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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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...