Feeling the Communist Fantasy in Skopje, Macedonia

One of the great parts of our most recent trip to the Balkans was that it pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Normally when I travel I obsessively and compulsively project manage the living hell out of the whole thing.  To the point where almost every minute of every day is accounted for in some way or another.  I’d attribute this proclivity to my business training, but that’d be lying – I’ve been like this forever.  But anyway, being that there was only a week between booking tickets and departing on this adventure, I didn’t have the time to plan everything.  And thus, I didn’t realize when we left that we were destined to fall in love with Skopje, Macedonia.

I mean, what’s not to love about all of this quirky, Yugoslav-era, “communist” architecture?

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By the time we’d arrived in Skopje, I’d read a couple of articles by bloggers on the city, but nothing in too great of detail about the extant architecture.  I knew it was undergoing a radical facelift – and boy, it looked like Las Vegas’ ugly sister had some low rent work in Tijuana.  Yikes.  The new buildings were ostentatious and not much to my taste.  But, as I wrote about Tbilisi’s similar (but not quite as drastic) transformation, it’s none of my business how development manifests across the developing world.

What is my business, however, were all of the glorious brutal structures from decades past.  I’m talking about those glorious 70s and 80s, when brutalist/Stalinist/whatever-you-want-to-call-it megastructures were in vogue.

Speaking of vogue…

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Walking down the streets of Skopje, David and I might as well have been extras from the seminal documentary “Paris is Burning” (or maybe just drag queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) the way we were snapping at and cat calling the aging structures.  

Case in point: The Macedonia Post Office Headquarters? “WERRRRRK!”jpegs-132_22468902595_o jpegs-131_22468807505_o jpegs-134_22280932720_o

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The new Orthodox Cathedral? “FEEL THE FANTASY KWEEN.”jpegs-143_22280939310_o jpegs-149_22442795396_o jpegs-145_22281221508_o

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Apartment blocks? “YASSS COME THROUGH.”jpegs-159_22281231888_o jpegs-158_22282100649_o jpegs-148_22282093619_o

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Whatever the hell this building is? “GIT IT GURRRRL.”jpegs-153_22455555792_o jpegs-150_21847721473_o

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Sure, we liked Skopje for other reasons as well.  The markets were great, particularly the green market – bursting at the seams with red peppers in preparation for families making ajvar – think marinara, but with a bell pepper base instead of tomatoes.jpegs-119_22468894265_o jpegs-118_22281200858_o jpegs-115_22281197138_o

And there was a decent Mexican restaurant where we ate twice (shame).  And the random booksellers on the sides of the roads selling ancient books organized in no particular way?  We maybe liked them the most.jpegs-103_22280837020_o jpegs-104_22455518752_o

But when we think back to our time in Macedonia’s stranger than life capital, we think about the architecture.  For a much more in depth read on the architecture of Skopje, pre 2014 facelift, I highly recommend Nate’s article on it over at Yomadic, as well as this one featured on Roads and Kingdoms.  They’re both far more articulate than my kneejerk catcalling.

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4 thoughts on “Feeling the Communist Fantasy in Skopje, Macedonia

  • November 5, 2015, 6:41 am

    i loved the ‘commentary’ on this hahah! i wish i had had time for skopje when i was in macedonia. i started there and left from there, but only spent my time around ohrid. i had five days and just didnt think i could squeeze that in. one day ill make it there for these beauties of architecture, one day 🙂

    • November 5, 2015, 7:12 am

      It was a lovely surprise – we had about a day and a half there including a 7 hour “layover” between buses from Ohrid and to Sofia – and had no idea going in that it was home to all of these fantastic buildings. We were totally gobsmacked and reduced to the most basic drag queen-esque commentary.

      Hope you’re having a great time in Colombia! 🙂

  • October 19, 2017, 7:45 am

    Nowadays, I look for blogs on Skopje’s example of brutalism in architecture, as I can’t stand the grotesqueness that is “Skopje 2014” – über-kitsch disaster that crushed the city’s soul. Glad it turned out to be a nice surprise for you.
    Sunny smiles from Skopje.

    • October 19, 2017, 8:33 am

      We absolutely loved Skopje, and agree that the 2014 facelift takes away from the experience in the city. I do wonder though, when more time has passed, will people who don’t remember 2014 see the new buildings as part of the heart of the city? To be determined I guess.

      Anyway, we loved your country, and hope to visit again soon! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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