Skopje – I had to digest everything before I started to write about it. That is why I am posting now. And you know what? I think I am still processing everything.
Three years ago
We arrived here at dawn, around 4:00, 5:00 in the morning. Me, Daniel and Szymon. I was sleepy after the all-night-long journey from Kosovo and after getting off the bus, I felt like I was dressed in my pyjamas. The morning sun, which was supposed to be new and fresh, was already able to sting us. We left the bus station and headed for the downtown. We ploughed on, reached the centre and our first impression was: WTF? What’s going on?
The downtown had been dug up, the scaffolding was everywhere, there was plenty of rubble along the river bank, some antique buildings were being erected, and in the neigbourhood I coul see shopping centres. Mindfuck.
We took some photos on the construction sites, crossed an old bridge and on the other side of the city we reached a different world.
An old Turkish bazaar (the largest Turkish bazaar outside Turkey), a lot of little shops ans cafes, old charming lanes, shop windows with trinkets and colourful wedding dresses. It was 6 a.m. and we ordered coffee and some food. Some men were sititng at the tables around ours (as I wrote in the entry about Ohrid, it is common to seen men drinking coffee in the morning), they were discussing things and drinking coffee. So slooowly and slooowly.
And I remember it very clearly that I thought:
‘…it is so beautiful here, so blissfully, the time passess so calmly, no one is in hurry to get somewhere, people smile at each other, they have time to talk and moreover, coffee in the pot smells wonderful . I have to come back one day.’
Three years later
I came alone but I was not alone for long becasue on the very first day I met people thanks to whom I have even more nice memories from my stay.
I was very curious what had been created with piles of bricks and tons of concrete.
This time I was speechless. The river bank was in order, the scaffolding was gone; out of nowhere, among shopping centres and blocks of flats, there appeared white arches, buildings and scupltures from the antique 21st century. As a square peg in a round hole. Just like white ancient garden scupltures, only enlargened in a huge scale and stuck in the urban tissue.
It was all within Skopje 2014 project.
Young Macedonians are not pleased with these changes at all. The government is allotting money to such bizzare architecture endeavours, and there is a lack of money for education, new jobs, better roads.
But you know what’s the worst (or the best) part? Despite all these strange buildings and grey streets, I felt special atmosphere of the city. Skopje won’t please everybody. But I like intriguing places.
And now look at this
This is why it’s good to get back.
My first day among dancing people
A few hours after my arrival I scheduled a meeting with Aleksandra (a blogger).
I came half an hour earlier to sit by the fountain (which was not here three years ago), observe the people, have a burek I had been longing to eat (I know it is fatty but whatever) and absorb the city’s atmosphere.
I was sitting on the step by the fountain which changes colours, and on the left there was a new-antique building of the Museum, behind which there was an atmospheric Old Bazaar, whereas on the righ there were modern restaurants. Behind me there was a new-antique sculpture of some people, and not far a huge monument of Alexander the Great.
I happened to come on the ‘White Night’ festival (various cultural events, concerts, exhibitions through the streets). After visiting taverns in Old Bazaar, Aleksandra took me to the Youth Cultural Centre. I saw several exhibitions and artistic installations, I became familiar with some artists.
Then a concert started in front of the building. I was jumping with Macedonians by the stage and I forgot that we spoke different languages. People were smiling, we felt the same rhythm, joyful atmosphere.
I realized that this city was the people and that is why I liked it.
Furthermore, the city was coffee from the pot in Old Bazaar, colourful peppers in the market, bureks, the bridge from the 15th century. There is something intriguing about even those buildings stuck in the city and those grey streets outside the city centre.
I will certainly discover something new when I am back here one day. I hope so.
[If you’re looking for a place to stay in Skopje, check this out: Ivan’s apartment/airbnb]