Skopje, Macedonia

18th September 2016

I flew to Bulgaria with the intent of seeing the Balkans. Bulgaria is a famous country and a lot of people visit there but few visit the rest of the Balkan countries. My plan is to see some of the lesser known countries in Europe. I got to the Sofia central bus station at 8:30, bought a ticket to Skopje and some cold gherkin pizza. Just finding the bus was difficult when all the writing is in Cyrillic but I managed to get on board after some confusion.

My plan was to see what Skopje is like; if it’s nice then see more of the Balkans and if not then head towards Greece. Arriving into Skopje (a place i’ve never heard of until I looked at the map) it was clear I was going to like it.

People in Skopje are super friendly. I got to the Lounge Hostel and it is one of the best hostels i’ve seen in Europe. First impressions of Macedonia are high despite what happened just after checking in…

Concrete jungle stensil - Skopje, Macedonia
Concrete jungle stensil – Skopje, Macedonia

A wobbly start

I was sitting in the hostel sorting my money out, connecting to wifi etc. when something happened. I could hear a noise; some sort of rumble, windows started shaking and the sofa started moving. As I looked up it was obvious what was happening, it was an earthquake.

England is a safe place when it comes to natural disasters so an earthquake is a new experience for me. It was one of the scariest thing’s i’ve experienced and judging by the reactions of some of the others, I wasn’t the only one. Once it stopped a few people from the hostel and I took refuge in a nearby pub garden to settle the nerves.

In the wake of the 5.3 magnitude earthquake there were other smaller tremors. Even tremors are terrifying. You never know if a larger much more dangerous earthquake is on the way. It was a tense 3 days of not knowing what will happen.

Skopje riverside, Macedonia
Skopje riverside, Macedonia

Skopje city

Skopje is an awesome city despite any natural disasters. Staying out of the city center always gives a better view of the city. The area I stayed in had so many restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

Once you get into the city center and closer to the built up areas it changes. It seems like the government are trying to build up the city center into something it’s not. Big grand buildings and oversized statues makes it feel like they are trying to imitate an old city. Trying to invent history in the city.

Over the river from the city center is an old fort and what feels like the “old skopje”. Small streets lined with shops and restaurants give the place character.

Old bazar - Skopje, Macedonia
Old bazar – Skopje, Macedonia

Thoughts on Macedonia

For such a small and unheard of country, Macedonia was awesome. I only visited Skopje but within the first 30 minutes of arriving I had already made my mind up about the country. It’s cheap, they have good food, great weather and nice locals.

My only regret is not taking enough photos of the city so this post probably isn’t the most exciting.

After a few days in the country a few people recommended heading to Kosovo. Just as with Macedonia, I know little about Kosovo so I remain open minded about the country.