Skopje notes

by on August 11, 2017 at 12:11 am in Food and Drink, History, The Arts, Travels | Permalink

Skopje, capital city of Macedonia, is a dream world for lovers of concrete communist architecture.

Link here, photos recommended.  It seems it is also the roast pepper capital of the world, and this:

The city center holds concrete masterpieces sitting alongside every possible era of architecture from the last two millennium. An ancient Castle fortress looks down from one side, and the world’s biggest cross sits atop an inner city mountain on the other. On one side of the Vardar river that cuts through the city center, is a ancient neighbourhood that could be straight out of Istanbul. On the other, the city square with an enormous “Man On a Horse” statue (just don’t say it’s Alexander the Great, believe me) is a pleasurable and walk-able area normally bustling with activity. Connecting the two areas, is the Stone Bridge, built about 700 years ago – on top of much older Roman foundations. The layers and the contrast is unique for any city of this size.

Imagine a city that is part Habsburg in style, part Ottoman, part communist brutalism, and part Las Vegas/Venetian kitsch except it isn’t kitschy, and with a dash of 300 thrown in for good measure, distributed across dozens or is it hundreds of large statues?

The earthquake of 1963 is mentioned fairly often; it destroyed about 80 percent of the city.

Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and there is a museum in her honor.  A good day trip from Skopje is the St. Jovan Bigorski monastery, some of the finest woodcarving I have seen.  It is striking to view the church in conjunction with the Saudi-financed mosque across the valley, thereby inducing one to ponder the use of stones to capture space in the game of Go.

I am told there are Macedonian enclaves in Totowa, Clifton, and Garfield, New Jersey.

The food is phenomenal, in addition to the roast peppers there are breads, baked pies, meats stewed with vegetables, white beans, stuffed peppers, trout, and Balkan cheeses, all with that farm to table touch.  Further to the south I recommend the garlic spread.

There is sexual dimorphism in Skopje, and I am told that Donald Trump is more popular in this country than in any other.

The major Macedonian exports are chemical goods, machinery, clothing, iron, and steel.  The measured unemployment rate is about 23 percent, and there is a comparative advantage in producing “fake news.”  There are varying estimates for per capita income, but about 13k (PPP) seems in the ballpark.

Politics was discussed and maps were shown.  To put a twist on the famous quotation about religion in India, when it comes to history, every Macedonian is a millionaire.

English proficiency is high, as Macedonian has only slightly more than 2 million inhabitants and none of the immediate neighbors has a language that is very useful elsewhere.  The people are very friendly and helpful, and it is quite safe here for a tourist.

On the television I watched the first quarter of “NBA Team Africa vs. NBA Rest of the World,” Serge Ibaka vs. Dirk Nowitzki, etc., a real game with refs and a crowd, does the NBA even tell the American market about contests such as this?

If food, architecture, and history interest you, visit the fresh and vibrant Skopje.

1 Chris August 11, 2017 at 12:18 am

“There is sexual dimorphism in Skopje…”

I’ve been trying to figure this out for a while. I’m guessing it means the girls wear dresses and high heels and put on a ton of makeup.

2 Steve Sailer August 11, 2017 at 1:21 am

How tall are Macedonians? Some of the other Balkan countries are among the tallest in the world.

3 kata August 11, 2017 at 12:11 pm

not very tall. among yugos they had the reputation of being the shortest.

4 JWatts August 11, 2017 at 8:49 am

“There is sexual dimorphism in Skopje…”

You know sometimes Tyler Cowen says the oddest things. There is sexual dimorphism in every city on Earth.

5 The Other Jim August 11, 2017 at 9:03 am

That’s not even half as odd as “If food interests you…”

6 cliff arroyo August 11, 2017 at 11:55 am

He’s just thinking of his readers who might be Breatharians.

7 Art Thompson August 11, 2017 at 11:05 pm

I do wish he would explain that one a bit more. Maybe he was referring to the butterflies.

