Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sightseeing: Skopje Surrounds

My final day in Skopje had me exploring the city a little more before heading out to the surrounding area.

A beautiful reconstruction of the scene from The Young Ones where Mike nails his legs to a table.


That's the Macedonian Flag. It looks a little bit Japanese.

In the old town, this is Destan, one of the best rated eating establishments in the city. The menu is fixed with kebabs, bread, cheese and baked beans being offered but the kebabs were the best I'd ever had and a lot of people in the city say the same thing.

One of the old market places within the bazaar.


The gate at the northern end of the old town.

There was a large market here, offering plenty of opportunity to buy fruit that tastes better than the supermarkets back home.

Another old mosque.

Around the city are these quotes from Mother Theresa. They're clearly fans here!

I went into the Archaelogical Museum which was very quiet, so quiet in fact the security guards had nothing to do but follow me around. So I double-backed occasionally and bounced between the three floors to keep them on them busy. The exhibition is pretty decent with a good selection of wares, weapons and coins in particular. Each end of the room has a projections display; unfortunately with just me there they had been switched off.

Someone tries their luck fishing in the river. I didn't see them catch anything.

I had chosen to do a half-day tour of Skopje from a vendor in the old town and the starting point was at the top of the hill outside the fort where I met a Polish guy who'd signed up for the same tour. Soon the guide was there and we were on our way. The building on the hill in the background is the new US embassy.

This building is the contemporary art gallery. It is home to a Picasso, donated by the artist to help the city recover from the earthquake. It had been stolen soon after but recently found in Frankfurt and recovered. It's now locked away awaiting an installation that is secure.

Here's the piece in question


Our guide and driver took us to Vodno which is the mountain on the south side of Skopje on which the big cross is situated. We drove halfway up then took a quick cable car to the top.



The cross cannot be missed haha!


The view over the city wasn't great. I think the geography of the land creates a bowl which allows smog to build...plus the cable car window was tinted :)

On the way back down the mountain we stopped off at the Macedonian Village Resort. This is a small complex consisting of a number of houses built in the typical style of the country. 






The plan is to eventually turn it into a hotel but that's not quite ready so it has been opened up for free to allow tourists to wander around.


Below the village is the church of St Panteleimon, another church that holds wonderful icons.


More stunning art and this time a local guide talked us through the pieces. He knew his stuff. I sneaked the photos :o 


From the church we headed 30 minutes west of the city to the Matka Canyon, a popular hiking trail for the locals.

At one end of the canyon is a dam, killing any chance of this getting a Unesco certification.


The cliffside walk offers amazing views of the canyon and I couldn't get my head around the fact we were so close to a major city. It's definitely a good place to escape to.


Another old church.

A "sign" of a popular tourist destination.


We took a boat tour to some nearby caves. The cost of the boat looks to depend on the number of people wanting to use it, so we hung around for a little bit to get a lower price and were eventually joined by two other Polish chaps.


The trip along the canyon was serene and calming. The canyon walk alongside the western edge goes on way longer than the boat did.

We were soon at the caves and the local guide ran off to fire up the generator that provides the lighting and were soon on our way inside.






The cave isn't huge but is worth a visit. Especially if you want to get close to a bat, many of which were hanging off the rocks.

Bat!




Following the cave we made our way back up to the mooring station. I loved the Matka Canyon and have vowed if I ever return (and I may do to get into Albania cheaply) then I would walk that canyon walk some more.

From here the guide took me back into town to pick up my luggage and make my way to the airport. Unfortunately there were some delays reaching the airport in time and I missed my gate by 10 minutes. After a quick reassessment, and realising Wizz's next flight was 3 days away, I had to find another flight home. The best was the next day via Croatia. This was not ideal but these things can't be planned, and I plan my trips very carefully and it was a first time for me to be in this situation. So I got to spend 12 hours in the airport waiting for the first of two flights that would get me home.

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