About an hour after arriving at Skopje’s Alexander the Great airport I had checked in to my hotel on the river and was out wandering the streets of the old city. Much to my surprise I saw a guy wearing a Buffalo Bills hat. I’m not sure if I was more surprised to find another American in Skopje on a Tuesday in mid-January or that he was willing to admit being a Bills fan. Either way, it gave me the opportunity to talk to someone, if only in passing. I asked what he was doing in town. He pointed to a rather attractive woman he was with and said he was there for her. He then turned the question around and asked why I was there.
Well, it seemed like a good idea when I booked the trip.
It isn’t that I was disappointed by Skopje – it has a rather cute little old town and the waterfront shows signs of possibly being nice once they finish the construction – but coming in after the greater beauty of Ljubljana it was a bit of a let-down. Of the six cities I visited on my EuroHopping adventure I’d rate it at the bottom, but mostly because the others were so great. It was a nice evening/morning and one that I’m happy I got to experience.
As the sun set on a crisp, clear night I had the old city more or less to myself. Most of the businesses were closing up and most of the restaurants were not yet open, either for the evening or the season (I’m really not sure). It left me with some great views and the opportunity to explore without too many touts harassing me to visit their shops. It was great.
The shops in the old city are mostly selling jewelry (lots of gold) and clothing, neither of which is my usual thing, but there were certainly plenty of options if you’re into that stuff.
That evening I chose to dine at one of the cafés on the other side of the river from the old town, on the waterfront near my hotel. Part of my motivation there was that I knew they spoke English. That was a big deal for me; I had sortof forgotten that I was making my way farther and farther from the romantic language base of Western Europe and into a world where the alphabet changes (they use Cyrillic in Macedonia) and the roots aren’t ones I know. I was pretty much helpless. That’s rarely fun.
|Old school shoe shine on the edge of the Old City|
I also chose the restaurant because I heard a somewhat raucous cacophony coming from it as I walked by late in the afternoon. Sports were on the television and everyone inside was dressing in similar colors. Turns out that the national handball team was playing and the game was being carried live, so I got to learn a new sport and cheer along with the locals. They lost the match in the final seconds, but it was still a great experience.
|I’m a bit surprised I didn’t see more of these on the streets.|
The next morning I was up early to see the rest of the downtown area before it was back to the airport. I got in a solid few hours around town, including seeing many of the relics from the Ottoman empire that are still visible around town. The clock tower was the first built in the empire, allowing for those working in the Bazaar to know when to pray and when the market was closed.
While the old Bazaar is no longer in operation there is still a large market operating on the edge of the old city. I love a good market so it was absolutely on the itinerary. I was actually pretty disappointed as I walked by initially; the market seemed to be a clearinghouse for random imported junk rather than a view into the locally produced goods. Fortunately I stuck it out, walking back through the "Made in China" section and ended up in the middle of a great produce market.
Beyond the old history of town there is also some more recent history celebrated, most notably the work of Mother Theresa. She was born in Skopje and there are a few monuments and markers celebrating her life and work.
After this it was time to head back to the airport, wrapping up yet another whirlwind visit as I wended my way from Stockholm to Istanbul. A great little visit, but not quite as amazing as the other cities I got to see. Such is the way things go some times.
- In flight: Ljubljana to Skopje on Adria Airways
- A ljubly day in Ljubljana
- In flight: Munich to Ljubljana on Adria Airways
- Berlin in an hour. At night. In the winter.
- In flight: Stockholm to Berlin on SAS
- Checking in: Hotel Eurostars Berlin
- Maximizing award redemption value. Sortof.