SKOPJE – THE CAPITAL CITY OF NORTH MACEDONIA
Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. The City lies in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, at the crossroad of important communications, a city with a 2000-year-old tradition. Skopje is a modern city with a population of almost one million and presents Macedonia’s major political, economic, educational and cultural centre. It continues to be a focus for new residents, economic development, construction and refurbishment. Skopje’s urban area extends across the Skopje valley for approximately 30 kilometres (18.75 mi) in width and comprises 10 municipalities.
SKOPJE REVIEW ACCORDING TO LONELY PLANET
Skopje has plenty of charm. Its Ottoman- and Byzantine-era sights are focused around the city’s delightful Old Bazaar, bordered by the 15th-century Stone Bridge and the Kale Fortress – Skopje’s guardian since the 5th century. Don’t miss the excellent eating and drinking scene in Debar Maalo, a lovely tree-lined neighbourhood.
For most of its existence, Skopje has been a modest Balkan city known for its rich local life, but the last decade has seen its centre transformed into bizarre set design for an ancient civilisation. Towering warrior statues, gleaming, enormous neoclassical buildings, marble-clad museums, hypnotic mega fountains…and plenty of lions. This is the result of a controversial, nationalistic project called ‘Skopje 2014’ implemented by ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
PLACES TO VISIT (RECOMMENDATIONS BY LONELY PLANET)
The following places are going to be visited through the various activities during the European Conference:
- Skopje Old Bazaar – is Skopje’s hillside Ottoman old town, evoking the city’s past with its winding lanes filled with teahouses, mosques, craftspeople’s shops, and even good nightlife. It also boasts Skopje’s best historic structures and a handful of museums and is the first place any visitor should head. The conference hotel venue is just inside the Old Bazaar.
- Kale Fortress – Dominating the skyline of Skopje, this Game of Thrones–worthy, 6th-century AD Byzantine (and later, Ottoman) fortress is an easy walk up from the Old Bazaar and its ramparts offer great views over the city and river. Inside the ruins, two mini museums were being built at the time of writing to house various archaeological finds from Neolithic to Ottoman times.
- Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of North Macedonia- The mirrored-glass entrance is bizarrely unwelcoming, but once inside this is a moving museum with fascinating displays that commemorate the all-but-lost Sephardic Jewish culture of North Macedonia through a range of photos, English-language wall texts, maps and video. The exhibition documents the Jewish community’s history in the Balkans, ending in WWII when some 98% of Macedonian Jews perished in the Holocaust.
- Cifte Amam – The Čifte Amam is a beautiful old Ottoman hammam (Turkish bath), now sometimes used as a temporary exhibition space under the stewardship of the National Gallery of Macedonia.
- Canyon Matka – Early Christians, ascetics and revolutionaries picked a sublime spot when they retreated into the hills here from Ottoman advances: the setting is truly reverential. Matka means ‘womb’ in Macedonian and the site has a traditional link with the Virgin Mary. Churches, chapels and monasteries have long been guarded by these forested mountains, though most have now been left to rack and ruin. Many of the modern-day villages in this area are majority Macedonian Albanian Muslim, though the population is sparse.
Skopje is nowadays occupied by numerous grandiose buildings and infrastructure sights that were set up as part of the project Skopje 2014. “The project had two main aims: to draw in more tourists and to try to reclaim aspects of the country’s history from neighbouring Greece, appealing to the patriotism of many ethnic Macedonians. It has cost somewhere between €200-€500m (depending on who you talk to) and has resulted in a completely new-look city centre.“ The corruption stories that emerged from the start of this project were also the fuel to start numerous civic activism movements and protest for the government to be accountable for spending the public resources on the new buildings and monuments and to completely vanish the original appearance of the city.
North Macedonia has some remarkable architecture points to be associated with the former Yugoslavia. Recently, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York hosted the exhibition “Towards Concrete Utopia- Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980“ that exhibited some of the buildings that you will be able to see in Skopje such as the Telecommunication Center building, Student Dormitory blocks or National Television building.
CUSINE AND DRINKS
Macedonian cuisine an aspect of Balkan cuisine, is the traditional cuisine of North Macedonia. It reflects Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences and shares characteristics of other Balkan cuisines. The relatively warm climate of the country provides excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits. Macedonian cuisine is also noted for the diversity and quality of its dairy products, wines, and local alcoholic beverages, such as rakija.
Tavče gravče and mastika are considered the national dish and drink of North Macedonia. Embrace yourself for plenty of good food offered at PTPI’s EU Conference.
PEACE THROUGH UNDERSTANDING IN A NAME CHANGE
In the Republic of North Macedonia, many people still trip over their tongues, trying to get used to what they must now call their country.