Day five in the Balkans

Day five was wholly in North Macedonia but involved a lot of travel on some really poor roads.

We left Ohrid in the south-east of the country and travelled north-west to the middle of the nation.  Here we visited the Stobi archaeological site which was a reminder of the long and rich history of this part of the world. Stobi was a key location at the time of the Roman occupation of Macedonia when Augustus was emperor. For centuries the area sank into oblivion before it was revealed by the French historian Leon Heuzey in 1861. It is still being excavated. 

It was very hot (28C) as we wandered round the site, so we were pleased that, soon after this visit, we stopped for lunch at the Popova Kula Winery at Demir Kapija. In an effort to sell the local wines, we were served with samples of white, rose and red during the meal. I for one fell asleep on the next stage of our road journey which was to the capital of North Macedonia which is Skopje. 

After no more than three-quarters of an hour, we were off again on a walking tour of the city led by our guide in North Macedonia Anela. The city centre is full of new buildings, mainly government departments and museums. There are two reasons for this transformation. 

First, in 1963, Skopje was devastated by a major earthquake which I remember at the time (I was 15). Second and more significantly, since independence in 1991, they have been creating all the institutions of a nation state together with lots of statues honouring a mythic past. 

So, for example, in the main Macedonia Square there is a grand equestrian statue of Alexander the Great. The area of the old Turkish bazaar retains some of the earlier atmosphere of the city. 


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