Day 115 : Rollin' with the Big Dog

Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
Trip End Mar 23, 2011

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Where I stayed
Villa la Fiddy Centro

Flag of Macedonia  ,
Thursday, July 15, 2010

With limited text in our guide books, and absolutely no preconceptions of this city, visiting Skopje was quite simply an amazing experience that we had not expected at all.  Whilst in strictly aesthetically terms it may not match some of Europe's other capitals (although we did note some beautiful inter-mixed architecture), this city was brimming with a fantastic atmosphere and excitement in the air.

Wandering the streets was mesmerising (as well as slightly dizzying in the 43 degree heat), and we were drawn towards the market place which was one of the most filled and noisy we'd seen to date. Beautiful fresh produce, being given a bunch of free tomatoes and mixing it with the locals was a great experience which ended with one stall owner correctly guessing I was Malaysian. As in Serbia, and the rest of the Balkans, it was not uncommon to have random people yell out a mixture of "Japany", "Kina",and "Thailand" at me and Ann whilst walking around - Whilst his guess was impressive, my favourite to date has been being called Jamaican. Another highlight of our foray here was a confused Turkish kebab shop owner asking me quizzically "what is falafel?" whilst we were on the hunt for vegetarian options.

On to the fortress ruins, and wandering around even further, we managed to get slightly lost looking for one of the cities main buildings. Asking a rather well-dressed, but older gentleman was a risk in terms of the potential language barrier, but this proved to be a master-stroke as we managed to approach the head Imam of the city (and thus country) for directions. Not only did he oblige, but we got a personal tour as he told us the story of his family (both his sons were professors in America - hence the above-average English he spoke), the history of Skopje and the way in which the many cultures and two main religions (Christianity and Islam) peacefully mix here (something the city truly benefits from, as it is this inter-mashing which makes it so astounding). 

Having the Imam's tales interrupted every few minutes by merchants and locals giving him well-wishes and salutations only enriched the experience. Parting ways as he was due to lead the mid-afternoon prayers, we then found ourselves in a Turkish coffee house which for around 30 cents each provided the tastiest "cuppa" we'd had for a long, long while (and at a fifth of the cost).

With our caffeine and culture hits thoroughly satisfied we headed off down south to see Macedonia's holiday and party destination - Lake Ohrid.
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