Day 11 – Skopje, Tetovo & …

30 Sep

Where to start today? Cook your own toast for breakfast? It’s got to be one of the highlights.

At the earlier appointed time, we met our local guide, Alexander, who drove us to the castle overlooking the city giving us lots of stats on the way. Skopje is 40km long but very narrow, with a population of about 650k. I’ll leave the rest out. He didn’t.

We debused at the castle – another set of stones on the ground, but with lots of flags flying merrily in the breeze. Lots of restoration about to happen. Earthquakes (1963 and before) caused a lot of destruction – as did the departure of the Ottomans in 1903.

Leaving the fortress, and staying the regulation 0.5m away from the rather territorial dogs, we headed to the mosque. Unfortunately, there was a heavy padlock on the door. Instead, we were directed to the back of compound to take pictures of the Old Bazaar. After a few attempts at compliance we admitted defeat as the only thing we could see was a modern five star hotel.

Alexander continued at speed to the Church of the Holy Saviour, leaving many of us in his wake. The church was worth it though with a walnut iconostasis that had been dismantled with the approach of the Bulgarians by the resistance and hidden in coffins. As with anything that comes in bits, when they reassembled it, they had a few bits left over.

Wandering through the Old Bazaar, I spotted amongst the tat, wedding dress and handbag shops and a shop selling beaten metal products, such as a tin bath, bucket or stove. Definitely bazzar.

We also stopped into the museum about the Old Bazaar which is now part of the university. Not much to see there.
Wandering on past the outside of the main hammam and another mosque (also closed) we reached more tat sellers. These had boxing gloves with “Albania”, “Macedonia” and “Manchester City” on them. They’ve been promoted to country status now!
Avoiding the street gamblers, we reached the statue of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, the fountains of his wife, lions and horses, together with statues to the inventors of the Cyrillic alphabet.

At this point I could list all the statues we saw but as I think we missed only a couple of the 2500 that are in Skopje, I’ll save us some time by saying that for the next few hours we walked the streets taking endless photos of interesting things.


Trigger's Broom

Of particular importance however are the Stone Bridge consisting of very few original stones (Trigger’s broom-esque) and the statue of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Square, complete with fountains, which is the focus for a lot of building work.  Billions of euros have been spent on building massively impressive things since 2010,  whilst there are still beggars in the streets. Fat beggars, but still beggars none the less.

You don’t get the impression that Macedonia is poor but then this is the capital. Five years ago the areas we were in were apparently Roma camps and rubbish dumps.  The west of the country is touristy but the centre and east is potentially much poorer.

A few other notable points.  The foreign ministry had Churchill and Roosevelt on the roof.  Our guide thought they were the wrong people. Churchill was in his opinion De Gaul. I corrected him.  Also we escaped being on Macedonian TV.
We ended the walking tour at the house and museum of Mother Teresa – a fantastically modern building.

Had a casual lunch with no photos and a gentle walk around retaking all the photos now that the sun was out.

One kiwi ice cream later, and we were back in the bus heading towards the motorway.  Unfortunately there was a demonstration blocking the road – either Syrian refugees or workers on a hunger strike. A quick detour via the sports airfield and we were on our way to Tetovo.

The coloured mosque in Tetovo was certainly that. Inside and out. Quite unlike any other mosque I’ve ever seen. It had a lot of yellow inside and a huge chandelier. Outside the mosque was covered in differently coloured panels.

We drove on and entered the Mavrovo national park, arriving at our hotel Alpina (ski resort) too late for a daylight walk. The dogs were a bit hungrier here and getting from the bus door to the hotel door was only achieved with the aid of my never ending packet of Albanian Choc Chip cookies. We settled in to eat at the hotel up the brae and had a fantastic meal in a pot.

Ended the day by making good use of the jacuzzi bath, although this was the first TV without an English language station.


One Response to “Day 11 – Skopje, Tetovo & …”

  1. Neill Wylie October 3, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    That stunning calligraphy in the second pic! The subdued graffiti artist inside of me is appreciating that! Loved the Alexander statue too.

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