15 Lessons I’ve Learned While Traveling in Macedonia

Macedonia definitely took a big place in my heart when traveling there. From all the Balkan countries, Macedonia felt for me the most welcoming and friendly by places, people, and prices. Since I love not only to see main places but also find out some random (and not really) facts and stories about destinations I’ve traveled to, I am going to continue with my lessons learned (as previously wrote about Barcelona) which can definitely help you to prepare for your next backpacking. Traveling in Macedonia starts now!

1. You can find Berlin, UK, New York, and Paris at the same time in Skopje

Well, Skopje got the best out of all. Monument to Fallen Heroes of Macedonia very much reminds Brandenburg gate as well as Porta Macedonia looks pretty similar to Arc de Triomphe. When traveling to Skopje, don’t forget to check out the Macedonian bull very close to the main square (however, not in front of any stock exchange) and get a ride on a red double-decker

2. Maybe if I will do something nice, Skopje will build a statue also for me.

In order to make the city pretty, Macedonia spent a lot of time and money in order to build a lot of statues. And by a lot, I mean REALLY A LOT. Some of them are quite interesting, some doesn’t make any sense. Yet gives this city its charm. The project supported by the government was called «Skopje 2014» and the aim was to build a new modern city. However, it got a lot of criticism about not well-invested money. There is even a whole website about how the spent that money, what they have built, in a very structured way!

Many statues in Skopje
Many statues in Skopje

3. Macedonian people are very hospitable

Or maybe we just met a lot of people like this during our backpacking in Macedonia. But we got few times entrances to some museums for free, two out hosts from Airbnb were just simply amazing because they spent with us hours drinking coffee and giving some tips about the places plus a glimpse of history. Maybe these people want to express their gratitude, which is really great to admire.

4. Want to buy an elevator in Skopje?

On the free walking tour (which I definitely recommend visiting if you are backpacking in Skopje) the guide showed us a store called DAKA which sells … elevators. Well, I guess not so many to be found, but pretty fun to see that they can produce you an elevator with some animation in case you don’t want to be bored or different lights and colors in that. Just 25 thousand dollars and it’s yours.

elevetors shop in Skopje
Elevetors shop in Skopje

5. 5:17 of 26 July – the Earthquake in Skopje

I might admit that I had no idea about what happened with Skopje in 1963. There was a devastating earthquake that destroyed about 80% of the place. Hit by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake, more than 1,000 people were killed and several thousand more wounded. Up until now, they got a great reminder about this terrifying situation – the part of the old railway station which has a clock on it. The clock always shows 5:17 – the time when the earthquake has started. Also inside of that station, they have a nice free entrance museum explaining all that happened during that time.

6. Skopje is a world solidarity city

However, this terrible earthquake causes Skopje to become a city of solidarity because that time 78 countries got united in order to help to rebuild the city together. Such international cooperation seems to be impossible today, however, that time it helped a lot. Nowadays many streets in Skopje carry names of capital cities of the countries that donated help to Macedonia.

7. Protest of an artist

There is a legend that the Prometheus in the statue complex «Monument to Fallen Heroes of Macedonia» in Skopje got “dressed” after an anonymous female non-governmental organization filed a complaint even though an artist who’ve made it didn’t plan to do it at first. As a protest, an artist made a sad face on that sculpture. Well, at least he tried to show his opinion.

Monument to Fallen Heroes of Macedonia in Skopje
Monument to Fallen Heroes of Macedonia in Skopje

8. Get some Ottoman atmosphere in the Old Bazaar in Skopje

Which is actually the second biggest Ottoman bazaar of its kind in Europe after Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. This Old Bazaar definitely can be called the heart of Skopje: during past times it was the main economic and merchant center. Up until now, there are many shops, cafes, and restaurants, however, it got much more modernized and touristic. You will definitely love it when visiting Skopje!

9. The colorful revolution took place here as well

In 2016 the president of Macedonia decided to pardon 56 people accused of heavy crimes. That decision massively met with a huge revolt on social media and very soon came as protests on the streets. Since the government was building a lot of new monuments and sculptures in Skopje, people decided to show their protest by attacking these monuments with balloons filled with colored paint.  In this act, they transformed these symbols of power into symbols of their uprising. I don’t want to get too much into politics but I loved the way how the people showed their opinion yet still didn’t get into violence in the streets of Skopje.

10. The real Balkan lunch in Skopje

Backpacking in Macedonia or any other Balkan country, don’t forget to treat yourself with a typical Balkan lunch (at least it is very typical for us while traveling). We usually order 2 types of traditional meat: cevapcici and pleskavica, then depending from the portions, usually it includes some pita bread, sometimes they already include French fries there, sometimes not, but we like that combination (moreover in usual Balkan restaurants it is very hard to find some other side dishes, like rice for example), also some fresh sopsky salad is a very good go with this combination. In Macedonia, there is one more traditional dish called «tavce grave» which is mainly baked beans with some vegetables. HEAVEN!

The real Balkan lunch in Skopje
The real Balkan lunch in Skopje

11. Is it really North Macedonia now?

For a very long time, Macedonia was dealing with Greece regarding different historical aspects. One of them was the dispute about the country name since Greece also has a region which is called Macedonia. With that, they as members of NATO and EU were blocking North Macedonian membership there until the name dispute was resolved. In February 2019 Macedonia finally renamed itself to North Macedonia, however, most of the citizens didn’t get to be very happy with the decision made. All the passports and official documents were changed as well as the names of buildings and official places. «Imagine, it has been changed even in our national poems and some of them have lost their rhymes because of that», – told us our free walking tour guide. We will see what will happen next and if with that North Macedonia will finally get a place in EU some soon time.

12. Is Alexander the Great truly Macedonian?

As I was mentioning the conflict between Greece and Macedonia, this is just one more point to argue about. After Skopje called their airport Alexander Macedonian airport, there were a lot of discussions about the origin of Alexander and blaming Macedonia since historically the land where Alexander started his crusade is now part of Greece. However since nobody can prove 100% the history, there will be always some arguments.

Is Alexander the Great truly Macedonian
Is Alexander the Great truly Macedonian?

13. Macedonia is one of the cheapest from Balkan countries (and Europe in general)

As we have traveled already in many Balkan countries, my stereotype about «cheap Balkans» got very much destroyed after traveling to Croatia for example. However, Macedonia is very welcoming by prices: you can get a very good meatish lunch for just around 4 euros. Even when we went to some «fancy healthy» restaurant, we paid a maximum of 5 euros for a dish. And again, HEAVEN!

14. But definitely needs to work more on transportation options

I definitely recommend you to visit Matka Canyon which is just a few kilometers far from Skopje. Matka Canyon offers very beautiful nature and many good hiking spots. However, we were a bit surprised that the buses from Skopje to Matka Canyon are not going that often (approximately once per 2 hours) and the worst thing is that the bus going BACK is going from completely another stop, which is much farther than the one you went out from Matka Canyon. Plus it is very hard to find, too. Check out this article to find out more info about the transportation to Matka Canyon.

15. Macedonia will definitely make you want to come back

With all the people around you and things happened here, you definitely feel that this country got a lot to see and show to others. In good warm weather, it’s a pleasant time to spend in Macedonia with good food options. Not surprisingly I can say, that Macedonia is for me a destination to come back once!

PS1: Let me know in the comments if you’ve traveled to Macedonia and what you liked in Macedonia the most!

PS2: If you like to read about our learnings in different countries and about different cultures, continue to one of the following articles:

15 Lessons I’ve Learned While Traveling in Barcelona

15 Lessons I’ve Learned While Traveling in Bosnia and Hercegovina

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