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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Daytrip: Skopje, Macedonia

post signature I havn't written a post in quite a while because I've been busy moping around and feeling sorry for myself. I've decided to write this post because this is supposed to be a 'lifestyle' blog but I tend to not write any posts about what I'm up to or anything else personal. I'm incredibly nosey and I love a post with a personal touch, so I hope you find this interesting.

As you may or may not know, I am currently in a tiny village in Kosovo. It's not the greatest place on earth but I don't want to complain too much because I have a roof over my head and spaghetti to eat. I'm staying with my in-laws (&husband obvs) whilst we try and organise our move to Paris. It's proving to be a lot more complicated and time consuming than we originally thought and the French Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia is a pretty major player in our troubles.

I don't want to get all political so I won't go on a legal rant, suffice it to say that my husband needs a visa for France (I don't) and the Authorities are not being as accommodating as they are legally required to be. By now I was expecting to be settled into a proper flat in Paris and starting a new job *sob* alas I have to make use of this extended "holiday" and put a bit more effort into blogging.

I have to say that I never realised how boring being unemployed was, most of the time at work i'd be thinking how nice it would be to loll around at home, wrapped in a duvet, watching films with no purpose or pressure. I would kill for something constructive to do with my time at this point, but as I don't speak the local language, finding a job is pretty much hopeless- add to the fact that unemployment is nearly 50% here!

Anyway, I'll get to the point: We went to Skopje for the day a couple of weeks ago but did zero sightseeing and I felt like death so I paid no attention to my surroundings. We went back on wednesday and spent a couple of hours traipsing through the city centre. It cost us €5 each one way on the coach, which included a fee of €2 to cross the Kosovo-Macedonia border. Its fairly expensive by local standards but still a bargain in my opinion.

The bus left at 6:30am from our closest town (Shtime) and took more than 2 hours, although I swear its less than 50 miles away. Crossing the border takes forever and my passport was checked by each countries' authorities. First impressions were good, it was going to be a really sunny day so I was looking forward to exploring.

The buses in Skopje looked kind of like London buses but more electronic-modern looking. I wish I'd taken a photo! The town centre is really pretty, and you can see that the government is trying really hard to make the city appealing to tourists. The area has a really rich history that I know really little about. Until very recently the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia was just one of those funny sounding countries on Eurovision! I know that Alexander the Great did something there/for them and that its where Mother Theresa is from...

We decided to go to one of the prettiest hotel restaurants in the main square for lunch, my husband said it reminded him of the Lausanne Palace, which I think is going a bit far. I had a bacon sandwich -This may not seem like a big deal to most, but due to the religious majority in Kosovo they don't really go in for pork products. Funnily, I can't actually remember a time in the last year I lived in England that I actually ate bacon, but when its unavailable, I want it more. It wasn't really a proper sandwich but I was elated to have the bacon itself. I stupidly didn't realise that Macedonia have a different currency (Denar) and only had Euros with me, I was allowed to use them in the restaurant but was overcharged- A coffee and the sandwich were still only about €4 though!

I think i'm going to have a hard time adjusting to food prices in Western Europe when we eventually get to France. I'm not used to spending more than €15 for a 2 course meal for 2...

The thing that struck me most about Skopje was the sheer number of fountains, it's actually ridiculous. They even have fountains in the middle of a river. They are really pretty though, and there's nothing comparable in Kosovo. Theres also a bazillion statues, some of which are really cool (like the lions).

I wouldn't say that Skopje is particularly geared towards tourists and there wasn't really anything 'to do' per se. There was a scary looking Holocaust memorial centre & museum but I wanted something a bit more light-hearted and shallow. I just frolicked about, camera in hand, which seemed to annoy the locals a bit as I heard some old ladies commenting. Do they not realise that tourist is pretty much the same in every european language? haha! I think the group of twenty elderly Western European tourists with a tour guide would have annoyed them more...


If your'e planning a trip to the Balkans, I would definitely recommend stopping off for a bit in Skopje, almost everyone spoke English really well and it's super pretty. They even have dominos pizza, but not Mcdonalds because the franchise lost its license a few months ago (boo). It's also really, really cheap- even to fly there from London.

Where's your favourite city destination in Europe?
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