Group Journal April 15, 2013 - May 8, 2013

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Day 03 April 17, 2013 Wednesday
Skopje Macedonia

The owner of the Ambasador Hotel had lived in the USA where he made the money to build this hotel. When he returned to his country and started his business, in the memory of his days in the USA, he adorned his hotel with the statues of the US heroes. Until we got to the center of Skopje, we were not aware of their love for statues, so we thought this man was unique.
We started our day with a city tour of Skopje on foot. Under the Macedonian flag which was trying to catch the little wind we had that morning, we learned about the rivalry between the Greeks and the Macedonians. For business, for visiting each other's country, for trade they have no problem. But when the subject is who a Macedonian is, neither the Greeks nor the Macedonians want to let go to be a Macedonian. Greece can not even stand to call the Republic of Macedonia by the U.N acknowledged name. Which means, if Macedonia, as the Republic of Macedonia could ever get a chance to be a member of European Community, the Greeks will veto them. The sign that we saw hanging below a window was a good expression of the concern of the Macedonians.

Macedonia had a very severe earthquake in 1963. 1/6th of the population was lost under the
debris of the buildings. The highly respected and sounds like much loved new prime
minister of Macedonia had decided to get rid of all the debris, knock down all the
Socialist era buildings and recreate an aesthetically harmonious and livable city.
There are constructions everywhere. Walking on the pedestrian streets, we first came across
statues of a drunk man and a group of musicians. The pink blossoms of the cherry trees, the cleanliness of the streets were very attractive.
A city with so many pedestrian streets looked very civilized. The pleasure of the people were honored more than the cars. The birds in the streets were singing as if they too were appreciating the lack of vehicles.

 When we turned around the corner, the modesty of the side streets was replaced with the grandeur of monuments dominating the skyline.
In search of their identity, the Macedonians had decided to put Alexander the Great
 in the middle and heroes of the 14th Century through the 20th century found their
seats on a horses or a thrown. Above them all was the huge sign of SKOPSKO beer.
When we criticized the sign being out of place, Stefan said:" If it weren't for this beer
company funding the project, we could not have had the changes in the city"

Stefan briefed us on the history of the country and the importance of Skopje that he is very proud of; Skopje is the capital of the Republic of  Macedonia;it is in the Povardarie region, and is the largest and most diverse city in the country. Skopje has been occupied by many different peoples since its foundation. This is evidenced by the several Byzantine churches and monasteries around the city, also by a few Roman sites, such as Scupi and Skopje's Aqueduct. However, the group that left the greatest mark on Skopje were the Ottomans. The Ottomans ruled Macedonia, THE BALKANS,  for hundreds of years and built a large number of mosques and other buildings. Today, Skopje is becoming a modern city. Home to about quarter of the entire population of the country, it is also home to many different  of ethnic groups. Besides the majority Macedonians, many Albanians, Turks, Romans, Serbs, Bosniaks and  Greeks call Skopje home


There were some fun little statues showing
the daily life of the people in the city. The statue
of a woman in the river and the statue of the woman
wearing shorts in the shadow of Alexander's horse
were nice artistic  touches in the huge square.








The Ottoman "Stone Bridge" over the Vardar
River connects the old and the new Skopje

Some more statues, some of them were serious, historic and always of men, others were more fun and down to earth!

After the 2nd WW, The British sold Macedonia
theirDouble Decker red busses. since then the
Macedonians have been reproducing the same
busses for public transportation

The grandeur that they were trying to erect in this square is already overshadowed with cheap Chinese made souvenirs.

Mother Theresa

Mother Teresa House, Ulice Makedonia,  was born and lived in Skopje until she was 18. The original house is no longer present, but there is a beautiful and tranquil modern chapel dedicated in her name.  Our visit to the house was delayed because a minister from Qatar was on its way to the chapel. We waited for our turn. We had snacks on the street before we got on our bus from in front of the old train station. The train station was destroyed in the 1963 earthquake and the clock had stoped indicating the exact time of the disaster. The station is now being used as a city museum. Before we got on our bus from in front of the   old train station we had our snacks.The clock of the train station had stopped when the terrible earthquake of 1963 destroyed the station and killed  every 6 people out of 10 people in the city.



The rest of the day was excellent. We took an hour drive to Stefan's mother in law's village. On the way to the village we learned about the education system of Macedonia.
The village roads were too narrow and no place to turn the bus, so we walked down the road. We could not see the cows but we could smell the manure all over the village. It was so beautiful. the chicken and roosters were  grazing around. the surprised huge dogs were barking behind their fences. At the house we were met by Stefan's wife and her mother who had been cooking for us since yesterday. We had a feast of home made fruit juice, stuffed grape leaves( sarma) an excellent pepper paste, home made yogurt and superb pastry filled with cheese and spinach. As a group we had brought an apple tree as a gift. After lunch we planted our tree hoping that we can return to Skopje one day and grab the fruit from the tree.


Everyone was happy when we returned to the hotel. Especially Joann. Her luggage is found!
Overnight at the same hotel Hotel AMBASADOR., in Skopje.

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