8 Art Deco August 11, 2017 at 9:58 am

There’s a large Albanian minority in Macedonia and I think it’s an Albanian practice. The book on the subject was written by Antonia Young,

https://www.amazon.com/Women-Who-Become-Men-Albanian/dp/1859733409

9 Hazel Singer August 12, 2017 at 11:20 pm
10 Tanturn August 11, 2017 at 12:19 am

“There is sexual dimorphism in Skopje, and I am told that Donald Trump is more popular in this country than in any other.”

Presumably this is Tyler’s way of saying the women don’t look like a bunch of harlots the way they do in other European countries.

11 prior_test3 August 11, 2017 at 12:56 am

If you think women in Vienna look like harlots, well, you have an extremely low bar for deciding that women look like a harlot.

12 Joe Torben August 11, 2017 at 3:18 am

I think Tantum confused “other European” with “some other East European”.

13 prior_test3 August 11, 2017 at 6:52 am

Perhaps, but neither Czech nor Polish women seem particularly harlotish in appearance either.

14 Peter Akuleyev August 14, 2017 at 5:06 am

Slovak women on the other hand do dress like harlots, but Czech women have looser morals.

15 Peter Akuleyev August 14, 2017 at 5:09 am

Neither Czech Republic nor Poland are “East European”, they are Central European.

16 Thiago Ribeiro August 11, 2017 at 8:41 am

Harlots look like men (non-dimorphism)? I wouldn’t know. Prostitution is rare and friwn upon in Brazil.

17 cliff arroyo August 11, 2017 at 5:23 pm

I thought it was his way of saying they do look like harlots….

18 Kevin Burke August 11, 2017 at 12:20 am

> does the NBA even tell the American market about contests such as this?

For what it’s worth, pregame/quotes/clips/highlights showed up on the NBA subreddit and ESPN’s Instagram accounts for Sportscenter and the NBA… I’m not sure the game itself was on TV

19 Joe Torben August 11, 2017 at 3:24 am

http://www.nba.com/article/2017/07/13/nba-africa-game-august-5-johannesburg-oladipo-porzingis-schroder-lowry

They say the game was on ESPN2.

I know that intellectuals take pride in not following sports. That’s fine, but if you don’t, please, please don’t talk about it. It really doesn’t make you look good when you do, in exactly the same way as when sports fans talk about economics.

20 ricardo August 11, 2017 at 8:27 am

Jeepers.

21 Ray Lopez August 11, 2017 at 12:46 am

“The food is phenomenal, in addition to the roast peppers there are breads, baked pies, meats stewed with vegetables, white beans, stuffed peppers, trout, and Balkan cheeses, all with that farm to table touch. Further to the south I recommend the garlic spread.” – sounds like typical Balkan fare.

“The major Macedonian exports are chemical goods, machinery, clothing, iron, and steel.” – really? Must be as inputs for Germany. Who would buy bulk chemicals from Soviet era factories unless it’s something that can’t be screwed up, like chlorine maybe?

“The people are very friendly and helpful, and it is quite safe here for a tourist.” – unlike neighboring Albania.

Reminds me of a slogan I saw on a jar of Macadamia nut peanut butter in Greece back in the 90s when FYROM vs Macedonia was a hot potato (I guess it still is): “Macedonia is not a country” (I was thinking of the famous French surrealist slogan: “This is not a pipe” showing a picture of a pipe, hence, it’s not a pipe but a picture, oh, it has it’s own Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images)

So when you see a jar of Macadamia nut butter, remember, Macedonia is not a country (it’s a jar of nut butter, or maybe a trendy dance?)

22 big spaniel August 11, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Excellent food, and you can eat cheap.

23 Chip August 11, 2017 at 1:13 am

Spent a few days in Skopje. Walking up Vodno was the highlight – which meant getting out of the city. Enough said.

24 Deek August 11, 2017 at 5:43 am

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Skopje. It’s definitely a place that everyone should visit once but never twice.

Of the Balkan capitals it’s by far the most boring in terms of events, art, and nightlife. It’s also a terrible one to have to walk around.

