As I navigated Macedonia Square in the Macedonian capital, I couldn’t help but be reminded of old hollywood movies – you know, the ones where someone wanders around a back lot amongst the left over scenery from Ben Hur or Cleopatra. As a result of “Skopje 2014”, a project implemented by the Government, Skopje’s main square and surrounding area is crammed with warriors and marble clad museums. As day fell to night, the main pedestrian zone became a fabulous wonderland of faux history. I loved it!
In the preceding weeks to my visit there had been demonstrations and protests, so many of the main buildings had been paint bombed. Somehow this added to the carnival feel of this rather surreal city.
Outside of Skopje, the other main Macedonian attraction is Lake Orhid, one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes. Depending on who you talk to, it is alternately a Macedonian lake with a bit taken away by Alabania or an Albanian Lake which Macedonia has usurped. Either way it is a vast fresh-water ecosystem, littered with monasteries and reed beds.
Heading into the countryside around the lake, something rather eerie lurked in the kitchen gardens and small holdings. Like many cultures the evil eye is feared here and the use of an effigy protects both home and family. These two were the best I saw!
There is so much more to this ancient country than oversized statutes and lakeside tourist attractions but for the casual tourist it felt hard to scratch the surface. The Macedonian leg of the trip was also short and sweet – time was speeding up in the way it does when a holiday is nearly over. Too soon, Tirana was calling. With a last, lingering look across the lake, we crossed the border and said goodbye to this fascinating country.