Taking advantage of the long weekend we travelled to Macedonia flying into Skopje from Barcelona. We flew with Wizz Air, direct flight taking around 2.5 hrs arriving early Saturday morning. We located our Air BnB and went straight to bed.
Saturday: Skopje city and up to Millennium Cross
We spent Saturday by going up to the millennium cross and checking out the city of Skopje. Because of where we were staying, we decided first to go to the Millennium Cross, which is a 66-metre tall cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain. Apparently it was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world! As we we staying close by we walked in that direction until we got to a notice board with a map of the trails. We started walking up the trail and made it to the middle part where there is a car park and a place where you can get a cable car up to the top. We decided to get the cable up to the top. It cost 120 denar for the round trip. Pretty cool cable as there is a place for bikes on the side. So many bikers take the cable up and cycle down.
We got the cable down to where we started and took a bus into the centre of Skopje. The first thing that catches your eye in Skopje in the number of statues in the city. There seems to be one on every corner and they are big. The most striking one is in the centre of Alexander the Great on his horse. All of the gigantic monument construction started in 2011 as part of a government project. Having spoken to our Air BnB host who is from Skopje he explained the whole situation of all the statues, basically the current prime minister and his cousin seem to control everything in the country, from the constructors of the statues, the police, media etc…all very corrupt. The cost of the statues has been in the range from 90-565 million US dollars. Unaccounted money..disastrous for the local working community where there is 25% unemployment and the average monthly wage is around 300e euro. Unbelievable.
There are also plenty of pictures of Mother Theresa around the city as well. As she was born there, there’s a museum and you can see where her house used to be. There’s an interesting quote under one of the many statues, the Porta Macedonian Arch which has an interesting quote from her: “I think that abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace today.” Bit weird to have that on a gold plaque under the arch. Might have been better to put something different.
The old baazar of the city is very nice to walk around. It’s full of stalls ranging from Armenian and Turkish souvenirs and plenty of restaurants and cafes. We really enjoyed the food in Skopje.
Sunday: Matka Canyon
We decided to get out of the city and take a day trip to the nearby canyon called Matka canyon. It’s only 15 km away from the Skopje and definitely worth a visit. To get there we took bus no.60 from a nearby stop where we were staying. It leaves from the main bus station so its possible to get on there also. We ended up waiting for quite a long time for the bus and when we got on the driver gave us signal to go sit down. Nobody seemed to pay for the bus that day. (I think it costs 75 denar each way). About 30 minutes later we were at the canyon.
At the begining of the trail through the canyon there is a restaurant called: Restaurant Canyon Matka. It’ a really nice restaurant, prices being a lot more that normal places we would generally eat in, but good.
Before eating we decided to hike up the other side of the mountain to see the sights from the top. We had to take a boat across the canyon and then hike up around 20 minutes. There’s a monastery on top. St.Nikola. We got caught in the rain so we had to hang out up there for awhile. Once the weather was good again we made our way back down and ate in the restaurant.
There is a huge trail that follows the canyon so we walked a lot of that, all the way to a cave, in which there are boats taking tourists too. The water is crystal clear and views amazing. Once we returned we decided to rent a double kayak and have an adventure in the water. Matka canyon is really a beautiful place to spend a day away from the capital city. To return back to Skopje, we decided not to risk waiting forever or a bus and got a taxi which cost 10euro.
Monday: Crossed into Kacanik in Kosovo
Our last day we decided to venture across the border into Kosovo. We didn’t plan on going to the capital Pristina, instead to a village in the mountains called Kacanik. We took a bus from the bus station in Skopje (minibus) to Kacanik stopping at border control along the way. Our passports were stamped and along we went. We were the only ones on the bus that got off in Kacanik. It’s a small place with not much going on but it was nice to visit. The main street is full of coffee bars full of men drinking on the terraces. Didn’t see many women that day. We had lunch there which was super cheap, 1 euro for a pizza. After walking around most streets we headed back to Skopje again. We waited on the road where we had got dropped off and bus came shortly.