Five days is just right

Five days is just right

This was only the second time we visited Macedonia, and for first time Skopje and Kavadarci. The trip was rough, both to and back, but the scenery is irreplaceable. The route was Mostar – Sarajevo – Tuzla – Belgrade and finally Skopje.

We entered Macedonia around dawn, immediately noticing that not much is different than here in our country.  The people look the same; the air is practically the same, even the smell. The whole atmosphere is quite similar. To clarify, we had travelled all through the night and, and other than the bathroom breaks, we slept through most of it. So, when we woke up, it’s as if we had gone through an incredibly uncomfortable teleporter that gives you a cramp in your lower back.

The first funny part of Skopje was an encounter with a taxi driver at the bus station. While we were trying to triangulate ourselves and the hostel, and calculating how much time would it take to walk to it, about 6-7 taxi drivers approached, offering to drive us there. We declined all, not wanting to waste money. But one more came up saying: Hey Bosnia, our cabs are much more affordable. Where do you need to go?

Needless to say, he is a funny and polite guy. He even offered his phone to call Tanja, the hostel owner, and tell her to pick us up. Hostel Skopje is a warm recommendation for all visitors.

On the evening of our arrival, we met with YC Dimitar, who gave us a quick tour of Skopje. The centre of the city is flooded with sculptures and gleaming, neo-classical buildings complete with ornate columns and rooftop figures of nymphs. Bridges lined with pristine statues of Macedonian heroes, artists and politicians cross the slow-moving waters of the Vardar River. This project, known as Skopje 2014, had two main aims: to draw in more tourists and to try to reclaim aspects of the country’s history from neighbouring Greece, appealing to the patriotism of many ethnic Macedonians.

At the heart of the new-look city centre is a 22-metre-high bronze statue of Alexander the Great, encircled by warriors and a fountain at the centre of nightly light shows. Nearby, statues of former rulers and saints seem to be crammed by the dozen into all available spaces, along with the city’s own Triumphal arch.

Dimitar explained how his people still question the vast public expense of this project, especially its aesthetic qualities. This is not the Skopje I remember and love, he said.

On our second day we went to a workshop called “If buildings could talk”, a collaborative project that aims to save certain concrete urban spaces which were landmarks in one city. They speak about local urban issues in Skopje, Belgrade and Zagreb. One such building is the railway workers’ residential complex in Skopje constructed in the late 50s. It’s the first multi-family apartment building in Macedonia and a remnant of the beginnings of modernism in this country. Three of the original workers still live there, and gladly open their doors to any happy visitor. Apart from the housing, the complex had 20% communications centre, 35% communal area, a multipurpose cinema theatre, communal balconies and an inner courtyard with greenery. The project aims to raise enough money to restore this complex to its former glory.

On the third day, we walked around the city, getting to know it. The remnants of the Yugoslavian style echo from the buildings and streets when you move away from the city’s centre and the kitsch of project Skopje 2014. We visited ALDA headquarters where we were greeted by the members of the organization Iva, Anica, Dragana and Katica and volunteers from France, and shared experiences with them about their projects to improve the quality of everyday life of their youth.

After that, we went to a contemporary dance workshop, led by dancer Matea Kiselichka. She developed this workshop from her master thesis, connecting contemporary dance with the martial art of Ninjutsu.

The fourth day, we went to the city Kavadarci, a small town in the Tikvesh region of the Republic of Macedonia. There we talked with Aneta, a local musician, about the state of the city's culture and the difficulties of young artists.


ANETA MISHEVA, Leksikon band, Kavadarci, Macedonia

- (The biggest problem is that local bands are degraded in Kavadarci. All bar owners are looking for bands outside the region because they feel insecure in the work of local bands. If you are not famous, but you are still a musician, you hardly get paid. They usually degrade you with the sentence: "Why should I pay someone who does not have a copyrighted music, is somebody coming to listen to you precisely"?

- The new generations in Kavadarci are not listening to good quality music, anymore.  I can even say that, for the whole region, not only Kavadarci. And I blame the Turbo Folk music for that.

- Yes there is a chance to do, or become something more. Without sleeping (laughs), with a good organization, and 200 % of hard work. There is a way to present to people the thing that you are best at, even though we live in a very conservative society.)


As part of recreational activities, along with YC's Elena, Sonja and Zlatica, we spent the afternoon at the City park and Spomenik Kosturnica.


On our last day in Skopje, we walked around the city with Elena. She studied here, and this is her favourite street. She introduced us to a young sculptor student Mitko who confirmed all of our previous conversations.


MITKO DAMJANOVSKI, sculptor student: Nowadays there is no idea for culture. The contact between people is lost, and so is humanity. That’s probably the reason culture vanishes, and it is very noticeable. Maybe there's a small group of people becoming involved in the idea of spreading culture, maybe some artists, musicians and actors..., but still not all of them want to do something more different than what the system offers. Let's say there is an institution that’s evaluating art. Everybody would be able to present anything that they think is art, even though it isn’t, but when you create a real piece of art the institution doesn’t exist. To sum up, these days it is very hard to find out what is a real piece of art. The point is that everyone cannot be a real artist.


All of our impressions of Macedonia, its people and culture can be summed up in one sentence: we are all the same, our joys and problems are the same, and only through cultural unity can we encourage each other to develop a higher state of mind. The cultural shift this country has seen in the past few years has undoubtedly left a mark on its citizens. From tradition to this new-age neoclassical look that has encompassed Skopje, Macedonians and Albanians found a way to unite; at least in terms of culture. Because culture is the main power source for internal and physical change for the better.  


Jasmina & Edita

Posted: Dec 26, 2017,
Categories: Youth,
Comments: 0,
Author: Svetlana

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