Skopje is the capital city of Macedonia and its largest urban center and city with about a third of total Macedonia population. Skopje is political, cultural, economic and administrative center of North Macedonia and without a doubt one of the most peculiar cities of the Balkans. In the ancient time Skopje was known as Scupi which is present day archaeological site at the suburb of the town.

Skopje is set on the upper course of the Vardar River, located approximately in the center of the major Balkan route Via Militaris or Via Diagonalis /ancient Roman road/ that used to run direction north-south between Singidunum /present Belgrade/ and Athens with branch that had connected Via Egnatia and led to the ancient Constantinople – Tsarigrad /present Istanbul/. The Vardar River divides the city of Skopje in two, the old part and the newer part. The latter has a nice pedestrian street from the Macedonia Square to the Old train station. Skopje is located at an elevation of 225 meters, fully surrounded with wonderful mountains. Skopje features humid subtropical climate with very hot and humid summers and cold, wet, and often snowy winters. Skopje is the birth place of Mother Teresa, and there is a nice memorial house in her honor and a sculpture of her. Two artificial lakes of Skopje are located just few kilometers outside the city center – the Matka and Treska Lakes and are supplied by the Treska River.

The territory of the present day Skopje has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC and Neolithic remains have been found in the Kale Fortress. In 148 BC the city of Scupi became part of the Roman Province of Macedonia when it developed rapidly into large religious center with its own bishop. In the year of 518 the Scupi city was destroyed by a disastrous earthquake when wonderful architectonic buildings, numerous public baths and the ancient amphitheater built in Roman style, and large basilica with mosaic floors of Scupi have completely disappeared. After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Scupi became part of the Eastern Roman Empire – the Byzantine Empire with the seat in Constantinople. In the early medieval period the Byzantines and the Bulgarians competed over the rule on Scupi. Byzantine Emperor Justinian I constructed Kale Fortress of Skopje in the 6th century. From 1189 Scupi was under the Serbian Medieval Kingdom and its capital city til 1346. In 1392 the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks who named the town Üsküp. The town of Skopje was under Ottoman control over 500 years. During that period numerous typical Ottoman structures had been built in Skopje in the oriental architecture style such are Bezistan, Stone Bridge, Daut Pasha Hamam and Cifte Hamam, Isa Bey Mosque, Ishak Bey Mosque /Aladja Mosque/, Kapan Han, Kursumli Han, Suli Han, Sultan Murad Mosque, Mustapha Pasha Mosque, Yahja Pasha Mosque….

Most of the Ottoman monuments of Skopje, majority from the 15th and the 16th centuries are clustered in and around a charming historical Skopje core – the Old bazaar district /charshi/, which itself is a rare /and truly living/ example of such an urban ensemble that evolved between the 15th and the 19th centuries. The Old Bazaar of Skopje /Macedonian Stara Čaršija from the Turkish, meaning marketplace/ in Skopje represents the old commercial heart of the town and one of the largest bazaars in the Balkans /besides the one in Istanbul/. The Skopje Old Bazaar is situated on the eastern bank of the Vardar River and had been the city center for trade and commerce since the 12th century. The Skopje old bazaar – the Skopje charshi is one of the best preserved and the most authentic among many old trade and historical quarters in the Balkans. In the small innumerable handicraft shops, the Skopje’s handicrafts-men still live and work, tailors, cobbler, quilt makers, shoe makers, goldsmiths, tinsmiths…., but also tiny cafes and shops that produce and sell original food and drinks, so we warmly recommend advise we learnt from our wonderful Macedonian partner – to taste right there warm simit homemade bread. Ishak Bey, a lord of the march appears to have been the adopted son of no less than the town’s conqueror. He sponsored a cluster of buildings on the edge of the emerging commercial district, in the depression below the fortress, including a hospice with a built-in oratory /zaviye/imaret/, a seminary /medrese/, a public bathhouse /hamam/ for both sexes, and a hostel for merchants /han/. It rapidly grew and reached its peak during the Ottoman rule what is evidenced in over 30 mosques, several caravan-serays, hamams /baths/ and other Ottoman structures and monuments. The hans, of which there soon were several, served the traders doing business in the commercial Skopje district. They were housed in cells in two-storied buildings around an enclosed courtyard. The bathhouse – Hammam, testimony to a revived bathing culture, was important not only in terms of hygiene but also as a social space, in particular for women. Ishak Bey also built the structure presently known as the Aladža /Alajja – ‘Colored’/ Mosque /1438-9/ which served to a variety of functions, including the lodging and feeding of guests /often dervishes/, staff, and dependents, as well as communication and ritual. Ishak Bey’s intention must have been to develop ‘his’ Skopje into an urban center which was continued by his son Isa Bey, better known as the founder of Sarajevo, another modern Balkan capital. Ottoman sultan Murat II built a large congregational mosque on the Gazi Baba hill in 1430, perhaps on the foundations of a church that stood derelict since the Ottoman conquest in 1391 or 1392. In the period between the 16th and 17th century, the Old Bazaar of Skopje reached its urban and economic zenith, developing into one of the largest and most significant oriental old bazaars in the Balkans. The Mustafa Pasha mosque /1492/ in Skopje, recently restored, has preserved much of the grandeur of the Ottoman ‘classical age’. The domed cube flanked by a three-bay portico and a lofty, slender minaret is the prototype of many mosques built thereafter in the Balkan provinces, especially in Bosnia and Hungary. The portal of the Mustafa Pasha’s mosque may rank as one of the finest of its kind in the Balkans. Although Islamic architecture is predominant in the Skopje Old Bazaar, there are several Orthodox Christian churches as well, that are truly worth-visiting. The Old Skopje Bazaar is present day a protected national landmark and contains numerous old craftsmen shops making the “market on a human scale”, where visitors are strongly recommended to try burek and other tasty breakfast pastries in numerous cafes. The Suli Han is also situated in the Skopje Bazaar and represents a monument of culture. Suli Han Skopje has been considered as one of the most beautiful edifices from the first half of the 15th century whose structure consisted of wide square atrium around which there was a porch with arches from where the rooms were entered in. After the restoration, Suli Han inn in Skopje has more functional usage and it houses the Museum of the Old Skopje Bazaar and the Academy of fine Arts of Republic of Macedonia.

