Favorite thing: The currency of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is the Macedonian Denar (plural: Denari).
At the time of our visit in March 2012 the interbank exchange rate was 73.5 Denari to the British Pound. When we exchanged our British Pounds at an exchange bureau in Skopje's long distance bus station, we got 71 Denari to the Pound. That seemed like a pretty competitive rate to us. We had been unable to obtain any Denari in the UK prior to our trip.
There are plenty of banks and ATMs in the centre of Skopje. I used ATMs to get my currency, but Emma doesn't like using her bank card overseas so was reliant on the banks. We found that the banks were closed on Sundays, but the exchange bureau at the bus station was open.
The Macedonian Denar (MKD) comes in the following denominations:
Coins: 50 deni, 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 denari.
Notes: 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 denari.
A One-stop "Shop"!!
Favorite thing: I found Skopje to be a very compelling city, a city that I'll definitely return to sometime after 2014. I've already started my pencilled-in list of "Things To Do" which includes the obvious stuff like the art galleries and museums.
Top of the list however is this little restaurant. For those that know me the pic should make the reason obvious ;-HIC!Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Beer Tasting
- Budget Travel
The Process Of Reconstruction
Favorite thing: 1963 saw the city devasted by an earthquake, with about 80% of its centre levelled. Whilst international aid, along with the commitment of the then socialist-led Yugoslavian government, led to a swift programme of rebuilding the actual works carried out were of a very utilitarian nature.
Following Macedonian independence in 1991 Skopje, as the foundling nation's largest city, was the natural choice as its capital. The old city, centred around its former Ottoman bazaar, had been largely untouched by the earthquake but the grandeur of the predominantly 19th century neo-classical newer city had been subsumed by the starkly brutalist reconstruction.
As with the other former Yugoslavian states Macedonia was in no financial position to even attempt major changes immediately after gaining independence. It took until the post 2006 coalition government for the country and the city to commit themselves to a grandoise scheme of rejuvenation. Thus was born the Skopje 2014 project which aims to transform the city's centre to its former glory.
Fondest memory: At the time of writing (June 2011) the city is indeed a building site. But it is an interesting one. Not only are the major features such as the National Theatre, museums, the main square and the riverside being rebuilt and upgraded but so too are lesser monuments such as a mosque in the old city (pictured). The riverside is being seriously revamped with an emphasis on pedestrian and cycle paths and even the basic infrastructure such a sewerage and roads are being worked on.
A grand project indeed and if completed will certainly put Skopje back into its historical position as one of Europe's "must-visit" cities. I just hope the money doesn't run out.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Project Skopje 2014
Favorite thing: Project Skopje 2014 is project of Macedonian government that should bring Skopje great changes and change a city perspective. The project plans numerous monuments, fountains, new bridges, and buildings that have disappeared during a large earthquake in 1963., such as the Old National Theatre.
July 26, 1963
Fondest memory: For people of my age or older it is impossible to mention Skopje without thinking immediately of the terrible earthquake that hit the city in 1963.
Macedonia is in the Mediterranean seismic belt, and the Skopje region is one with a long history of seismic activity. In 1555 the city suffered a catastrophic earthquake, but nothing in the history of Skopje ever resembled the earthquake of July 26, 1963. In a few seconds 134,843 people lost their homes, 1070 people lost their lives and over 3300 were seriously injured. Less than 20% of the city buildings remained non-damaged, or so slightly damaged as to be usable immediately after the earthquake.
In the ten years that followed Skopje was completely rebuilt as a new city, with new criteria not only with regard to the construction of buildings, but also with a redesigned urban development plan and new infrastructures.
The most evident memento of that tragic earthquake is the old railway station: part of it still stands, with its clock marking the time of the moment when the earthquake hit the city, and stopped that clock forever.
