Chills and Thrills in Skopje

P r e P a r e t o b e s u r P r i s e d b y t h e c a P i t a l o f M a c e d o n i a — t h a t h a s M a n a g e d t o s h r u g o f f i t s f o r M e r y u g o s l a v h a n g o v e r , a n d e M e r g e a s a M o d e r n i s t c i t y r e P l e t e i n

WKND - - Travel Eastern Europe - By An­jaly Thomas

The morn­ing I ar­rived in Skopje, the cap­i­tal of Mace­do­nia, I knew I’d done the right thing. The six­hour bus ride, in­clud­ing border checks at the Ser­bian border, was s mooth; a nd a s beau­tif ul morn­ings go, it was one of the finest. I walked into the cold morn­ing, smil­ing. The mo­ment de­manded it.

Promptly, I hailed a taxi and di­rected it to my ho­tel ( Bushi Re­sort and Spa for me, yes sir!) nestling be­tween the 6th cen­tury Kale Fortress and the Old Town; I saw no sense in loung­ing about the bus sta­tion, pho­tograph­ing a grey sky­line so early in the morn­ing.

By 7.30am, I was ready to ex­plore the fortress that, I was told, was al­ways open and free to visit. From atop the an­cient fort walls, I saw the beau­ti­ful city of Skopje, fanned by na­tional flags flut­ter­ing in the wind ac­com­pa­nied by gen­tle rain show­ers and, of course, the chill that came with it.

I was drenched, but deeply in love.

Fol­low­ing a sat­is­fy­ing break­fast of Mace­do­nian cheese, I ar­rived at the brand- new Mace­do­nia Square ( the Town/ City Cen­tre) after a short but fruit­ful visit to the Old Town mar­ket. The con­trast was stark and I stared till some­how the re­al­ity of Mace­do­nia started to make sense.

Twenty five years ago, Mace­do­nia had peace­fully won in­de­pen­dence from for­mer Yu­goslavia. But how did that tie in with the hugely ex­pen­sive makeover of the Square that I stood star­ing at?

Well, the multi- mil­lion euro makeover that gave the city gi­gan­tic stat­ues was in­tended to HIS­TOR­I­CAL SIGHT: The Old Town bridge at Skopje, Mace­do­nia

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