This is my second visit to Skopje, as I was here in September 2012, about 1 and 1/2 years ago, which I blogged about here. I am here this week for a basketball tourney so haven’t had much time to see the city.
We did a walking tour of downtown last night, and you can see above the Palace of Justice behind one of the many statues along the Vardar River. That is one thing I will miss about living in Europe is being able to see so many different countries in such a short time. The drive from Belgrade to Skopje is about 5 hours. Skopje was once part of Yugoslavia and one can still see the distinctive Socialist architecture here and there. The Macedonians are trying to re-do the city in their own image with many new buildings. There is also a Turkish/Albanian influence, as the country is about 25% ethnic Albanian. Our host Aleksandar said that the fortress is closed to the public due to a dispute between the muslim community and the Macedonian Orthodox community. City officials were to build or open an Orthodox Church there and the Albanian community opposed it.
Macedonia was a smaller part of the ex-Yugoslavia, with only about 2 million inhabitants. Beside Tito’s Partisans wanting the area, the Macedonians have also been sought after by the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbians, Ottomans, etc. I am happy they have their independence, but feel if they wanted a larger country, they would best fit with the Bulgarians.
I am here for a basketball tournament with our High School Boys’ team. We are playing games at the Boris Trajkovski Sports Center, which is named after the former President of Macedonia. He died in an airplane crash while visiting Bosnia 10 years ago. He was a Methodist Minister and was known as a moderate who promoted inclusion of all ethnic groups in Macedonia. This is a quality still much needed today in the Balkans. He is regarded as a hero by the Macedonians and the government has built a beautiful center with a hockey rink, pool, arena, gymnasium, etc.