Preserving the traditions
Favorite thing: Macedonia has a long tradition of craftworks: wood carving, hammered copper, filigree jewelry, embroidery. As in many other countries, these traditional arts were at risk of being abandoned and forgotten, but luckily the MATA came to their aid.
The Macedonian Artisan Trade Association is a non-profit, non-governmental organization created to protect and develop the craft trade, by training young artisans and helping them to access the market. MATA has established a selling point in the centre of Skopje, in the Feudal Tower.
The embroidery you see in the picture is not one of those currently sold at the MATA shop: it is a century-old piece, in a pattern that was typical of Skopje.
If you want to know more, and to see the products that you can buy through the MATA shops, this is the website: www.matacraft.org.mk
The Way It Was
Favorite thing: In Macedonia Street you can see just a couple of buildings that are not modern. I do not know when they were built, but their appearance makes you think of similar facades in Vienna or Prague and they probably belong to the early years of 20th Century or to the last years of the 19th.
In 1873, when Skopje still had its old name Uskub, the railway to Thessaloniki was completed and the city increased considerably its trades and also its population.
It is fascinating to think how the city must have looked like in those times, a European city under Ottoman rule, certainly an intriguing combination.
From Skopie to Kolkata
Fondest memory: Mother Teresa, whose name will be remembered forever as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was born in Skopje. She was born here in 1910 and her name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. When she became a nun, at the age of 21, she had to change her name, and took the name Teresa. She wanted to become a missionary and so she joined the Sisters of Loreto and went to India. In her first years there she was a teacher in the mission’s school, but afterwards she devoted herself to help the poorest among the poors, and the many years of heroic efforts in this mission made her famous all over the world. She described herself as a humble tool, like a pencil, in the hand of God.
Her native city has dedicated to her a statue that can be seen in Macedonia Street.
Map of Skopje
Favorite thing: http://www.skopje.gov.mk/sq/images/File/SkopjeMapaGolema.jpg
Click on the link for an interactive map that can be enlarged!
If you follow the link, you can also right-click on the map and save it to your computer.
Favorite thing: I HAD TO ADD THIS ONE AS WELL... Mustafa pasha Mosque! Jan, 4th 2002 I went into this mosque for the first time in my life, and I was amazed.
It is a gorgeous mosque, built in 1492... And it survived two huge Earthqueakes. It is definitely 'A MUST' when you're in Skopje. It is located just above the Church 'SVETI SPAS' - another example of the interesting mixture of... culture and architecture that can be found in this city!Related to:
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: Useful websites about Skopje with a lot of information and phonenumbers.
Favorite thing: If you want to act as a typical tourist you might want to stop for a moment when you see a sign like that and read it.
You will see the here and there in Skopje attached to the walls of some buildings. The signs provide some curious facts and historical information about the building they are attached to.
To make tourists life easier they are written in 3 languages: Macedonian, English and French.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Daut Pasha and Chifte Hamam national galleries
Favorite thing: The two hamams (Turkish baths) transformed into art galleries are a must-see in Skopje! The buildings themselves are very interesting and the exhibitions are also worth-while. The entry only costs 50 Denars (or 20 for students) and it's absolutely worth it!
Changing money at night.
Favorite thing: If, like us, you arrive on the evening train from Greece, none of the Bureaux de Change are open in or near the Station. The best way to change your Euros into Denar is to go downstairs to the bus station (they are part of the same building) and the staff at the ticket counter will change money for you (at about the proper rate).
Obviously, they will not be able to change large amounts, but you should be able to get enough to tide you over until the morning.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Skopje Collage: Kale & churches
Favorite thing: From downtown Skopje the Kale is always visible -- and we all know the famous churches such as Sv. Spas, with the wooden tower [in the carsija], but there are orthodox churches throughout the city. The one on the top right was in Karpos IV near the "Green Market".
My girlfriend and I stayed at Hotel Super 8 in Skopje for 1 night at the end of our visit to...more
Great service and location. I was very surprised to find out that they also offer short term...more
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