The statues are of very poor quality and reflect the massive amount of corruption which was the driving force behind the project. The Florentine company who cast most of the statues touched up a lot of them as they felt them to be far too poorly sculpted to be put on such prominent display. Most of the statues have generic faces and don’t even represent historical figures.

I’m surprised Tyler didn’t mention the galleon restaurants, concreted into the river bed between bridges half their height in a landlocked country. The willow trees, also planted into the river bed, were officially flown in from New Zealand at great expense, whereas the reality is they were dug up from an hours drive away.

The brutalist architecture is disappearing, in the centre at least, as the government are tacking on cheap neo-classical facades.

There was a mild earthquake there again a month or two ago, it could do with another large one.

25 Ray Lopez August 11, 2017 at 1:19 pm

Thanks that’s interesting. I also note the infamous 1963 earthquake that killed scores was only a magnitude 6.x earthquake, meaning that the buildings were shoddily constructed, and that’s why scores died, not because of the strength of the earthquake. Living in Greece part of the year, I can attest that corruption is endemic. The Patras-Athens road has been under planning and construction for about a generation, and should finish within another generation (not unlike I-66 inside DC’s 495, but at least it did finish in less than a generation and presumably within budget). Probate in Greece (and Italy) takes well over a year, and, if contested, up to 20 years. The Balkans, gotta love it. Living history.

26 JonFraz August 11, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Greece may well be corrupt, but Greeks have not ruled Macedonia since the heyday of Byzantium. The country was formerly part of Yugoslavia.

27 Li Zhi August 11, 2017 at 4:15 pm

“presumably within budget” ? Lmao!

28 Moreno K. August 11, 2017 at 7:13 am

I had a date once with a macedonian girl. She told me that the city is horrible, but foreigners like it for some reason.

29 Superhans August 11, 2017 at 8:28 am

Could you please correct the name from Macedonia to Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia please? Thanks

30 Joe Torben August 11, 2017 at 8:51 am

Is this serious or a troll? I love how it’s impossible to tell on the Internet. My money is on troll, but then again, I thought the same about the jokers in the_donald on reddit, so I guess the joke is on me.

31 Moreno K. August 11, 2017 at 10:54 am

That’s not just a detail. Macedonia is a region of Greece.

32 tjamesjones August 11, 2017 at 11:11 am

two places with the same name? how could that ever work!? crazy stuff!

33 Li Zhi August 11, 2017 at 4:16 pm

London is a city in Canada.

34 Anonymous Comment August 12, 2017 at 6:52 pm

The K. probably stands for Kopadopolous, but I’ll call you Kramer. Because according to your logic, people can’t just name themselves around here. It’s the Republic of Macedonia because that’s what a self-determinant group of people with a political border chose for themselves.

35 Art Deco August 11, 2017 at 3:41 pm

My money’s on ‘shill paid a per diem by the public relations office in the Greek foreign ministry’.

36 Macedonia August 16, 2017 at 11:21 am

Just to correct you,
Republic of Macedonia 🇲🇰😍

37 JWatts August 11, 2017 at 8:53 am

“…from Macedonia to Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia please? ”

What a horrible designation. Can we just call it North Macedonia?

38 JonFraz August 11, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Probably we also start saying “American Georgia” and “Caucasus Georgia”.

39 JWatts August 11, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Well, I do, when I’m talking to non-Americans about the state of Georgia. Just like I say Native-American Indians when I’m talking to non-Americans.

40 big spaniel August 11, 2017 at 6:51 pm

Macedonia Heights?

41 rayward August 11, 2017 at 9:00 am

The ancient kingdom of Macedon ruled the world under Alexander the Great, spreading Hellenistic culture throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. Later, Macedonia played a major role in the spread of Christianity, Paul visiting it several times and his letters to the Macedonians part of the Christian canon. I would expect today’s Macedonians to have great pride in their history. The important lesson one learns from Alexander is the same as the lesson promoted by Cowen: don’t drink alcohol.

42 Zig August 11, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Hard to tell if you are being sarcastic or not but this is a very controversial post maybe unknowingly. Long story short these “Macedonians” are likely not much the same people at all. There was a separate later ethnogenesis of the people who inhabit the country I believe post Ottoman Empire who are Macedonians 2.0

43 Anjali Kulkarni August 21, 2017 at 4:37 am

and yes it is a very important lesson we should not drink alcohol thanks for giving this deep information.

