2019-10-3 Northmacedonia

Skopje and the Mavrovo National Park

First we visited Skopje and after that we wanted to see the Mavrovo Nationalpark. Skopje, especially Martin, was enthusiastic about Skopje from the beginning. The old town with the authentic bazaar, the many cafés and craftsmen in their small shops, but I liked that too. As always I feel rather cramped and oppressed in cities and quickly yearn for space and nature. In contrast, I found the “Neustadt”, especially shaped by the “Skopje 2014” project, almost absurd. For hundreds of millions of Euros, magnificent buildings in the ancient Greek/Macedonian style are being erected here. Everything is oversized, from the waterworks to the archaeology museum to the government building. The “Las-Vegas-wanna-be” impression is underlined in the evening by the spectacular water games and lighting. Some say it’s money laundering by the government, others think it’s good because it attracts tourists and you definitely get to see “something” in this city.

At first I found it disgusting, later absurd and in the end amusing. Everywhere there are huge statues, every Macedonian who has ever done anything is immortalized here. The song “Denkmal” by Wir Sind Helden came to my mind: “They built a monument for us…and every idiot knows that it ruins love…” Well. As a citizen, I would also prefer to see the money invested in schools and hospitals… The statue of “Alexander the Great”, probably the most famous Macedonian, may by the way, thanks to the Greeks, only call itself “rider on horse”, since the Greeks claim Alexander’s inheritance for themselves alone. I really don’t have any understanding for this kind of frowning on an international level.

After a day of sightseeing we gladly accepted Nikola’s and Jasmina’s invitation and visited them for dinner in their apartment. We got to feel the full Macedonian hospitality, with Macedonian food in abundance, raki and an honest and authentic insight into life in Macedonia. The two want to leave their country behind and set off for Germany as soon as their language skills have been consolidated and a job has been found in Germany. We were overwhelmed by so much cordiality and openness. Since the Skopjes Jazz Festival, famous throughout Macedonia, was to take place a week later, we spontaneously decided to return to Skopje after our visit to the Mavrovo National Park. We made an appointment with our new friends for a concert on Saturday evening.

The next day we left early for the national park. Also in Macedonia it is slowly becoming autumn. But the weather still shines with sunshine and a deep blue sky, so it doesn’t matter that the nights get cooler. The Mavrovo Lake, a reservoir that is 50-60 meters deep at its deepest points and full of crystal clear, fresh water, was surrounded by forests that glow in magnificent autumn colors. What a sight. We found a beautiful night spot, a secret spot, for everyone who wants to travel to Macedonia. The days here were wonderfully peaceful. We went hiking, collected mushrooms, did yoga on the rocks, campfires in the evening and gathered new energy. For swimming the water was a bit too cold, but just right for the wake-up jump in the early morning. BRRRR better than any coffee! After that you are definitely awake. Apart from a herd of sheep that came by twice a day, we had this great spot completely for ourselves. I enjoyed the peace and quiet and the autumn atmosphere, where you could feel how nature is slowly getting quieter and preparing for the quiet winter months.

Back in Skopje. This time we had taken an AirBnb apartment to avoid the evening parking search. The weekend was full of beautiful moments, great music and stimulating conversations. I finally got my long awaited new tattoo! One spontaneously turned into two, why not? I can highly recommend the tattoo studio “MG-Tattoo-Studio”. The first concert, at the National Opera Skopjes, was very atmospheric. Anour Brahem played and before that the “Sokratis Sinopoulos Jazzquartett”. After that we went to the club “Epicenta” where a jazz DJ played. But after the concert we were hungry and still looking for a snack at night. After we had asked ourselves through, it was clear: all recommendations led to the “7 Burger”, the only fast food shop that opened late into the night and had cult status with the locals. We bravely asked ourselves through the alleys, because the shop in question is perhaps legendary, but also quite hidden. But the search was more than rewarded! There are, as the name suggests, burgers. Only burgers. Pom burgers: burgers with fries, sauce and oregano. No salad/tomato/cucumber/snack. Sounds funny. Tastes fantastic. The Macedonian answer to the Pom kebab! Yummy!

The first evening was a success! A little on wheels we bumped through the day. In the evening we met Jasmina and Nikola for another concert. In the “MKZ”, an alternative youth centre, the most famous conductor of Macedonia played his own jazz compositions with a complete orchestra. Absolutely awesome! The evening was super nice and we say THANK YOU again to our dear acquaintances from Skopje!
Time to leave the capital. But what would expect us at our next stage, Lake Ohrid, we were not prepared.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

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