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Macedonia: Skopje

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Skopje > Macedonia > Europe

[Visited: August 2009]

The history of Skopje is going back thousands of years, but the city is mostly interesting because of the many different cultures present. With only one day to spend in the city, we decided to concentrate on the old part of Skopje. Walking along the Vardar river that runs through the city, we crossed the landmark Stone Bridge, or Kamen Most - which is probably the best way to do so. This bridge might well symbolize Skopje: it was built in the 15th century, in the Ottoman era, and now links the modern Macedonia Square to the old city. The bridge was the scene of executions, it has survived earthquakes that caused great damage on the city, as well as destructive wars. But there it still is, in the middle of the city, proudly linking the two sides of Skopje across the Vardar river.

Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Stone Bridge or Kamen Most allowing access to the old city

Once across, you directly see what makes Skopje fascinating: on the right hand, you see Daud Pasha and Cifte Amam, former Turkish baths that have been turned into modern art galleries, while on the left you see late 19th century orthodox Sveti Dimitrija church. Continue to walk, and you will start cruising the old Turkish bazaar. From this point onwards, I felt more and more like I was walking in some Middle Eastern city. The sounds and smells, the way people dressed, and of course the minarets towering above the old city: I had not expected to come across this atmosphere in the capital of Macedonia. We visited the Sveti Spas church: a special one, as the Ottomans did not allow Christians to construct churches higher than the mosques in the city.

Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Skopje skyline with minarets

Apart from an impressive interior of the below-the-ground church, with some amazingly beautiful icons, we also saw the tomb of the national hero of Macedonia: Goce Delcev, who fought and died for Macedonian independence in the early 20th century. The wooden belltower gives the opportunity of close-up views over the old city. From here, we continued walking the streets of the old city, but unfortunately the shops were closed for the day and were pretty quiet. We saw several mosques, of which the most important one, Mustafa Pasha, was unfortunately closed for reconstruction works. Instead, we saw Gazi Issa Bey mosque, which has some elegant tombstones in its garden. A friendly guy guided us around just before prayer started. From here, we returned to walk through the compact city centre of Skopje, and walked up to the fortress or Kale. While looking good from below, the condition of the fortress inside was disappointing. Reconstruction seems to be going on, and sure enough, digging through around 6,000 years of history is not easy. It is just a shame: this place could be so much nicer still. What does not change, of course, is that the views over the bazaar as well as the modern city are the best anywhere in Skopje.

Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Detail of the Sveti Dimitrija church
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Orthodox Sveti Dimitrija seen from the inside
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Domes of the Cifte Amam, now an art gallery, formerly Turkish baths
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Tombstones in the garden of Gazi Issa Bey mosque
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Late afternoon sunlight over Mustafa Pasha mosque
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Historical city centre of Skopje: part of the bazaar
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Old city walls looking out over modern Skopje
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Sultan Murat mosque has a distinctive red-topped clock tower
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Tvrdina Kale Fortress with wall and tower
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Sveti Spas belltower with tomb of national hero Goce Delcev
Picture of Skopje (Macedonia): Typical street in Skopje city centre

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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