Skopje in Macedonia is a bit of a strange city. Like most capital cities it wants to show its strength in its centre. Back in 2010, the government was not happy with how the centre looked so plan Skopje 2014 was implemented. Is it ancient Greece. Disneyland or maybe Macedonia land.
Skopje 2014. A new future or Macedonia’s Disneyland
I am almost 2 weeks into my stay in Skopje Macedonia. As I find my way around the city there is no getting away from the most controversial issue here. Skopje 2014.
What is Skopje 2014? Basically, it is the biggest construction project ever seen in Macedonia. A complete redevelopment of the city centre. Over 100 sculptures. 34 monuments. 27 buildings. 5 squares. 1 new triumphal gate and of course 1 massive statue of Alexander the Great on his horse in Macedonia square. The official name is the warrior horseman but everyone knows he is Alexander the Great. It is a bit delicate. Alexander was from the Greek side of Ancient Macedonia. Also, I have never seen so many statues in my life. It feels like everyone has a statue made of them. I haven’t found mine yet.
Of course, if something new goes up something old usually has to come down. Old buildings were demolished and some of city centre parks removed. Skopje could do with more parks.
It was to cost 80 million but is heading now towards 700 million euro. It is very difficult to explain as I walk around the city centre. Am I in Ancient Greece or am I in Macedonia land. Is it beautiful or tacky?
Skopje 2014 is not popular with local people. Not so much for artistic but for financial reasons. You don’t go from 80 million to almost 700 million without a lot of cash ending up with less than honest people. In the 2 weeks, I have been here although it is very cheap compared to western European countries I have found it slightly more expensive than its neighbours Bulgaria and Kosovo. Food seems more expensive. The average wage here is 400 euro a month. It does not seem to add up. I wonder if the cost of Skopje 2014 is taking effect on taxes. That 700 million has to come from somewhere.
Who wins from the redevelopment of Skopje
The big winners will probably be the tourists. It is strange but visually appealing to the eye city to visit now. At least in the 1km Skopje 2014 part. All kinds of bars and restaurants line the newly paved riverside. If you were not sure you might even think these are well kept historical buildings and it is a lot cheaper to visit then Disneyland. I will let you decide if you like it or not. I am not sure myself after 2 weeks here Other than maybe paying a bit more tax on an already cheap beer I won’t have to pay for it. As happens with all these types of projects time will tell if it was correct to do. Maybe having more tourists in Skopje will trickle down to the local population. One thing for sure it should never have cost 700 million euro. Even I can see that.
To see what I am talking about check out my vlog on the how Skopje city centre looks now click on Skopje 2014
Skopje cable car to the millennium cross
I took a trip up to Vodno mountain on the outskirts of Skopje to check out the millennium cross Skopje. I am getting quite the expert getting buses now at Skopje bus station. The local buses in Skope have that old London bus look. There is no metro or trams in Skopje. The bus cost around 1.50 euro return. Number 25 which goes every half hour at peak times. On the way back I got off the bus at Macedonia square so you should be able to get on near there also. The Skopje Millenium cross itself was not much to look at. It looks better at night lit up over the city. The best part was the cable car trip up from where the bus stops to the cross. I did not expect it to be so steep. It costs 100 Denar return which is less then 2 euro. The only cable car I had been on before was to Dursey Island West Cork Ireland. It is not as steep as the cable car in Skopje but at least in Skopje, you can be fairly sure you won’t have to share the cable car with a West Corks farmers cow.
Skopje city bus 25 to the Milliumium cross
So why not check out Skopje yourself. Arrivals on flights to Skopje Macedonia will double from 1 million in 2000 to 2 million this year 2018. The time in Skopje is central European time so 1 hour more than the UK. The weather in Macedonia goes up to the mid-30s Celsius during the peak summer months. The coldest month is Jan with an average of zero Celsius
Skopje pollution December 2017
Skopje Macedonia Pollution
If you are going to come to Skopje Macedonia it may be best to visit in the summer. The above picture was taken in Skopje in December 2017. Skopje is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. The problem happens mainly in the winter when smoke from wood burning in stoves add to industrial and older cars emissions. In January 2018 after a few days of very high pollution levels, the government activated some emergency levels. This included all pregnant woman and anyone over 60 allowed work leave. Free or reduced fares on public transport to stop people using cars. Also a ban on sporting and major activities outdoor activities.
I have also in the 2 weeks I have been here noticed that Macedonia does have a major litter issue. Not so much in the city centre where the tourists are but most other places. The streets seem to be full of litter and plastic bottles. When I have travelled on buses within the country I have been a bit shocked to see the rubbish on the roads, I know rubbish disposal costs money but I did not see the same in Bulgaria or to a lesser extent Kosovo. I have seen on occasions people just throwing plastic bottles on the ground. It is a mindset. I remember when I was younger Ireland was the same. It is not perfect now but it is better. I think it just needs to be spoken about here and acknowledged as an issue. Macedonia is a beautiful country and Skopje has great potential. Pollution and litter are human problems so should be able to be solved by humans. In the meantime, I am enjoying living here in August but I cannot see myself being here during the winter until the smog is sorted out.
