This town, the capital of Macedonia, is currently undergoing a massive face lift in a project called Skopje 2014 which aims to give the city a more classical, monumental, and generally pleasing look by 2014. 80% of Skopje was destroyed in an earthquake in 1963 and the buildings where initially replaced then -- today, they hope to rebuild some of the buildings as they were before. The government has spent an estimated 80 to 500 million euros on this project. And not everyone is pleased, in a country with high unemployment and many social problems, the beautification of the capital seems wasteful.
We arrived in the early afternoon after a long bus ride (and a super long border crossing, of course). As we exited we were hounded by a taxi driver who wouldn't take "no" for an answer (our hostel was super close to the bus station begin with). One of the things we discovered in Eastern Europe is that saying "taxi" near taxi drivers is like announcing you need a ride. For example, you can say "we don't need to take a taxi" and 5 taxi drivers will emerge and say "taxi? taxi?".
Our hostel was pretty tiny, with only two rooms, a cozy living room, and tiny kitchen (and only one bathroom). But it had three puppies! They also had the mother, but I think she had been rescued from the streets and therefore was a bit skittish bout people.
|Note: Australian girl on the third year of her decade abroad. (We met a ridiculous number of Australians on ridiculously long trips on this trip. Do people not have to work in Australia? Or what?)|
That evening we didn't do much, because we were exhausted. However, we did take night stroll.
|Admittedly, the new buildings look pretty cool all lit up at night.|
|One of the things we noticed is that they seem to want to steal the monuments of other European cities. For example, there is a bridge much like this in Prague.|
|They had gone completely sculpture mad...|
|Particularly they like to invoke a supposedly glorious Macedonian past (particularly they like to claim Alexander the Great). This Justinian II, I think...|
|Personally, I think these benches are the greatest symbol of government waste in Skopje. I mean, what is their purpose? There is no way you could have a performance in this Rotunda thingy.|
|This is the original train station, in ruins after the earthquake.|
During the afternoon, we walked over the bridge to the old town of Skopje, which was much less epic in scale. We had burek (a greasy, delicious pastry stuffed with beef (or other things)) and cevapi (cheh-va-pee -- type of sausage wrapped in delicious bread with onions) both Turkish/Balkan specialties for lunch. While we ate the burek, we were stared at by a small gypsy boy, who wouldn't take our refuse to make eye contact as a refusal. It was awkward, and also sad. But giving money wouldn't help him, he surely is being used by someone to guilt people into giving money.
After we ate, we walked up to the old fortress, but it was closed. That night we went to a Mexican food restaurant called Amigos, that was actually pretty good but played horrible music.
The next morning we did a little more site seeing and searched for post office to send our post cards before leaving to come back to Saint Louis...
|This is where the post office was. It really makes you understand the desire to tear down everything that they rebuilt in 1963.|
|One more gratuitous puppy picture. The puppies didn't have names, so we named them. From left to right: Boris, Constantine, and Alexander the Great.|