Skopje #3: Vodno Mountain

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March 6th 2020
Published: April 14th 2020
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Since I had covered everything that I had wanted to in the city, I decided to head a little further afield. The two main places that are within easy reach of the city are Matka Canyon and Vodno Mountain. Whilst Matka Canyon is no doubt the prettiest. The bus to Vodno Mountain ran more frequently, so I plumped for there. Getting a ticket for the bus appeared to be a bit of a ballache as you cannot buy tickets on the bus and have to buy and pre-load a card with credit. They can only be bought from special green booths which are scattered around the city. The transport company really needs to update their English webpage to make it easier for tourists to figure out how to buy tickets without having to rely on others for help. Luckily, the hostel I was staying at had cards available, but didn't know how much credit was on them. Since I was staying near the bus terminal, which is home to intercity and international buses, and also next to it is the terminal for the red London style Routemaster city buses. The city buses just pull up under the overpass and most stops are signposted. There is also a big old stationary yellow bus that serves as the ticket office. The staff were friendly and helpful. The woman struggled a bit with English and I really wish that the city just had machines as it would make everyone's lives easier. The bus I wanted was waiting and I hopped on and waited a few minutes until it was time for departure. I was really surprised at how busy the bus was. I wondered if all the people were heading to Vodno Mountain or other destinations before it.

The bus journey took about 40 minutes and I was surprised to see that my walk along the river the previous evening had taken me so close to the bus station. We then headed to the centre and then past a large hospital before we started heading uphill. The journey got progressively steeper, the higher we got. It was a little bit scary as if the bus skidded off the road, there would have been quite a drop. I don't think I would have liked to have done the journey when there is snow or ice on the road. The views down over Skopje were really good. Once the bus reach the carpark, we alighted and it was a short walk to the cable car station. The tickets were fairly cheap and I joined the queue to go up the mountain. I had hung back and tried to get a cable car all to myself, when a group of old people appeared behind me just as I was getting to the front of the queue, so I ended up having to share. The journey up the mountain took about ten minutes and I got to take in more vies of the city. The views were hindered a little up here by what looked like a layer of haze, that I hadn't seen at the lower level. It was also pretty cold when I got out of the cable car. It was quite a cloudy day which did impact the views.

Vodno Mountain is 1,066 metres high. I was surprised to find that the Millennium Cross was right next to the cable car station. I had expected it to be a bit of a walk away like the Brasov sign had been from that cable car. The Millennium Cross is 66 metres high and was constructed to serve as a memorial for 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia. While it isn't the tallest cross in the world, it is one of the tallest. To be honest, seeing the cross up close was a bit underwhelming. I think that the main reason was that the base structure was a bit ghetto looking, it looked more like a Soviet relic than something built this century. Also there was other construction work going on and that was right next to the Millennium Cross and it was rather distracting. However, there were some better views. I hadn't come all this way just to look at the cross and then head back down. So I went for a walk around the top of the mountain. There are lots of different paths, nothing is signposted, so I just wandered around in a couple of different directions. The views all around were amazing, even though it was pretty overcast, I could see the peaks of snow capped mountains in the distance. They looked really beautiful. My wandering took me to a wooden structure that I climbed to get a better view of all the mountains that surrounded Skopje. While I couldn't see the actual city itself from the top of the mountain, the other views more than made up for that. Vodno Mountain seemed to be really popular with older people as there were a lot just chilling with food and drinks and the more active ones were taking a walk around. You can hike up and down the mountain as well id you wish, but I'm not sure how well signposted that would be. I enjoyed taking a look at an old abandoned mountain shelter, too, before heading back to the cable car. I think I spent about ninety minutes or so wandering around, taking in the views and taking pictures. When I got back to the cable car station, it wasn't in operation. I think for every hour, it only operates for the first thirty minutes. I'm not sure why, maybe to save power? When it started up, I headed back down the mountain, I enjoyed the views over the city again.

I had a while to wait for the bus, the were a few little stalls along the path from the cable car to the bus stop and car park, most weren't open but a few were selling food and drinks. I didn't want anything so just chilled on a bench by the bus until it was time for it to leave. The journey back down took about the same as the journey up and I enjoyed the views down over Skopje. I headed back to my place for a cuppa and a bit of a rest. Once refreshed, I decided to head back to Kale Fortress as we only had a brief look around on the walking tour the previous day. I made my way back through the city centre and up the hill towards the entrance. I walked around one of the outer walls first, I had hoped I could enter the fortress from there, but it was chained off, so I made my way to the main entrance. The first fortress was built in the 6th century and the current structure is believed to have been built during the 10th and 11th centuries during the rule of Emperor Justinian I. This time I explored more of the fortress. I came across a cool looking statue and walked around the wall of the fortress. It seems that Kale Fortress is a popular place for older children to hang out after school. I enjoyed my walk along the wall, it was nice to see the views over the city and to think about the people who had lived and worked in the fortress many centuries ago.

It was time for some food and I want to have something Macedonian after having had Chinese yesterday. I decided to head back to Kaj Serdarot while was the restaurant we went to yesterday on the walking tour. I had enjoyed the food there and it was very reasonably priced. The restaurant was pretty quiet when I arrived and I grabbed one of the outside tables so that I could watch the world go by as I ate. One of the traditional Macedonian foods that the guide had recommended was the sharska burger, which is a burger stuffed with cheese, how could I resist not having one. I ordered that and a beer. It was probably a little too cold to be sitting outside drinking beer, but I was hopeful that the hot food would warm me up. I really enjoyed the sharska burger. It was delicious and flavourful. The cheese inside was a good amount, not too much and not too little. There was also some soft cheese on top, which was a nice addition. The waiter also gave me some chilli powder to sprinkle on the top, that was yummy and added a bit of a punch. The meal was a great end to my time in Skopje and I was looking forward to exploring more of Macedonia.

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