The Green Market Skopje
The Green Market Skopje
Boulevard Kocho Racin 36, Skopje
One of the best things about spending more than a few days in a new city is you take things a bit slower. There is no rush to see all the main sites in a few days. When I lived in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria I think I walked every street in the city. Every walk was down a different street. This way I found the most amazing bars and cafes. My friends in Las Palmas used to ask me how did I know about certain bars I took them to. They did not know of them. I used to say maybe one day I would show them their city. I always have had a curious mind. I want to know what is around the corner. This week on a walk away from the tourist areas I came across the Green Market. I am sure most tourists will never see here but this is where many in Skopje get their fruit and veg. There are also some nice places to chill out and have a beer or coffee. I am not saying if you are on a short visit to Skopje you need to visit the market but if you are going to stay here for a while it is a good place to stock up on fruit and veg.
Do you know Macedonia was the only country that did not fight a war during the break up of Yugoslavia. Being the most southerly country and having Kosovo between Macedonia and Serbia probably helped. Over 95% of everyone that voted in 1991 voted for independence.
S.E.O Snakeoil salesmen and Silence
So 6 weeks ago today I left Las Palmas. I have to admit there have been days when I have sneaked a look at the live webcam on Las Canteras beach. I lived just a 2-minute walk from the beach and swam there most days. People may not have believed me but I really did not have a plan. I just knew I needed to do something to stimulate my mind.
I am about 5% sure now what I want to do. That is up from 2% a week ago so that’s not to bad. I want to blog about where I am and what I am up to at the moment. What does that mean? I don’t know but a year at the minimum. Maybe more. When I arrived in Sofia Bulgaria 6 weeks ago I did not know I would be in Skopje Macedonia today. I do know one thing today If I am going to do a blog I want it to be a good blog. I want it to be a successful blog.
My Travel Blog
I have really enjoyed writing the blog so far but there are good days and bad days. Writing stuff is no problem. I have a lot of stuff going on in my head that wants to get out. The biggest issue when you start a blog you start from scratch. You get days when you get a great comment and you get the silent days when you wonder if anyone is reading what you have posted. But I knew this. I know it will take time. I would be lying if I did not admit there are days when I have wondered what I am doing 1000s of kilometres from home writing blog posts few people will read at the start. Do I have the stamina to see out the quiet days is the question. The worse case scenario is I get to see some great places. How bad.
I have some experience with these things. During my hotel days, I have been in a few management positions. This put me into contact with the S.E.O industry. Search Engine Optimisation. Google has transformed the world in so many ways. It also has resulted in creating a massive spin-off industry around search engines.
The statistics show when we look for something on Google 90% of us never go past the first page. So there is the challenge, The holy grail of search engines and the S.E.O snake oil salesmen or woman. Over the last 15 years, I have met and paid so many S.E.O experts who have promised to get the hotel or website I was involved into page 1 of google.
By the time I had paid 10 of them all who never did what they said what they would do I had become a sceptic. The conversation used to go as follows.
I can get you on page 1 on google. No, you cannot. All you S.E.O guys are chancers. Snakeoil salesmen. Yes, I agree with you Pat all SEO people are snake oil salesmen but I am different. I have cracked the Google algorithm. I came to believe that they actually believed they had cracked the Google algorithm. The funny thing is that 100% of the S.E.O people I met back then believed that only they alone and no one else had cracked it.
One day I decided to test the resolve of the latest S.E.O guy that knocked on my door. As usual, I knocked his profession. As usual, he agreed with me but told me he was different and for a monthly fee he would have me on page 1 in 6 months. I said ok let us work together but I have one condition. I will pay you the full amount after you get me up to page 1 in 6 months and a 20% bonus. What he said. How can I trust you will pay me in 6 months. I said you want me to trust you and pay you months before you get me on page 1. We had a common friend. I said he could ask him and he would vouch that I would pay him should he do what he said he could do. He never took me up on the offer. Maybe really deep down they all know they have not cracked the Google algorithm.
So I think Search Engine Optimisation is a load of nonsense? I actually think it is massively important for any business with a website. It is Google’s mission to bring you back the best result based on what you asked for. If it did not you would not be impressed. The problem for websites is everyone is trying to be on page 1 and not everyone can be.
I have actually embarked on trying to learn about S.E.O as I do my blog. I know it is important. I need people to find my blog that would not otherwise know it is there. I am finding it confusing and exhilarating. There so many pay now for quick success options. I have decided to try to the proper way. Regular blogging with what I hope will be good interesting content. It will be slower but I hope successfully in the end. Maybe I will get lucky along the way. I might crack the Google algorithm. If not I can always become a snake oil salesman.
From BEER to eternity my search for cheap beer.
Well, Bulgaria is still the land of beer for 0.65 cents and maybe less. In the meantime, I have found a local bar here in Skopje Macedonia where I can get a pint for 1.14 euro. Not bad. The more critical situation is I have run out of my La Palma cigars. After my visit to Cuba last year I started smoking 1 cigar a day. The Canary Island of La Palma produces cheap cigars. I used to pay 5 euro for 25. I could have got 50 for 5 euro but I went upmarket. The problem was 1 a day became 2 and so on. I stocked up with 100 before I came away. I had a withdrawal day the other day. When I was in a shop I could see a half full cigar box and a price of 3 euro on it. I asked how much for just 1 cigar. She replied that is the price for 1. I was in shock as I paid 3 euro for 1 cigar. I enjoyed it but straight back to cold turkey. I have no time now for such extravagances. 1 cigar should never cost 3 beers.
Join me on my journey.
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