My first visit to Skopje was a brief one, and I remember mostly concentrating on the old town, and the fort above the city. Now that I am back, the country has been renamed to North Macedonia after decades long negotiations with the Greeks, and has a big stake in fomenting a sense of national pride. Walking from the old town towards the Stone bridge, you cannot miss the enormous statue of King Philip II, who ruled the region in the 4th century BCE. After his assassination, his son Alexander took over, to become one of the best known ancient kings, greatly expanding the empire he inherited from his father. Below the statue of Philip II, we find a fountain, and various statues of women and children. One of them is pregnant (this must be the first time I see a statue of a pregnant woman), and another depicts a woman with a child in her arms - that must be little Alexander.
Around the bridge, there are several other statues, honouring Saint Clement, the first bishop of Ohrid, and Saint Naum, who translated the scriptures from Greek to Slavonic languages. Across the old bridge, we come across Roman emperor Justinian, and a little further west, an abstract, while sculpture of a woman, surrounded by dirt and graffiti. But the main statue of the city is, inevitably, the one we see on Macedonia Square: the Warrior on a Horse, as it is officially dubbed. It is a public secret, of course, that this is Alexander the Great, watched by his father from across the river. It was all part of a nationalist project of North Macedonia, and subject of heated debate with the Greek neighbours. I now know why I can't recall having seen all these statues around on my previous visit in 2009: the city of Skopje has seen an enormous, frenzied building project that has erected not just statues, but also shiny monuments and a triumphal arch, in a bid to foment nationalist sentiment, amidst a lot of controversy also among the North Macedonians.
We walk to the triumphal arch, and on to the small Woman Warrior park right next door, where we find not only a statue for the Woman Warrior, mounted high above four horses, with a golden statue in front of it, and several others, for World War II heroes and others. As we had seen around the stone bridge, we notice that while the statues look impressive from a distance, they are falling apart, sometimes have graffiti over them, and are surrounded by waste. One thing is to erect all these monuments, yet another to actually maintain them. On our walk through the city, we come across many more statues: Mother Theresa, tzars, whole lines of statues of historic figures on new bridges spanning the Vardar river, on top of buildings, on corners of streets: everywhere! It just makes you wonder how many heroes a country can have to commemorate.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Skopje statues (North Macedonia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Skopje statues. Read more about this site.