If I were to break it down to two things that stood out for me during my visit to the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje; the amount of prominent statues that line the streets, and the amount of friendly stray dogs, who made me part of their pack. I do like statues and I do like dogs, and I really did like Skopje.
Video Watch – The stray dogs of Skopje
On the more serious note, Skopje was a wonderful city to visit with a great old bazaar, rich and delicious cuisine, and a vibrant atmosphere. I enjoyed walking the streets of the various neighborhoods, and learning about its history as well as its present. If you plan on traveling to the Balkans then visiting Skopje and North Macedonia, should be up there on your list.
I had taken a free walking tour of Skopje, which gave me a feel for the city, as well as becoming part of the dog pack that followed us through the streets. Having all of those friendly pooches of all sizes accompanying us, stopping where we stopped, then picking up and going with us again was unforgettable. Oh and yes, there were some interesting sites along the way!
If in Skopje, definitely take the free walking tour, but if you do not here is a list of the city’s most interesting and popular locations. I also added another blog of what I ate in North Macedonia, for those who love a city’s food scene- Enjoy!
Memorial House of Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was well known for being one of the most humane women in the world, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She has been the only person of Macedonia to win it, and the country has paid respects to this remarkable woman by building a Memorial House, which opened on January 30, 2009
Mother Teresa, an Indian-Albanian Catholic nun, was born in present day Skopje on August 26, 1910. Although she was considered very compassionate with her missionary work in India, Mother Teresa was also controversial during her life, and after her death. She was both criticized and praised on her views of contraception and abortion, as well as criticized on the bad conditions of her homes for the dying.
If we concentrate on the positive, Mother Teresa founded a missionary, which grew to have over 4,500 nuns, who were active in 133 countries. The Roman Catholic Religious Congregation managed homes for those who were dying of leprosy, tuberculous, and AIDS/ HIV. The congregation ran soup kitchens, children’s and family programs, mobile clinics, schools, and orphanages.
The Memorial House in Skopje offers a personal look at Mother Teresa, from her childhood life in Skopje, and into her years spent as a charitable missionary. Then up to her death and beatification.
There are numerous items in the memorial house that illustrate daily life in old Skopje; clothes, furniture, silver and gold work. Also on display are Mother Teresa’s white sari with blue stripes, her official habit, and authorized copies of her handwritten documents and awards.
National Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Republic of North Macedonia is the oldest of its kind in the country, and has existed for close to a century. Inside there is a permanent exhibition containing over 7000 artifacts of regional inhabitants, to understand their spiritual culture and materials used from early prehistory, until the end of the Ottoman Empire.
The museum is located on the left bank of the Vardar river. It is next to the Old Stone Bridge, which is one of Skopje’s most treasured landmarks.
Mother Teresa House Markings
In the heart of Skopje there are gold markings of where Mother Teresa’s childhood home once stood. I cannot honestly tell you where they were because I just took a photo, and kept walking with the tour. If you are interested on seeing the markings, you can always ask your guide or personnel at the Mother Teresa House.
I have always enjoyed a European city’s “Old Town”, and have written about many. It was not until I started travelling into the Balkans and the Middle East, was when I found a new love for “Old Bazaars”.
The Old Bazaar of Skopje is one of the largest and oldest marketplaces in the Balkans. Since at least the 12th century, it has been the city’s central location for trade and commerce. This neighborhood is rich in the city’s culture and history, with Ottoman and Byzantine architecture, active mosques, two churches, a clocktower, shops, and cafes that serve delicious baklava!
The memorial arch, Porta Macedonia, is located on Pella Square and was opened in 2012. It was dedicated to the 20 years of Macedonian independence, and depicts scenes from the history of Macedonia.
This arch has been a controversial subject with locals due to its high cost of 4.4 million EUR. It was designed to compliment the almost equally expensive statue of “Alexander the Great” in Skopje’s central square, which was erected a year prior. It was thought that Porta Macedonia would encourage tourism, all the while the Greek Foreign ministry filed an official complaint. The complaint made to the authorities in Republic of Macedonia was for featuring images of historical figures like “Alexander the Great”.
Kale – Skopje Fortress
Kale, the Skopje Fortress, is a historic landmark located in the city’s Old Town. It is situated along the highest point in Skopje, and overlooks the Vadara River. Considering that I have an interest for fortresses and castles, I found Kale fascinating. Skopje Fortress is a fortified city, built with very strong and sturdy double walls.
The original fortress was built in the 6th century AD, and constructed from yellow limestone and travertine. The current fortress is thought to have been built until the 10th and 11th century, but not much is known about this medieval complex. There are only a few documents regarding Kale, and what is written are minor characteristics in the fortress’ appearance.
As a person who appreciates, wine and liquor from different regions of the world, I was elated when our guide offered us rakija. We were taking a break form our walking tour, sitting inside a restaurant in the Old Bazaar, when a glass pitcher filled with a dark amber spirit made an appearance. It was poured into small glasses, and I had one shot, then another- since they were offering!
If you are offered rakija and are good with alcohol especially spirits, then you are in for a treat. Rakija is a brandy made with fermented fruit and can be quite strong. Most liquors in this region can have an alcohol content of 40%, so a little glass will go a long way. Macedonians love their rakija and take pride of it as a vital part of their culture, identity, and way of life.
Walking around Skopje, you will certainly find many places to shop since it a large urban city. For myself, I kept my shopping for gifts and little trinkets to the Old Bazaar. Here you can find everything from post cards, magnets to locally made artisan objects. Although like in any city, make sure your items are made locally, and not massed produced from China.
Old Stone Bridge
Skopje’s stone bridge that crosses the Vadar River is considered a symbol of the city. There is a main element on the bridge, a coat of arms of the city, which in turn is incorporated into the city flag. It is located at the center of Skopje, and connects Macedonia Square to the Old Bazaar.
The current bridge was constructed between 1451 and 1490, over Roman foundations. Most of the bridge has origins from the Ottoman period, although over the centuries there has been evidence of renovations due to damages and an earthquake. It is a magnificent looking bridge built of solid stone blocks, and is supported by columns connected with several semi-circles.
I had better luck in Skopje finding interesting food other than tourist, trendy, snack food or sandwiches. The foods were quite heavy and high caloric which is made to sustain a person for the whole day. That was fine for me because I needed it for the whole day.
My food journal, which covers three Balkan countries: Albania, North Macedonia, and Kosovo. What I ate in the BALKANS – Part 2 – A Food Journal
Skopje’s Stray Dogs
The city’s stray dog situation for people could be frightening or a no-go do to allergies. For me, I was fine with it and actually loved it, although I did not pet the dogs or let them lick me. All of the strays that we came across, who walked with us, and we had become a temporary pack were lazy and kind. Although that does not mean you should not be careful when approaching the dogs.
The city government has a catch-and-release policy, for both adult dogs and puppies. For the puppies, they will hold on to them until someone adopts them, but if not they are released into the streets after treatments. All dogs who are ear tagged have been vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
Statues and Fountains of Skopje
I am not born for one corner. The whole world is my native land…
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