Dreaming of a trip to the orient? It may be closer than you think in the beautiful city of Skopje: the capital of Macedonia. Picturesque bazaars and beautiful mosques characterise this city and statues, monuments and fountains are literally everywhere; the city is a traveller’s dream.
How to get to Skopje?
Skopje is the capital of Macedonia (officially called F.Y.R.O.M. or Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia) and is situated in the northern part of the country. You can find the country itself in the south of Europe in a region called the Balkans. It borders Greece in the south, Serbia and Kosovo in the north, Bulgaria in the east and Albania in the west. Getting there may be easier than you might think because its airport caters to quite a few cities in Europe. It’s also home to an enormous international bus station that sees many buses come and go every single day.
A mix of faith
Although Skopje is famous for its beautiful mosques, Muslims only represent one-third of the nation’s total population. This makes Islam the second most widely professed religion in the country, Orthodox Christianity being first. This results in Skopje having beautiful mosques as well as beautiful orthodox churches. The Mustafa Pasha church is the finest mosque in town and is even considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the entire world! Although opinions on the number-one church are divided, I would definitely say it’s the new Orthodox Church of Saints Constantine and Elena, the building of which caused a lot of civil, political and religious uproar.
The bazaar is an ancient maze where fumes of the tastiest food and prayers of the Islam surround you. It’s a place where top-class carpet makers, imams and local craftsmen meet. And it’s the place home to the soul of Skopje. Its cobblestones ring with the sound of children racing to school in centuries-old buildings, lines of laundry flutter from wrought-iron balconies, and hundreds of dogs loll in marble laneways on the streets. It’s a place that takes you back in time.
And it’s the place home to the soul of Skopje.
The home of Mother Teresa
Did you know that Mother Teresa was born in Skopje? Not only was she born here, but Skopje is also the place where she got baptised. The Macedonians are proud of this cultural heritage which is why they built a ‘memorial house’ to honour the so-called ‘mother of faith’. It’s a special place that you can’t miss when visiting Skopje. Do go inside, it absolutely blew me away.
Statues, statues, statues
The city of Skopje is notorious for its amount of statues; they are literally everywhere! They were installed as part of a government campaign called ‘Skopje 2014’. This grand architectural project has received a lot of controversy from the moment it started and it won’t stop any soon. Some people call it ‘urban renewal’ while others call it nationalist kitsch; there’s something to be said for both of these opinions. As of now, there are still regular protests to stop tax money from flowing into these statues. They joke about it too: ‘Even the son of the mother of the friend of Alexander’s aunt has a statue’, one local told me.
‘Even the son of the nephew of the friend of Alexander’s aunt has a statue’, one local told me.
I fell in love with this city and I’m sure you will too. Oh and by the way, have you already checked out this article on my favourite place in the Balkans?