In 1912 Skopje was proclaimed the capital of the Vardar Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as per subdivision of the Kingdom of Serbia during the Balkan Wars. In the past, on the place of the present Stone Bridge over the Vardar River in Skopje – the Tsar /emperor/ Dushan Bridge, there were monuments dedicated to King Petar I and King Aleksandar Karadjordjevic as the symbol of the Serbian liberation from the centennial rule of the Ottoman Empire, and unification with the other Serb lands and the Serb people. Nowadays on their place are monuments dedicated to Damjan Gruev and Goce Delcev. After the First World War Skopje became part of the newly established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes /Kingdom of Yugoslavia/. When in 1912 Serbia liberated its southern parts from the Ottomans, Skopje was tiny oriental and neglected small town with only a few new structures. Serbia instantly carried out ambitious projects of modernization of Skopje. Although the First WW postponed those plans, the town of Skopje experienced radical improvements of its appearance during the period between two world wars when town turned into the modern town that deserved the Serb epithet of the “Imperial Skopje”. In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Skopje was considered with special care with much more attention and investments directed there than to Nis, Pristina and Kragujevac, with projection to become the center of the large part of the state. The Serbian rulers loved Skopje and regarded it as the pearl within their crowns. Once in the central bridge of Skopje there were two impressive monuments dedicated to King Peter and King Aleksandar Karadjordjevic which commemorated useless human and material losses wasted for the liberation of the southern part of the state. The monuments to the Karadjordjevic rulers were removed from the center of Skopje upon the Bulgarian occupation.

In the Second World War Skopje was conquered by the Bulgarian Army which was part of Axis powers. In 1944 Skopje became the capital city of Democratic Macedonia /later Socialist Republic of Macedonia/ which was a federal state and the part of Democratic Federal Yugoslavia /later Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/. The city of Skopje developed rapidly after the World War II but this trend was interrupted in 1963 when it was hit by a disastrous earthquake, as the town is located in the seismologic extremely active region. This terrible earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 hit Skopje and caused 1066 dead people when around 80 percent of the city was completely destroyed, among them many neoclassical and historical buildings in the city center. In the following years the city of Skopje was largely rebuilt by huge support and donations of all Yugoslav Republics.

Srborit was the first Serbian factory for asphalt and tarmac products in the old Skopje, which run its production in Belgrade and Skopje – the Mala Stanica by the Balkan Mill. The Mala stanica is situated right above the former New railway station – 1940 – today the Museum of Skopje, was turned into the gallery at the address Jordan Mijalkov street, beneath the northern slope of the Vodno Mountain, once the narrow gauge which connected Skopje and Struga. This asphalt factory would have never been established without support and interest of Skopje Municipality, led by the famous architect Josip Mihailovic who was keen to introduce this new activity also in the town on the Vardar river, which greatly enhanced urbanization of Skopje. About this testify the fact that first streets of Skopje were paved already in June 1932.

In 1991 Skopje became the capital of independent Macedonia. Nowadays it is capital of North Macedonia, how the country was renamed….

On 21 June 2011, the controversial, colossal monument of Alexander the Great, officially called “Warrior on a Horse” was finally erected in Skopje’s central square. Close to 30 meters high (including the 10-metre concrete pedestal), the sculpture dominates the capital’s central area. The monument, which reportedly weighs 30 tons, is higher than the surrounding buildings. VMRO revives the myth of Alexander the Great, but many Macedonians are still perfectly comfortable with their Slavic roots. All around the huge square and the Stone Bridge there are several monumental buildings that look like enormous palaces being built, surrounded with also very monumental and impressive sculptures representing most significant historical persons of Macedonia – Justinian I, Saint Naum, Cyril and Method, Goce Delcev….

