If you are adventures enough, you can spend few hours visiting the church of St Pantelejmon in Nerezi village.
The church is build in the XII AD, by the Vasals of Serbian King. The importance of this holy site is not known much in the Art and historical circles, but the Chirch contain the frescoe of the "lamentation of Christ" which is about 200 yrs older that the one of Giotto in Padua-Italy.
The renesance did not start in Italy, it started on the slopse of Mt Vodno in the small village of Nerezi in Macedonia.
The Church is high above Skoje on the slopes of Vodno & Skopksa Crna Gora Mountains.
You can take local bus from Skopje to the village to Nerezi or taxi will drop you to the door of the church complex.
Within the complex is a beautifull park & nice restaurant with great viwes of Skopje.
for timetables on buses wich goes to Nerezi chek www.jsp.com.mk
I have been wanting to do this hike for years, because both Mount Vodno with the Millenium Cross and Lake Matka are two great places that we visited separately in the past, so why not combine them in one hike?
The reason that we did not do this hike before is that we were told that especially the end of the hike, when you reach Lake Matka, is badly marked. Therefore the general advice is not to try this hike without a local guide. In retrospect, I think that when you have a good look at the map, in combination with the sparse marking of the trail, it should be possible to do it without a guide, but you may go wrong here or there...
This year however (2011), I bought an outdoor GPS and downloaded a track describing this hike from internet. Almost foolproof and no local guide needed!
We went by car to the parking at Middle Vodno (Sredno Vodo), which is halfway the top of the mountain. Then, we took the new cable car lift to the top of Mount Vodno and the Millenium Cross.
Alternatively, you can walk all the way to the top, from the foot of the mountain or from Middle Vodno, but that adds a pretty steep ascent to this hike! Some of the last parts are rather steep downhill, so high shoes and walking sticks are recommended.
From the top of Mount Vodno the hike is only downhill, so it is not too hard on your condition. The scenery and the trail are both pretty diverse, the views of the Matka Canyon are amazing.
When you arrive at the bridge over the Treska river, you have to go left to visit the lake. There are several churches around the lake, as well as a bar/restaurant for well-deserved refreshments!
There is a mini-bus going back to Skopje, but you can also arrange for a cab of course. The buses stop near the bridge.
The hike from the Millenium Cross to the bridge at Matka is about 11-12 km long and took us 4 hours including breaks. From the bridge to Lake Matka behind the dam is an additional 1.5 km.
You can look at the GPS track and download it via the link below.
If you have a few hours spare it's perfectly possible to go and visit Gracanica momastery, in Kosovo. By taxi, count on it taking about two hours there and two back, and on spending an hour or two actually there, so you can leave after breakfast and be back in Skopje in time for a late luncheon. The road is depressing (miltary camps, tank speed-limit signs, more car-washes than you could believe, none with any cars being washed...), but the monastery (or nunnery) is wonderful. The only problem is that the Kosovo border police may want to stamp your passport, and if they do it may make visiting Serbia afterwards a bit complicated. (See my thing about buses.) Try to persuade them not to stamp it, or go to Serbia FIRST or something.
Green markets are... "an institution" in Skopje (come to think of it, in Macedonia)
They are colorful, fun, they offer amazing flavors of our local production, veggies, fruits, spices, the people are nice and have a very unique attitude... The green markets are particularly fun on weekends, mid-morning when many people go and do their veggie and fruits shopping.
There are a few in Skopje(Bunjakovec, that's the one we go to, Zelen pazar, in the center of the city, Bit-pazar, big and loud, and other smaller ones located in different areas of Skopje.
If you happen to stay in Skopje for more than a week, and especially if you happen to be here in spring, go to a green market and enjoy the experience.
Even if you're not the sporty-type, some hiking on Vodno will definitely do you good.
Vodno is a hill very close to the center of Skopje (yeah, sounds weird I know) and it takes about an hour and a half (if you're not a professional) to get to its top. There are different paths (some harder than others) although you can also take the road that goes to its top.
The views are gorgeous and makes the whole effort worth it.
Vodno is a frequent destination for the Skopje citizens on Saturday and Sunday morning. One of the best spots in the city and... undoubtedly, our own little treasure.
Take bus 53 from Zheleznicka stanica or Bit Pazar (opposite side). The ride costs 40 denar and lasts about an hour.
The line ends at the Spa installations, in beautyful nature. Bathing there an hour costs 180 denar. Male and female take the baths separately, alternating each hour. But you may taste the water in an outlet on the side of a path above the building.
Have a walk in the nice nature.
The Skopje Railway Station is really not much to look at. It was built after the 1963 earthquake, when much of the town was destroyed, including the old railway station (which is now a Museum). Given that the authorities were pressed for funds and time to rebuilt housing and essential services, it is no wonder that the current railway station is short on style and long on dark, gloomy waiting areas and grey concrete. It is hardly a welcoming sight on your way into the city, but then again it helps to make your impression of the city itself all that more enjoyable and positive.
I will be completely honest – I have no idea what the name of this church is, and I am unlikely ever to find it. I assume that it is probably fairly modern, because when I search on tourist sites they do not list it as a historic monument (actually they don’t list it at all). Nevertheless, the interesting bronze-domed bell-tower caught my eye while I was looking at books in the flea market, and I wandered over to it. It is a fairly large, boxy affair that has a separate small structure for those who wish to light a candle at an icon without going into the church. The icon in the small structure is quite beautiful, but it appears that this is the only artistic piece outside the church itself.
