Interesting Long Weekend Destinations from the UK: Macedonia

JimRSmith u
St John's Church, Ohrid
St John's Church, Ohrid

Disclaimer - this Take is aimed squarely at people who reside within a few hours flight away from the destination in question. If you live in North America, Australia or Asia, for example, I am in no way encouraging you to spend precious holiday time venturing this far off the beaten track, unless you have a particular interest in doing so.

Disclaimer II - I'm not going to spend time going into the convoluted political debate about the use of the name 'Macedonia', which is my personal preferred name for the state which lies between Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. You can call it FYROM, Northern Macedonia, Skopje or whatever your personal preference is, and it won't offend me. I use my term for simplicity's sake only, and not to endorse any particular political position.

Why visit Macedonia?

1. Because it has the most bizarre capital city in Europe.

Skopje was pretty comprehensively destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1963, thus leaving a fairly blank canvas, upon which the country's government has 'created' something truly extraordinary.

The old Turkish quarter, Carsija, remains much as it was, and will be of interest to anybody, as it is a bit of a warren of narrow passageways, selling pretty much anything you might want to buy, from traditional ice cream, modern fridge magnets (you don't seem to be able to get away from these) to handmade shoes, at extremely reasonable prices.

Street in Carsija, Skopje
Street in Carsija, Skopje

However, the rest of the city was pretty much razed to the ground, and the Yugoslavian government didn't do anything particularly notable with the rebuild. But the Macedonian government has...

Skopje now has more statues than any other city in the world, and this in a city of just over half a million. Statues line the bridges, wave at you from high buildings, and gargantuan effigies loom over every city square. Most are of people who are obscure, even to the Macedonians, whilst others are the subject of bitter ownership / cultural appropriation disputes with neighbouring nations.

Skopje's new Archaeological Museum, complete with a bridge lined with statues
Skopje's new Archaeological Museum, complete with a bridge lined with statues
A different bridge, lined with yet more statues, and another new building (look carefully for all the statues dancing on the roof)
A different bridge, lined with yet more statues, and another new building (look carefully for all the statues dancing on the roof)
"Warrior on Horseback", perhaps the most controversial of Skopje's statues, because it actually is meant to be Alexander the Great

The impact created is more akin to a Balkan Las Vegas than anything truly beautiful, yet it still has to be seen to be believed. As do the three Viking longships which have been 'tastefully' placed in the knee-deep Vardar River, which runs through the centre of the city...

One of the ships. I don't know what the reason or the point is.
One of the ships. I don't know what the reason or the point is.

2. Because Macedonia really is the last word in cheap, as far as Europe is concerned.

You can live well off an absolute pittance in Macedonia. A decent, centrally located hotel, with a flatscreen TV, fridge, air con, en-suite bathroom, and a comfortable double bed in Ohrid, the country's main resort, won't cost you more than £30. And that will include breakfast.

Something I often do, when abroad, is go for a haircut, and this was so cheap there, that I seriously think you should deduct the saving from the cost of your trip. I got change out of £3, and it was the kind of haircut where you got your hair washed, you head wrapped up in a big fluffy towel to dry off, that kind of thing. I'd do that every fortnight or so, if it was available here.

Macedonia's rather unique denars
Macedonia's rather unique denars

Eating out is probably the biggest saving of all. Again, if you want something the locals typically eat, like salad, chips and a big plate of grilled kebabs, you'll get change out of £3. A two course meal, with drinks, something like a salad, a pizza and three beers might cost more like £8. And that's in somewhere nice, not in some dirty transport cafe.

3. Because as well as being bizarre and cheap, Macedonia is also nice.

Lake Ohrid
Lake Ohrid

Granted, taxi drivers can be crooks, and might try to charge you £5 for your £2 taxi ride, but I wouldn't allow this to spoil your trip, considering it was a 5 mile journey. If you can get past this, you'll have a very interesting country to enjoy, where nobody hassles you, you don't feel threatened, and you are pretty unlikely to get ill. Oh, and it's a little too high up for mosquitoes, too, so those are another thing you don't have to worry about.

If you're interested in centuries old frescoes and other religious art, it has these in abundance, plus a pretty delightful climate, and one of the prettiest lakes in Europe, partly shared with Albania.

And very few foreigners are aware of this, and even fewer visit...

Interesting Long Weekend Destinations from the UK: Macedonia
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Most Helpful Guys

  • dantetheexplorer
    Meanwhile, I actually cooked most of my meals in Paris :D
    One small burger at Mickey Ds cost £6 something!
    And now you're telling me you can get a three-course meal in Macedonia, with three beers, for £8?
    Sign me up!
    I think I've only met one Macedonian in my entire life, and he was from a family of Macedonian immigrants, in Australia.

    Is this still revelant?
    • JimRSmith

      Interestingly, the Australian flag is one of the most common foreign flags that you tend to see there, even on some private homes. I think a lot of people from Macedonia emigrated to Australia, as I heard a few Aussie accents when I was there, too - more than British accents, which considering the relative distance involved, says something!

    • I remember the fella quite well - because (a) I worked with him for about three years. We were on the same team. And... (b) he was a ginger. Which tends to stick out a bit in Australia :)

  • davjimmy22
    Macedonia was the Birth place & Kingdom of Alexander the Great. I realize after Conquering Persia, He never made it back to his Homeland. I was Curious if there are Historical landmarks from his Empire?
    Is this still revelant?
    • JimRSmith

      It was, yes, although the present day state's claims to be some kind of successor state to Alexander the Great's kingdom are... contentious, shall we say?

      Definitions of 'Macedonia' are pretty fluid, and Alexander's kingdom wasn't centred on the modern-day state, although there are plenty of statues there of him, and the capital's airport was named after him, until earlier this year.

      So, in answer to your question, yes there are, although most of them aren't located within present day Macedonia's borders.

    • Thank you for the Information.

Most Helpful Girl

  • aialex
    You visited Macedonia? Great myTake
    Is this still revelant?

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • EmperorOfRussia
    You have the best takes about travel, my friend! I'm planning to travel to Greece next month, maybe I can extend the trip to Macedonia as well. I would like to go back to a calm place like some Caribbean islands or -- even better -- some Pacific islands but it's a lot of work to travel far with a baby. 😂
  • wankiam
    looks great but as you know i dont fly... it may be worth a roadtrip while im in bulgaria though when i decide to go west for an exploring trip rather than east
  • Zap69777
    Thought about it but not left the states yet. I have been to 43/states. I still have a few more to see. All the ones North of New York State and HI..,... then maybe I will travel the world.
  • yashkashyap3011
    The place looks interesting!
    I would surely like to make a trip there
  • CaptainSmartass
    Sounds interesting. If I were more adventurous, I'd give it a try.

  • Drumlin2001
    If you go to Bratislava you can do a day trip to Vienna. Food and drink much cheaper in Bratislava
  • Gedaria
    Looks nice, hope you enjoyed yourself...
  • 13Dante1313
    Looks interesting
  • SirRexington
    Why is everything so cheap there? Do you know?
  • anuragk033
    Mecedonia aka ex Bulgaria 🤔
  • Pilocene
    Ok great.

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