FACT FILE

WKND - - Travel Eastern Europe -

SOAKING IN THE CITY: 1 View of Skopje from the Kale Fortress 2 A glimpse of Matka Canyon & 4 Old Town sights 5 & 6 Some of the many stat­ues that sprang up as part of the Skopje makeover 7 Sil­ver jew­ellery on dis­play at the Old Mar­ket Turk­ish tea help erase ev­ery trace of so­cial­ism dur­ing Yu­goslavia. De­spite the huge costs of re­shap­ing the other­wise modernist city ( re­built after the 1963 earth­quake), the idea worked and to­day the Mace­do­nia Square is a hub for tourists and res­i­dents alike, boast­ing of mu­se­ums, gov­ern­ment build­ings and Na­tional The­atre re­struc­tured in baroque style. Clearly, re­build­ing is Mace­do­nia’s spe­cialty.

I was par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nated by one statue — of a gi­ant horse­man, which, I was told, was the ‘ War­rior on a Horse’ ( also called ‘ Alexan­der the Great’ in hushed tones). A foun­tain and wa­ter- spout­ing li­ons sur­round­ing the base of this statue com­pleted the mag­nif­i­cent cre­ation. I wasn’t sure what it was meant to represent, but it was im­pres­sive al­right… that and the 40 other mon­u­ments and sculp­tures in­stalled around. Here, cafes and restau­rants abound — packed to ca­pac­ity, buzzing with a very pos­i­tive en­ergy, the kind that is en­dear­ing. The area buzzes with nightlife; it’s also a hot spot for shopa­holics as the city’s two big­gest malls are lo­cated in the vicin­ity.

I walked down the road di­rectly in front of this statue till I came across the Memo­rial House of Mother Teresa. The Saint of Cal­cutta was born here — in a small house in Skopje, al­though she was of Al­ba­nian eth­nic­ity. Mace­do­nians are very proud of this fact, gen­er­ous in say­ing that “Mother Teresa be­longs to the world.”

Be­ing a re­cently con­verted en­thu­si­ast of Euro­pean his­tory, I

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