Macedonia was a scene of battles and was ravaged by the German Occupation in the 1940s, so it is a bit surprising that there are not more monuments or memorials for the soldiers who died to protect this land. “Aggression” from Bulgaria during the Second World War is a particularly sore point for Macedonians, so maybe there was a conscious decision not to build monuments in order not to aggravate modern relations. I found this Communist-era monument is a very unkempt part of Cair. I don’t read Macedonian, so I can’t really make out what it says, but the plain, Socialist Realist design of the monument is hardly attractive, although it does match the design of the National Theatre.
As I noted in my tip on art in the city, Skopje is not widely known for its artistic creativity. I can’t claim to know much about the theatre and music scene in the city, but one look at the Socialist monstrosity of a National Theatre and Opera House should make anyone rather skeptical about the quality of productions. I’m not saying that Macedonians are not musically inclined (after all, the greatest Gypsy Queen in the world comes from Macedonia, Esma Redžepova), I’m just saying that this particular theatre is grotesque, and that that likely points to the fact that arts and performances are not supported financially the way they are in some other countries.
Skopje is not really a city that is world-renowned for its artistic scene, but that does not mean that it has nothing to show by way of artistic creativity. The city suffered quite a lot from both the Second World War and also the 1963 earthquake, so it may seem, at times, that it is lacking in both outdoor art and artistic inspiration in its architecture. Nevertheless, there are more than a few outdoor pieces, some of which are quite interesting. There is a brass eternal flame (I assume that that’s what it represents) in front of the Railway Station cum Museum, and in the same area you will find a statue dedicated to Skopje of a woman who is either in agony or giving birth (which, I imagine, is also quite painful). It appears to be more inspired by surrealism than Socialist Realism, and I can’t make up my mind as to whether it represents the rape of the country and the city by invading Germans or the birth of the city as a capital and the country, which effectively occurred (by political standards, that is) in 1945. Finally, my favourite piece, is a stone suitcase thrown into the water under Kamen Most. It is a bit of a cheeky piece, but also thought-provoking, given the number of Macedonians who have left their country to work abroad and the large numbers of young people in the country who would like to do so.
Suto Orizari, also called Sutko or Shutka, is the biggest Roma town of Europe. It is located north of Skopje.
The Roma are gypsies that migrated from northwestern India.
In Shutka, there is a daily market, which from a first impression mostly consists of many very cheap shoes and cheap clothes. Ladies heaven I guess!
A visit to Shutka will give you another view of the Roma than the one you get in Skopje, where you find many gypsy kids begging and selling chewing gum and alikes at the traffic lights. Still, it is a very poor village.
It is safe to visit Shutka, but pay some extra attention to your wallet. And don't be suprised if you just get asked where you come from and what you are doing there, as it is not a place that gets visited by many tourists!
If you really like Roma music, it is worth going there at least once. From the Bashcharshija you may hear some exciting music at night which may be played in Shuto Orizari (Shutka). Roma weddings may last for some days, and so it is not strange that music is played there on the streets several times a day. You may go there to hear it close and to watch the bride's family dancing on the street. You can get some CDs of music Roma play for themselves not to be found in other places.
Take the bus 19 or 20 from the side opposite to Bit Pazar and you'll arrive there.
In priciple, there is little difference to other poorer (but not slum- like) neighbourhoods. But here, most inhabitants are Roma and here you'll get a more true impression of them. Don't fear, they are neither agressive nor robbing monsters. But curious. You'll get asked several times where you do come from whithout intention to speak some more phrases. And they will find you rather strange.
Most cautious you have to be whith your purse. And, of course, don't take valuable things whith you. Some little child may come and ask you for money. Better you don't give it more than 10 denars, otherwise five or fifteen may follow him!
There is also a market, where on sundays not only food and clothes but also older things are sold.
I ate in a small grill restaurant there and can tell you that is was not only clean and cheap, the food was also of fine quality. Take the place the waiter shows you and don't insist to eat there if he doesn't consent.
Sorry, I can't tell you when the last bus goes or leaves there.
The Imam at Hjuncar told me that Skopje (Skupi in Albanian) has 33 mosques, so don't be surprised if you are wondering around trying to find the famous ones and you stumble on something else. This mosque is at the northwestern edge of the Pit Bazaar and I mistook it for the Mustafa Pasha Dzamija. I have now forgotten its name (I didn't have a pen to write it down at the time) but I just remember that it had a beautiful interior and a very sad looking cemetary outback. The people were fairly relaxed and didn't mind me entering. Don't forget to remove your shoes before you go in!
A special place is the memorial garden and cemetery which is such a calm area, maybe because I had just left the hustle & bustle of the city, but it seemed more than that, very calm, very peaceful.
Skopje was captured by the Bugarians in October 1915 and re-entered by the British Army and French cavalry at the end of September 1918. Skoplje British Cemetery was created after the Armistice.
There are now 124 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated in this cemetery. Six of the burials are unidentified and special memorials commemorate six servicemen buried in Uskub German Cemetery whose graves could not be found
The war cemetery is north-east of the town, 1 kilometre north of the railway station in Bulevar Jugoslavija. It lies adjacent to the church of the Archangel Michael and an accommodation building for the university.
Let us not forget of those that gave their tomorrow for our today!
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