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.