Skopje, Macedonia’s capital has experienced the devastating earthquake of 1963 that destroyed many beautiful buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries After subsequent reconstruction, it resulted a concrete landscape that many have associated with the image of the former communist countries. Those who have visited Skopje recently were disappointed to see many of the buildings in the center covered by scaffolding, following extensive reconstruction programs of the city, but now things are coming together and Skopje is regaining its old charm.

In any case, a trip to these places reveals a fascinating destination, which abounds in culture and hospitality, making up for the lack of aesthetics, compared to other cities and places of the former Yugoslavia. The urban identity is given by the mixture of apartment blocks, mosques, minarets and Orthodox churches on the majestic background of the mountains all of these being an eloquent evidence of the cultural historical heritage loaded.

Spread on the banks of the Vardar River, visitors have to head north to take a look at the old Turkish part of town, Carsija. Here, cobblestone streets and bazaars are full of shops selling everything from clothes to glittering jewelry. These streets are full of bustle and are the perfect location to make a stop for eating and drinking; the place is practically “invaded” by Turkish restaurants serving mouthwatering dishes.

The sky of Carsija is dominated by Kale Fortress, which is dating from the 10th century. This sight is a mixture of ruins which have existed for only 600 years, but the place preserves artifacts and archeological remains from edifices built in the sixth century A.D. The view the Skopje that you can see from the fortress, above the Vardar River is beyond impressive.

A walk downhill, taking Carsija as a starting point, will lead to Kamen Most, a 15th-century stone bridge which links the surroundings to Makedoniki Polstad Market, located in the south of the river. Marsal Tito is perfect to relax in a café or bar or for shopping in the elegant shops nearby.

Music is an integral part of the rich culture of Macedonia, strongly influenced by the gypsy communities in the area. Suto Orizari, located on the outskirts of Skopje, known under the name of Shutka is the largest community of gypsies and first place belonging to this ethnic group, with independent governance. This place is more of a point of interest to those fascinated by gypsy culture than a tourist attraction in itself.

Makedoniki Polstad Market is reputed to be one of the best places in the Balkans where you can bargain, and if you’re a fan of gypsy music, there are plenty of street vendors who will sell you CDs of local artists. Nearby, there are several parks and recreation points rather than places of conventional beauty. Architecture is a multicolored puzzle that includes everything from shacks to the most elaborate and best looking houses (belonging to the rich people, of course).

If you get here during the summer, you might be a witness to the wedding party taking place just down the street. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the warmth and charm of locals and many people mention a visit in this area as having a special status and being a landmark of their journey in Macedonia.

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