So surprisingly…Macedonia is not the actual Macedonia according to the Greeks, which they claim is located in the north of Greece (around the Thessaloniki area). Its the reason Macedonia officially has to be called FYROM (Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia) – to appease the Greeks who currently bar its entry into the European Union.
To the Macedonians however, it doesn’t matter whose history it is, its the Marbo/Vibe of it. Sure…the slavic people didn’t arrive in the Balkan peninsular till around the 6th Century AD after the time of Alexander the Great but he was an inspiring guy so why not have him as your hero?
And why stop there? Its seems like the theme of Skopje’s right bank is: ‘See something cool abroad? Get one for yourself’. As such the right bank of Skopje feels like a bit like an Las Vegas Disneyland featuring a greatest hits of Europe’s sculptures. Here they have built their own Arch de Triumph, their own wall street bull, their own comic book styled pirate ships that sit in its shallow river, their statues galore of Greek heroes and gods, spent €250,000 importing 3 weeping willows from New Zealand to place in the middle of its river, are just about to start construction on their own Spanish steps and have adopted a modern baroque style that is not their own. If you’re a theme park enthusiast like myself you’ll likely find it hilarious and love it. If you’re a historian, you’ll probably be deeply offended.
That is just one half of the city however, the left bank of the river stands in stark contrast to the right – in a way it feels bi-polar. Here you will step into a deeply ottoman themed district, which actually does play a role in its history, complete with the the second largest bazaar in Europe behind Istanbul. You will find fortress ruins. You will find the Holy Saviour Orthodox church which featured the most impressively carved iconostasis we’ve seen anywhere in Europe. You will find a plethora of family run restaurants offering the local cuisine at a reasonable price.
Finally one of the little known facts about Skopje is that this was the birthplace and city of residence (until she was 18) of Mother Teresa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a Saint (as of later this year), who spent most of her time helping the needy in India. In Skopje you will be able to visit a free museum built upon the site which she was baptised and the outline of he birthplace just off the main town square. This history is not made up.