Macedonia

17. August 2015 | categories: Travel

After a few days in Greece I arrive in Skopje on Friday, July 17th. As the weather is extremely hot, I take a taxi to Hostel Kalonis. The young nice lady at the reception desk welcomes me and shows me the air-conditioned room. (Later it turns out that she also studies political science in her master’s degree.

In the evening I walk into the city centre and take care of myself in a restaurant. Before dinner I meet four young women from Zurich, one of whom is studying with me. A colleague of them is getting married in Skopje.

“Skopje Walks” and the story of the earthquake

The next day I set off for Mother Theresa Square. The Free City Tour “Skopje Walks”. Miha, a nearly 50-year-old Macedonian, shows me and the other tourists the city in four hours.

We visit the Mother Theresa Chapel (Mother Theresa was born in Skopje), the former railway station (now a museum), the river with bridges, about 1000 statues scattered all over the city, the mosque and the ruins of the castle. Miha also tells us a lot about the earthquake of 1963 and its consequences.

A severe earthquake struck Skopje in the summer of 1963. 80 percent of the city was razed to the ground and over 1070 people lost their lives. After the earthquake, the whole world helped to rebuild Skopje. For example, the Dutch built the (drinking) water system, the English gave them London buses and the Japanese helped them to build houses earthquake-proof. (According to Miha, they would now withstand an earthquake of the Richter scale 9.7! The earthquake of 1963 has a value between six and seven.

Three trees in the river and the “old” buildings

At the river Miha showed us the three trees that the president would have bought for a quarter of a million euros. It is a mystery to all the people of Skopje why the trees were so expensive. One would have gotten this with the ship for 8000 Euro or with the airplane for 25000 Euro. Although one of the trees is almost dead (and it was already dead on arrival), everyone says it is extremely beautiful. You’re afraid the President might appoint a new president. The money would now really need the country for more important things.

Many of the buildings are built in the old style. However, they were only six years old. The triumphal arch was only four years old and no one had yet found the answer as to why they had one. Macedonia has never been able to celebrate a triumph in history, it has been constantly conquered by others.

At lunchtime we are invited to a shot (or a fruit juice) and a Cevapcici. After dinner we walk up to the castle ruins at 44° Celsius. Finally we visit the oriental market. I spend the afternoon in the hostel because of the heat.

Matka Lake

On Sunday I make a trip to Matka Lake. The lake is about 40 minutes away by bus from Skopje. While waiting for the bus I meet two young Dutchmen who also want to go to the Matka. After arriving at the lake, they ask me if I want to go hiking with them. After a meal at the lake we set off on our way.

The path leads along the river and is quite safe at the beginning. Later the path becomes a little more dangerous, but for me as an experienced hiker despite the sandals no problem. The landscape is extremely beautiful. After about 90 minutes we find a possibility to go down to the river and refresh ourselves in the lake (around 8-12° Celsius cold). After a comfortable reading break we walk back again.

Back at the bus station, local residents point out to us that the bus should not be allowed to travel backwards any more because of the large number of cars and that it would have to turn around about two kilometres further ahead. Since we would have missed the bus and the next one would have been more than two hours later, we take a taxi back to the city for 500 denarii (approx. eight euros).

The next day I sleep in and take the bus to Pristina. In Pristina a taxi will take me to the hostel for three euros. (continued)