Places to see and attractions in Skopje: The Clock Tower /Saat kula/, Daut Pasha’s Bath, Kuršumli An, The Aqueduct, The Stone Bridge, Kale Fortress, Mustafa Pasha’s Mosque, Saint Savior Church, Saint Panteleimon Monastery Gorno Nerezi village, Matka Canyon, gondola to the Millennium Cross on the Vodno Mountain…

Sveti Spas Church /Saint Savior/ Church Skopje

Situated in Skopje’s Old Bazaar of Skopje, the Church of the Holy Savior – Crkva Sveti Spas Skopje is origiinal endowment of the Serbian Tsar Dusan characterized by an unusual architectural design and the modest outside appearance. Sveti Spas Church in Skopje is three-nave religious structure with the arched central nave above which sits the wooden belfry. The courtyard of Sveti Spas Church in Skopje has steps leading down into the tiny church which was built here in the early 19th century on the ruins of an earlier church from the 16th century constructed on the original church from the 13th century. The church was destroyed in the huge fire set in Skopje by the Austrians in 1689 along the order of General Piccolomini during thee Austrian campaign towards the south. Then Skopje – the most developed Turkish town from Belgrade to Thessaloniki had some 60000 inhabitants was heavily affected by plague. Namely, half of the Church of Sveti Spas in Skopje had been constructed underground as it had to be dug up to half in the ground due to the 17th century edict of the Turkish Sultan that prohibited Christian structures from being higher than the existing mosques.

The Sveti Spas Church in Skopje was the only shrine where Serbs were allowed to attend the liturgical services from 1870 til 1918. The Holy Savior Church Skopje contains one of the most beautiful wooden carved iconostasis in Macedonia and probably in the Balkans. The Sveti Spas wooden and gold plated iconostasis is the unique 19th century artistic creation completed in 1867 by the famous ‘Mijak School of Macedonian wood carvers’ Makarije Frckovski and Petre Filipovic Garkata. The iconostasis of Sveti Spas Church Skopje is 6 meters high and 10 meters long and it is divided into 5 horizontal zones. On this wonderfully carved iconostasis of Sveti Spas church in Skopje, the Miyak carving group had managed to present and show numerous scenes from the Old and New Testament, important geometrical ornaments and figures of flora and fauna, as well as a little self portrait while working. Astonished with the unique craftsmanship of this real masterpiece, the King Alexandar Karadjordjevic ordered bells for belfry of the Church of Sveti Spas Skopje. Part of the fresco painting fragments on the southern side was found from the older church which dates from the 16th century.

Candles are lighted in the Sveti Spas Church – the Church of Holy Savior in Skopje for killed Serbs and the Serbian clergy – priests Konstantin Minovic Koca and Konstadin Ristovic who were brutally executed by the notorious VMRO hand during the Bulgarian terror in those areas of Macedonia and the Old Serbia. Although officially under jurisdiction of the Tsarigrad Patriarchate – the Constantinople Patriarchate, this church was the only free Serbian church during the most difficult and the hardest times of the Turkish yoke. In 1901 the Sveti Spas Church in Skopje was taken from the Serb community to became the seat of the Skopje Metropolitan. The founder of the Macedonian Liberation movement of 1903 and its most prominent member, Goce Delcev is buried in the courtyard of the Sveti Spas Church in Skopje that is since 1945 the mausoleum of this revolutionary.

Mustapha Pasha Mosque Skopje

Mustafa Pasha Mosque stands on a plateau above the Old Skopje bazaar, and is the most beautiful Islamic building in Macedonia. It was built in 1492 by Mustafa Pasha, vesir on the court of Sultan Selim I. The Mustafa Pasha mosque is quite elegant and intact, and no additions have been made through the years. The interior is beautiful, simple and spacious. Take few steps back to observe the game of the domes of the fountain, the porch and the mosque. In the turbe next to the mosque the daughter of Mustafa Pasha is buried. The Mustapha Pasha Mosque Skopje has a pleasant rose garden and it offers fine views over the bazaar.

Millennium Cross Skopje

The Millennium Cross is a 66 meters-high cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. The cross was constructed to commemorate 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. The construction of the Millennium Cross began in 2002 and was funded by the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian government and donations from Macedonians from all over the world. The cross was built on the highest point of the Vodno Mountain on a place known since the time of the Ottoman Empire as “Krstovar”, meaning “Place of the cross”, as there was a smaller cross situated there. On 8 September 2008, the independence day of the Republic of Macedonia, an elevator was installed inside the cross. Restaurant and a souvenir shop are next to the cross. 

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