Here we are, continuing our Balkan journey and stopping at the gorgeous capital of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Skoplje. If I had to picture the perfect destination for a small escape during the weekend or longer, where you can have a wonderful stroll around, enjoy in the beautiful monuments and cultural sights, great cuisine and welcoming people, than Skoplje is the right city for you. I believe it is glorious at any time of the year, but fall gives it certain charm,so definitely plan your trip, book your tickets and get the luggage ready for this amazing destination. If you want to learn more about this decadent city, then keep reading!
My hear beats faster and faster. Again I'm here in Skopje on my own, my dear ... Not that bad for this old machine ... Djordje Balasevic, Serbian singer and song-writer
Skoplje, as the capital and the largest city, is the country's political, cultural, economic, and academic center. It was known in the Roman period under the name Scupi. The city is situated on the upper course of the Vardar River, and on a major north-south Balkan route between Belgrade and Athens. It is a center for metal-processing, chemical, timber, textile, leather, and printing industries. Furthermore, the industrial development of the city has been accompanied by development of the trade, logistics, and banking sectors, as well as an emphasis on the fields of transportation, culture and sport. Now that you know a bit about the city in general, let me introduce you to all the great things you might do and see in Skoplje. And if you don't believe me how beautiful this place is, pictures say it all.
The city, throughout the years, has been advertised for its cultural heritage that pays homage to diversity, unity and blend of civilizations, which you will definitely feel upon arrival. Apart from Ohrid, the perl of the region, Skoplje is also equally famous for its numerous attractions. Great news for the culture and art addictis, Skoplje will offer you enough food for your soul, perfect pictures for your personal collection and Instagram feed and of course, the real food, as Skoplje, being a Balkan city, goes hand in hand with, disputably, the most filling and decadent cuisine.
Skoplje is just as much as any other capital and huge cultural hub with its numerous churches, galleries, museums, and buildings that predate grandfathers of our. While walking through the city, you will get a sense of a number of civilizations that have proliferated here throughout the centuries. Keep in mind that you can actually visit places that bear witness to ancient culture, some even dating back to the period of Ottoman invasion and empire, and others newly build in order to enhance Macedonian heritage. Apart from that, Skoplje has several cultural events, some of which being world renowned music festivals, which will definitely make you consider booking a longer stay there.
Moreover, numerous churches, built decades back, and others many centuries ago, are, in a way, a historical and spiritual gallery of Skoplje. Outside the city, you can also check out the church and monasteries near the Matka canyon. Right above the city center there is the Kale Fortress, dating centuries back, built primarily as a prison. Remaining almost intact and in its entirety, it is a must see for anyone who is interested in history, especially the Ottoman period. Also, myriad of museums and monuments built rather recently in attempt to strengthen historical heritage, allow you to learn more about the history of the region. The construction of modern monument caused an inital controversy but now, few years after their placement, they decorate the city and serve to impress foreigners and remind locals of their past.
Another thing that Skoplje is very proud of is their music, that also testify the rich cultural heritage of the region. The ethno elements and traditional music are part of the cultural blend that churns in the city. Young generations welcome the mark of the past, and are in fact encouraging it. So you can see ethno jazz being played throughout the city, while local bands perform gigs in some of the most prestigious clubs. Festivals are also huge events in Skopje, especially the May Opera evenings, and moreover the Skopje Jazz Festival. With renowned jazz names from all over the world, this festival brings Skopje cultural weight for decades back. Also, Days of Macedonian music allows you to follow the performances of popular ethno ensembles, especially Tanec, who devote themselves to bringing back to live traditional Macedonian music, dance and clothing. After all, you may enjoy in all of these in many of the popular kafanas around Skopje(dining places, like restaurants) that serve delicious food and wine.
Finally, the old bazar in the old part of the town, still intact by modern urbanism, is a must see. Dating from ottoman times, it still portrays the spirit of ottoman culture to some extent, with mosques, amams, and galleries, between many shops that still promote handicrafts and craftsmanship.
Indeed, I think I really illustrated that, Skopje, being the cultural hub it is, has a lot to show and offer to its tourists. Mixing the old and new, traditional and modern, it is an urban city that still holds close to its heritage and roots. You will have you camera snapping pictures at every corner, and lots of stories to tell when you are back home. However, I am affraid to dissapoint you that a weekend though, is not going to suffice. In order to see what Skopje has to offer in terms of culture, you will need to stay longer, much longer. Stay tuned for more inspirations to follow.
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