7-9 July, 2011
For you Trabant lovers out there (and I know there is at least one) I spotted a doozie today. Pics later, but don’t cheat, keep reading first!
Macedonia (along with Serbia and Kosovo) is another land-locked country which has a claim on the title of “heart of the Balkans”.
I am in Skopje (or Shkup in Albanian, as I discovered when trying unsuccessfully to find it listed as a destination at the bus station in Prishtina) the capital city of Macedonia (or is it FYROM?). When Macedonia split off from Yugoslavia and declared independence (peacefully, like Montenegro) the proposed name was greeted with outrage in Greece. The reason is that the historic land of Macedonia in the time of Alxander the Great (who conquered the world, as far as India, several centuries B.C.) also comprises an area in northern Greece. Greece feared that the new nation had designs on that area (which Macedonia denies). A temporary compromise was reached by calling the nation Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), making the border absolutely clear. The U.N. (as well as Australia I think) uses that name officially, but I will use the name Macedonia as an abbreviation to mean FYROM. The other issue that got up Greece’s nose the other day was the unveiling of a statue of Alexander the Great in Skopje. I am not sure why. Alexander was not a Slav (they only entered the Balkans in the 6-7th century AD), but he was born in this area. See pic of (yet another) guy on a horse. It is not quite finished though. I am told they still have to add a few lions.
My hostel is only a few metres from the Vardar River which flows through Skopje. On my first walk around after checking in to my hostel (after a 2 hour bus ride from Prishtina) I was stunned to see this new building taking form on the opposite bank. It is huge. And who said neo-classical architecture was out of fashion? My hostel manager says it is going to be a legal court of some kind. There are are a number of other impressive buildings under construction nearby too. My walk yesterday (Thursday) was just around the south side of the river. Today I will cross over the Stone Bridge to the north bank and take a look around there (including the Ottoman fort on the hill).
Update: I had coffee Friday morning at a cafe on the other side of the river opposite the building in the first pic. The waiter said it was going to be the new National Museum. That seems much more plausible to me. He thought it was due for completion in 2014. I would love to come back for the opening. Later today I visited the current Museum of Macedonia housed in a much more modest building. They must have 100 times the number of exhibits they have there in storage if they hope to fill the new museum. It’s massive. But I guess that’s probably something like the usual storage to exhibition ratio for most museums anyway.