Early in the morning we took a Wizzair flight from Turku to Skopje, North Macedonia. In Turku it was cold and raining, so we were dressed quite warm. I had my warmest sweater on and a windproof coat on top of it. Martin was wearing his most Winter clothes by Argentinian standards: a sweater and a jacket.
When we arrived to the airport of Skopje and went out of the plane we were hit by a wave of burning-hot air. +36 degrees felt like hell after +13C in Finland.
We headed to the passport control hoping it would not take long. We were looking forward to the moment when we could change our clothes to something more suitable. However, it took awhile until we managed to do that.
We didn’t have a ticket out of North Macedonia. Most likely it was the reason that we were stopped at the passport control and separated from others. Passports we didn’t get back until we answered all the questions that North Macedonian customs officers had.
They asked us where we were from, what we were going to do in Skopje, when we are leaving. Also they asked about our jobs and some other general questions. I can’t say it was something outrageous, but we felt a bit worried. Mainly because they were retaining our passports.
Balkan countries are a quite new region to us. We didn’t know what to expect, and this was a little bit worrying.
Luckily, once we answered all questions, the officers let us go. It was just on time to pick up our luggage that was already on the baggage carousel.
Getting to the city
We bought a transfer from the airport to the city center online. However, we could not find a counter with the company we used at the airport hall. There was only one section for bus tickets, and it was empty. We asked someone where we could find the bus stop and followed the instructions.
Outside the airport, on the right side from the exit there was a shuttle bus, but no signs of the company we used. We decided to ask the staff of the bus if they knew where we could find our shuttle, because we expected to see a bus of this company. The controller saw our tickets and said “Ok, get in”.
We were surprised. Our tickets costed twice cheaper than the price they announced to the coming people. Without further asking we just got on board.
The bus was almost full. We were lucky to get two seats in the back side. The final destination was not clear, so we were following our route the offline Google maps.
When the bus reached the train station of Skopje, most of people started to go out there. We thought it was our station too and almost left the bus. Someone told us that the route will go through the city center which is the next stop, so we got back in and left the bus there.
The apartment we rented was around 3 km away from the station and we had to walk there. It was sunny and hot, we were a bit overheated. On the way we exchanged US Dollars to the local currency – Denars (MKD). 50 USD was equal to approximately 2500 MKD. We shortly checked the prices on the way, and it seemed quite enough for the first time.
Around 40 minutes later we have finally reached out apartment. Our host welcomed us and let us in. He showed the place and gave some valuable recommendations on where to go.
This time we were really lucky with the apartment. It was freshly new and had almost everything we needed. The only thing that was missing was a washing machine. However, it was quite typical for an apartment on Airbnb in North Macedonia to not have a washer. Other than that, everything was great.
We had a bus station two minutes from where we lived. There was only one bus (route 57) and it went to the city center. To get there it took just several stops. There were several shopping centres in our area, supermarkets and some cafes where locals like to go. To us the location was great.
General impression of Skopje
We had a full week to enjoy the capital of North Macedonia. Before coming there we had zero expectations. We had no idea what we could find there. In the end, what we have seen surprised us pleasantly.
The centre of the capital was renovated in the frames of Skopje 2014 Project. Most of the buildings we saw were brand new, but they were made looking antique. Opinions on this project are different.
We could agree, that at some point you get overwhelmed with the amount of statues, monuments and buildings raised in the city centre. However, I can’t say it looks bad. To me it was nice, even though a bit too much.
Places to chill out
The best part to chill out in the evening is the river bank and the main square. There are dozens of restaurants and cafes in the area. Everyone can find something for their taste and budget. We particularly liked the Bridge of Art. It looks really nice!
The city centre is full of people at any time. Kids like this places mainly for the fountains where they can run and play. In the evening the water is lit in bright colors what makes this place even more attractive for children and their parents.
The main symbol of Skopje is the Stone Bridge. It connects the main square and the Old Market.
We read somewhere that the Old Market closes at 3 pm, so we usually tried to come there before this time. However, once we got late and found out that only some store close at this hour. Many places are open until late.
The Old Market of Skopje is good for antique things, clothes, jewelry and eating out. To buy fruit and vegetables there is a separate market, right at the exit of the Old Market on the opposite side from the Stone Bridge.
To us peaches in North Macedonia were the best we ever ate. They were sweet, juicy and cheap. We bought kilos of them eating several a day each.
The prices can vary at the market, so it is better to check them all before buying. We found peaches with a two times difference in price at the market. In the end we bought them at 25 MKD per kg which is 0.40 EUR or 29 RUB.
We also got in the week of sales in Skopje. In the supermarket close to our apartment there was a big garage sale. What was unusual is the format of displaying things. They were basically occupying the halls and corridors of the mall.
We broke a toaster and found a replacement for it at a very good price. Lucky us!
Churches and mosques
Two main religions of North Macedonia are Orthodox Christianity and Islam. For this there are quite many churches and mosques. The latter we didn’t dare to take pictures of from the inside as we felt a bit uncomfortable doing it. People take religion really serious there, so we decided to just enjoy them from the outside.
Orthodox churches were mostly empty when we entered them. They looked really nice inside.
The main Orthodox Church of North Macedonia is the Church of St. Clement of Ohrid. It looks quite unusual from the outside to me as Russian. The churches in Russia look differently. Anyway, this church was beautiful both from the outside and inside.
There was only one woman inside, she worked there. We saw an open door somewhere else and decided to check it. Usually, there is a lower level in a church with another hall. That’s what we saw. It was completely dark, but interesting.
Wherever I go I always look for some interesting pieces of street art. I found some in Skopje, too.
Sculptures are also essential for the image of city, and there were plenty of them in Skopje. I already mentioned some. However, not only new-antique statues drew our attention. This one, for example, looked quite nice:
There are many places to visit in the capital of North Macedonia. They deserve a separate post that will be released later. For now I hope it was enough to give you a common impression of the city.
Leaving the capital of North Macedonia
We bought a bus ticket to Ohrid at the bus station several days in advance. The owner of our apartment in Skopje has kindly let us check-out a bit later, because our bus was at around 4 p.m.
We arrived at the station an hour before departure. To not miss our bus or train we always prefer to come earlier and wait at the station. From the previous visit we saw that there was a free Wi-Fi shared at a kiosk with snacks and other stuff. We tried to connect to it, but it didn’t work. The employee of the kiosk said she could not help with it. So we just waited in the hall until our bus arrived.
The waiting hall is quite small and there is basically nothing to do. We were quite happy when the bus finally arrived and we could get on board. Our travel continued.
We liked Skopje a lot. People were nice, food was delicious, prices were more than acceptable. We highly recommend this place to visit.
See you in the next post!