Sinking my teeth into the 'fruit salad'

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April 20th 2014
Published: April 17th 2018
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Before we go any further, I'd better explain the significance of the title here, as 'Macedonia' actually means 'fruit salad' in Italian, hence the reference point above. With that issue roundly cleared up, the task was trying to determine whether the separate elements of the Macedonian capital and surrounding area were enough pieces of tasty fruit which would validate your sampling this dish. In terms of value for money, as with neighbouring Kosovo, this is one of the more bargain basement ends of the European travel scale, and the cost of living is reflected in the overall state of the economy. That said, the reference points in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, are pleasing enough to the eye, and come across as a conglomeration of styles pertaining to a handful of other nations, namely Greece, Turkey, Serbia, and even a Parisian-style Arc De Triomphe archway. For my money, the unmissable area of Skopje must surely be the warren of streets surrounding the Bit Pazaar area, and in some respects, you could be forgiven for thinking that you are wandering around the back streets of Istanbul, marvelling at the charm of the shops and eateries dotted here and there in an alluringly laid-out fashion. The Bit Pazaar market area is where you are most likely to come across the city's greatest bargains, and whether it is clothing, food or accessories which you seek, you have a fair chance of being able to locate the goods there. Getting around Skopje on foot requires a certain amount of physical energy, as the city is fairly sizeable, and does not possess a metro network, necessitating a durable pair of legs and time to spare, or flagging down one of the city's numerous reasonably-priced taxis in order to reach the desired destination. Kale fortress is one of the city's most universally-visible landmarks, and is for the same reason a suitable vantage point from which to view the city down below, and all its styles and features. It has to be said that the city is not short on decorative fountains and also reveals the fact that statues and monuments abound to such an extent that you'd be led to believe that there are more of these per square metre than any other city on earth. Escaping the city for an encounter with a more natural setting is rendered both simple and pleasureable thanks to its proximity to two prominent places of note which lifted the Skopje trip to higher echolons. One of these is the cable car which takes the visitor up from the foot of Mount Vodno to a gigantic cross perched upon a hillside, and a viewing spot to die for, especially on this occasion, when the snow-capped mountains were clearly visibble above the layer of cloud. More breathtaking still is the jawdroppingly pretty setting of Lake Matka and surrounding Matka canyon, which I am reliably informed becomes so crowded on weekends and in summertime, that parking is a major issue, as is getting a table at any eaterie within close proximity thereto. All of this is easily explained by the visuals of the area, which can induce a few awestruck gasps upon your first encounter with the majestic setting. Trips further afield are numerous too, and the highly-rated climes of Lake Ohrid and its environs are one of the country's top draw cards, which sadly, this tourist was unable to sample due to a reduced Easter bus schedule making the trip far less of an easy reality in a realistic time frame. My overall assessment is that you would benefit greatly from letting each piece of this 'fruit medley' be sampled as a separate item, purely to avoid the scenario of not allowing the real highlights to seep into your soul before moving onto the next piece of juicy fruit. Incidentally, this trip marks the 10th anniversary of my succession of overseas Easter trips, so 'doubling up' and sampling two nations proved to be easily achievable, sufficiently enjoyable and a fitting indication as to where the realms of this mighty fine continent of ours might find me on a future Easter excursion.


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