Skopje, MacedoniaSkopje, the capital of Macedonia, is an interesting  city to explore.

One of the first things you’re bound to notice in this Balkan city is the building spree going on in the New Town.

I could be forgiven for having thought I’d been transported to Ancient Rome, pummeled by towering monuments, statues and fountains at every turn, often built seemingly on top of one another.

Skopje, MacedoniaCrossing the Vardar River to the other side – across the beautiful 15th century Kameni Most (Stone Bridge), I breathed  a sigh of relief to find myself on the maze of streets that make up Skopje’s old town –  Čaršija (old Turkish bazaar).

This maze of winding, cobblestoned streets, cafes, shops selling clothes and Ottoman-style slippers, jewelry and crafts is the largest remaining former Ottoman bazaar in the Balkans.

This is home to Skopje’s Albanian minority. You’re more likely to hear residents chatting in Albanian than in Macedonian in this neighborhood.

Skopje, MacedoniaThere are impressive Ottoman mosques, hammams, and covered bazaars in the neighborhood, and the impressive 15th century Mustafa Pasha Mosque looms over the quarter from its perch on the top of the hill.

Wandering up the hills of Čaršija, on the way to the Kale Fortress (see my earlier post), I enjoyed visiting the small Church of the Holy Saviour. This 14th century church is the oldest preserved church in Skopje.

Like all churches at the time of the Ottomans, the church could not be taller than the city’s mosques.

Skopje, MacedoniaTherefore, the church is built two meters underground. The church was severely damaged during the great fire of 1689. Macedonian woodcarving traditions are on display, framing the church’s icons.

I was also pleased to stop off at the wonderful sweets shops to try the mouthwatering baklava.

And, what better way to end an afternoon of wandering than to stop off at one of the cafes with a plate of ćevapčići and a bottle of the local beer, while watching the world pass by on the streets of Čaršija?

Enjoy exploring Skopje’s old town.

Skopje, MacedoniaSkopje, Macedonia