If over a decade ago anyone ever said to me that i’d travel to Macedonia my first reaction would’ve been, what? where? Yes back in the day in my geography books there was no Macedonia. All there was then was the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Macedonia was one of the 6 countries that made up this republic and officially broke up from it in 1991 after long standing political differences and tension. Today Macedonia is still quite unclear of its identity. Although the official name is FYROM – an abbreviation for – Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia most Macedonians just prefer and refer to their country as Macedonia.
Fast forward to 2017 and we had the opportunity to make a short – 2 day trip to the capital city, Skopje. Traveling there after our two month summer holiday in Holland was a bit of a hassle given we had to transit in Zurich to then fly on to Skopje. Luckily my little 10 month travel buddy is a frequent flyer and she feels quite at home at an airport or aircraft so getting from A to B was easy with her.
Once we got to Skopje we were hit with a slight disaster as one of our bags went missing. Luckily I had packed extra clothes, food and baby essentials in the diaper bag which was a total saving grace. Long story short 2 days after our trip we managed to get our lost bag at the airport just before we checked in for our flight back to Doha. Well I am not really happy with our Swiss Air experience however whilst traveling there’s always a chance of a mess up so Its best not too waste too much energy on it in my opinion.
Now for the fun part. Although we lost a couple of hours because of the delay and reporting lost baggage we stayed excited and got right down to exploring the city as soon as we landed. A quick shower after checking into the Marriott Skopje which is right in the heart of the city and we were on our way to check off our first list of things to see.
Where to stay? – Marriott Skopje
The Millennium Cross
The Millennium Cross is a 66-metre tall cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje. It was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. The site is open from 10 am to 8pm and the cableway starts every half hour going up and down the mountain. On the top of the mountain is a lovely park where kids can be kept entertained as you take in the beautiful sites of the city. It is also possible to hike or bike up the mountain which many of the locals indulge in as a routine workout. I was told by a friend who lives in the city that the trail is well maintained and busy all through summer.
On the top you’ll also find a tiny shop that sells basics including a Macedonian staple – SKOPSKO Beer 🙂 Highly suggest getting there just before sunset as the view is absolutely spectacular.
We drove back down and headed straight for dinner to a restaurant called Chardak a place suggested by one of my Macedonian friends. She mentioned its a place where locals and tourists go because Macedonians apparently no matter what are always in the mood for good food and drinks, a top priority! Other restaurants suggested were Skopski Merak which sadly was shut that week for renovation and Dukat. I was told that there are many others in the old part of the city (Stara Charshija) that serve good traditional desserts and turkish coffee too. I was also told to to try a traditional spirit called Rakija thats very strong, One tiny sip and it wasn’t for me for but maybe if you like them stiff then this ones for you. (don’t say I didn’t warn you )
Macedonian cuisine is diverse and has a lot of influence of the Turkish(Ottoman empire) A must is Tavce Gravce (beans in clay pot), Sarma (meat+rice balls in cabbage/wine leaves) Burek (traditional pie with cheese, meat etc.) Ajvar (the famous red pepper appetizer also available chilly) different kinds of patty Pleskavica & grilled meat.
At Chardak we went right in and orderd a kilo of pork ribs to share among 3 people. The portion was more than enough and the prices were stellar compared to anywhere else we’ve been. To start we ordered an eggplant dish topped with fresh local cheese. It was delicious with generous amount of cheese dolloped on the top of each slice. We also ordered Ajvar and some grilled zucchini to balance out the meat that was about to go down. A bottle of local red to top it all and lets say our first meal in Skopje got a 5 star rating. The ambience of the restaurant was great as it extended onto a street in a quite residential area.
Post dinner our plan was to get back to our room and retire for the night but instead we were sucked into the buzz at the main square. It was the weekend and families, kids tourists, lovers, friends all flocked around the gigantic fountain monument of Alexander the great. Yes Macedonia also has some Greek influence and i’ll leave it that and for you to dig into to find out more using the worldwideweb 🙂
On the right hand side of the square just before the bridge that leads to the old market is a restaurant that has a Jazz band playing on a friday night. If you happen to be visiting make sure you stop by for a drink coz the act is totally worth it, so much so that Amelie loved it too and danced the night away.
The next day inspite of wanting to drive to the Lake Matka we decided to keep it a quite and easy for the little one. We started with breakfast along the river and then continued onto explore the old part of town that was only a 5 min walk across the bridge .
Right at the start, just before getting to the market was a textile store that had some beautiful stuff on display. I was given some ridiculously expensive tourist prices and after I woke up the Indian in me and shamelessly bargained I managed to get my hands on a lovely wall piece for my collection at a pretty decent price.
We then had lunch at one of the old islamic establishments that had served kebabs on beans with a salad and spicy grilled chillies that burnt my tongue and then slowly my insides but i thoroughly enjoyed every bit if torture. Also luckily I had ordered myself a small glass of SkopSko that made it all a bit bearable.
The temperature that particular day was about 35deg and so we decided to stay indoors at have a swim at the hotel to escape the afternoon scorching heat. A couple of hours later we were ready to start rambling the streets again and were back at the center of town to spend more family time.
Since it was our last evening in the city we decided to just soak up the atmosphere and vibe instead of running around site seeing with a 10 month baby. We had dinner and drink on this boat restaurant that was a stunning way to end the trip.
Skopje has some amazing statues. Rumor has it that erecting statues is a way for politicians to pocket government money by inflating the cost to design them. Whatever the case maybe I was quite impressed that the artists at least did a pretty fab job!
My favourite has to be this one
Here’s what I have on our list for our next visit cause yes 🙂 there is going to be another visit and hopefully sooner than later.
*The Mother Theresa house museum,
*Ohrid lake city
As for us we loved our stay in Skopje and think its a great city to travel around with kids. The square alone is a perfect place to entertain them and keep them occupied. The feeling I have is that Skopje is not quite yet there on many tourist maps but yet has just the right amount of people, places to see and things to do for a short getaway. If you’re looking to explore someplace unique and new then this could just be the place for you.
Qatar Airways now flies 4 times a week to Skopje. The flt time is about 4 1/2 hours and anyone holding a valid C type Schengen visa can enter the country for free.
Doha – Skopje Flight Schedules:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sundays
Doha (DOH) to Skopje (SKP) QR305 departs: 06:50 arrives: 11:15
Skopje (SKP) to Doha (DOH) to QR306 departs: 12:15 arrives: 18:15
Bon Voyage & Bon Appetit
*This is not a paid or sponsored post.