44 Joshua Lipson August 11, 2017 at 9:05 am

Dude, you’ve got to make a pit stop in Ohrid.

45 cliff arroyo August 11, 2017 at 9:35 am

Macedonia is also the place of origin of the most famous song (probably) from the old Jugoslavija (though I’m pretty sure it predates the country)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTDa-gac_W0

Modern Macedonian partymusic (an acquired taste)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6IAC_4rrHM&list=PLBO6PXQUl-Pd3hg8C3kZx_3xyhE_j590w

46 Stevan August 11, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I’m from the old Jugoslvija and still live here and I’ve never heard (of) this song. I have no idea where you people find these facts.

47 cliff arroyo August 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm

You still live in Jugoslavija? Are you from the past or future?

Bulgaria likes to take credit for shto mi e milo… It’s relatively frequently performed by choirs in the US (and maybe other places).

48 inertial August 11, 2017 at 12:19 pm

True Communist architecture is this. Brutalism was imported from the West.

49 Barkley Rosser August 11, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Macedonia was the main object of dispute in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, the immediate predecessor to WW I.

It has the highest percentage of its population that is gypsies of any nation in the world.

When future Bulgarian leader Zhivkov met the Montenegrin Milovan Djilas in Moscow during ww II the first thing he asked him (recorded in Djilas’s Conversations with Stalin) was, “Do you think they speak Serbian or Bulgarian in Macedonia?” Apparently a man named Stojanovski in Macedonian was forced to call himself Stojanovic when Serbia ruled Macedonia and Stojanov when Bulgaria ruled it.

50 JonFraz August 11, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Re: There is sexual dimorphism in Skopj

And everywhere humans are hermaphroditic? Who knew?

51 Charlotte Allen August 11, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Put me on the next plane to Macedonia! It sounds great! Total Eurovision.

52 Archibald Meatpants August 11, 2017 at 4:27 pm

The Balkan Peninsula is endlessly fascinating. I would love to spend a year in the region to try to understand it.

53 mkt42 August 11, 2017 at 4:34 pm

“just don’t say it’s Alexander the Great, believe me”

So who is it, if it isn’t Alexander the Great?

Or is the point that Alexander the Great is somehow persona non grata in Skopje? That seems unlikely, it’s my impression that Macedonia (or the FYROM) and Greece both claim him as part of their history

54 Li Zhi August 11, 2017 at 5:05 pm

If successful communication requires sufficient competence by the originator to transmit the intended information, then I’d say TC’s “sexual dimorphism” comment is an utter failure to communicate. I conclude it’s likely code for something: women are fat? women are short? women are stacked? women dress in traditional women’s clothing? I can’t think of any interpretation of his comment that isn’t stereotyping – and at a really crude level. I suppose he was aware of his risk (as should be anyone sucking at the teat of the hyper-PC academic culture) and so needed to be as vague as possible, and failed on the side of being so vague as to be without meaning.

55 Art Thompson August 11, 2017 at 11:16 pm

More useless trivia :
Seven thousand Macedonian Macedons in full battle array.

— line from an old short term memory test.

56 David Levey August 15, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Driving through Europe in the summer of 1962 (one year before the earthquake), the road from Thessaloniki to Skopje was unpaved. When we got there, we were told that our auto insurance wasn’t valid in E. Europe and we needed to buy a rider. At that time, nobody spoke English but we found a local banker who could speak German and he took care of the problem. I haven’t been back since, so can’t compare the pre-earthquake architecture with what has been rebuilt.

57 Believer August 16, 2017 at 7:54 pm

One important thing is missing about Macedonia. Macedonians are most devotedness orthodox christian (also muslim albanians and other ethnicities). By the census statistics 5th place in the world. Macedonian Orthodox “Facebook” http://www.pravoslavna.mk

58 Hollywood Bloom August 21, 2017 at 12:15 am

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