Skopje is an old city, but not one renowned for its beauty. Since Roman times it has been captured, sacked, razed and rebuilt many times. Most recently, the 1963 earthquake destroyed 80% of the city, killing over 1,000 people and leaving 200,000 homeless. The subsequent drive to rebuild Skopje as a model socialist city added little to its charms.
Macedonia Square was only a couple of hundred metres from our hotel, but first we stopped at the Cathedral of St Kliment of Ohrid, because it was just about next-door.
|St Kliment of Ohrid on the road by his cathedral, Skopje|
Orthodox churches have no pews, but they do always have an older person wandering round lighting candles and kissing icons.
Flying into FYRoM for the background) the statue does not officially bear his name. Most of the square is currently surrounded by barriers and work is being done inside, so we did not see Not-Alexander at his best.
|The Stone Bridge and the Boatmen of Thessaloniki, Skopje|
As big and bombastic as any is the The Warrior (not on a Horse). He is not officially Philip of Macedon either, but everybody knows he is.
|Warrior (not Philip II of Macedonia)|
Opposite are the domes of the Daud Paša Hammam, now the City Art Gallery, and a reminder that we were entering the Caršija, the old Ottoman quarter.
Deeper History Blog. If you have time go and pay him a visit, he is a much better photographer than me.
|The iconostasis, Sveti Spas, Skopje|
Further along, the shops are grouped by type as in eastern bazaars. We passed through an area of wedding dress shops, and then one of gold sellers and jewellers.
The gold and jewellery area, Caršija, Skopje
Heading back towards the river we followed signs to the Museum of Macedonia but could not find it and ended up at the rather splendid Mustafa Pasha mosque.
|Mustafa Pasha mosque, Skopje|
Skopje also has some 25,000 Roma citizens, possibly the largest Roma population anywhere. Darker skinned and thinner faced than the Albanians, their clothes are of a more old-fashioned Muslim style and distinctly shabbier. Here, as always, they are at the bottom of the social heap and a couple of Roma women were begging around the restaurants. I have always believed that the best way out of poverty – both cultural and financial – is education, so it was worrying to watch Roma children of 9 or 10 hawking paper handkerchiefs in the streets when they should have been in school,
According to the Lonely Planet the archaeology department is housed in Kuršumli An, a 16th century caravanserai and reputedly the largest and finest remaining in Skopje. Taking a short cut back to the road we found it by accident, behind a ruined mosque in an overgrown corner beyond the carpark.
There was, again, no sign, but the door was open so we walked, or rather stooped, in.
|Lynne at Kuršumli An, Skopje|
Back over the Stone Bridge we walked to the Porta Macedonia, a triumphal arch built in 2010/11 and designed by Valentina Stefanovska, who was also responsible for Not-Alexander the Great. The Museum of Macedonia seems starved of funds and I wonder if this was best way to spend €4 million.
|Porta Macedonia, Skopje|
|Macedonian pork and mushroom stew and a bottle of Vranac, Skopje|
Part 13 Ohrid to Albania (1) The East Coast of the Lake
Part 14 Struga and Ohrid Trout
Part 15 Debar and back to Skopje