Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Central Skopje, Europe's latest amusement park

One of the themed bridges across River Vardar.

When I arrive to Macedonia from Bulgaria one summer evening, the setting sun shines persistently into my and the car driver's eyes; the effect is increased by the sunny yellow-and-red Macedonian flag.

After a longish drive through broad uninhabitted landscapes, we finally enter the capital. The outskirts of it look like those of any other Balkan city. Then appears a neon-lit arch de triumph, and behind it the city shows us its other, surreal and excentric face. Welcome to Europe's latest amusement park: Macedonia Square, Skopje.

This neon-city-amusement-park is historically-themed. You will find statues of ancient Romans, medieval Slavic warriors, costumed modern day intellectuals. The biggest of all is the statue of Alexander the Great. Then, there are new (kitschy, according to certain locals) neo-clasicist buildings; themed (sculpture-laden) bridges accross the Vardar river, and several fountains.

Yet more buildings and statues are to be erected by the end of next year, before the deadline of the city's masterplan 'Skopje 2014'. Some locals complain about the enormous expenses for the 'useless kitsch'; politicians loose and win votes according to the views towards 'Skopje 2014' they express. