
In the morning we headed to the Old Bazaar like good tourists to begin our full day. We stopped by Destan and had more kebab for breakfast, wandered in some vintage shops, explored an old empty caravansary known as Kuršumli An which I learned later used to be a Turkish Inn built in the 16th century, and stood curious in front of the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia.
Then we trailed off into Skopje's Bit Pazar, the farmer's market formerly known as the Turkish market where I did my own portion of staring and made some friends along the way. I learned a few new things like how to say how are you in Macedonian (kako si) and bought a juicy peach for ten Macedonian denars equal to about two dimes in USD. An organic peach in New York City currently costs you around three dollars so personally...it was kind of a big deal.
In the afternoon, we switched gears and traveled west of the Vardar to hang out with the cool kids at Concept 37.
We met up with some local friends and I was able to get a taste of what their cafe culture was all about as we bounced around different spots in the Karposh area.
And that was a day in Skopje, Macedonia.