I guess you could say I visited Skopje almost by accident, after crossing most of continental Greece by train and discovering in Thessaloniki that there was a direct train that stopped in the Macedonian capital on its way to Belgrade and costed around €12.
My original plans included a visit to Meteora, however, in order to get there I would have had to walk the (snow covered) 400 steps from the ground to the actual monasteries. So for the sake of my tailbone, I decided to skip Meteora and head for the capital of the Former Yugoslavic Republic.
Let’s be honest: I wasn’t sure at all if I made the right decision.
Soon I found out that it was the right thing to do. Skopje was a very pleasant surprise; maybe because I didn’t expect anything great from it, or maybe because there really is something special about the city.
Actually, Skopje is not just a city, it is two:
There’s the Euro-Soviet sector (I made up that name myself), which is located south of river Vardar and hosts most of the baroque, Art Nouveau and Art Deco palaces in town along with the soviet-style Brutalist and Bauhaus apartment buildings. This is the area where most people live and work.
The other part of town, and maybe the most interesting from a traveler’s point of view because of its history and charm, is located north of the river and has a distinct Middle-Eastern flavor.
Skopje’s Turkish neighborhood and bazaar are located north of the modern town and comprise a bunch of small, commercial streets where you can find all kinds of shops selling from leather goods to Tito memorabilia.
The layout and feel of this area is more similar to one of an Anatolian town than to a former socialist European city.
The Turkish sector is complete with mosques and minarets that can be seen from practically all corners. This is also the best area to sip a nice cup of tea or coffee or to eat at budget prices.