Spontaneously in Skopje
Day 21: Jess is a Wanderer arrived in Skopje - Macedonia's capital city. It was a welcome sight after an 8 hour train, a 3 hour wait and a 6 hour bus ride.
Buying tickets in Sofia was a doddle. This company in the pic (MATPU) travel to Skopje three times a day: 9:30, 16:00 and 19:00. The journey takes around six hours and tickets cost 30 Lev - around £15. They accept card or cash (in local currency) and it's a direct transfer. We were going to head straight to Tirana in Albania but thought 'let's go to Macedonia' so here we are...
Crossing the border from Bulgaria to Macedonia was a little bit of excitement - we got questioned about passport stamps from Turkey but there was actually no drama to report. Fast forward what felt like five million hours... our amazing Airbnb host's friend (sounds like one of those really bad jokes) met us at the bus station and 'delivered us' straight to the apartment we'd booked for the next two nights. Teeth brushing and showering was high priority so as soon as that was sorted, we set out to explore.
A fascinating city going through some sort of identity crisis. With no real history of its own to celebrate or commemorate, the city is littered with statues, monuments, fountains and different works of architecture - with more in the process of being constructed. There seem to be influences from a wide range of different eras which don't reference any particular person or significant event. Nonetheless, the handiwork and artistic creativity that has gone into these creations is to be admired.
Crossing over the river into the 'old' section, the whole atmosphere changes. The Call to Prayer cries out from various mosques and the cobbled streets lead to quirky little storefronts selling everything from traditional costumes to wedding dresses and handmade jewellery. If you've ever been to Egypt, the streets echo a more organised Khan el Khalili market in Cairo. A definite favourite place from the trip so far. Men sit outside cafes smoking from shisha pipes, playing backgammon and drinking tea from small glass cups. Takes me back to my days of living in Egypt...
OK, back to Macedonia, what else can I tell you? It would be impossible to go hungry here - with £1 equalling around 70 Denar, it is an incredibly cheap country with many dishes costing less than £7. And of course, the beer is super cheap too. We did a quick supermarket shop for our breakfast and lunch tomorrow (we're off for a hike) and that cost less than £14 for the two of us. What a bargain! Overall, is Skopje worth visiting? I'd say 100% yes just for the Middle Eastern part but when you can throw in cheap food and drink too, it's a no-brainer!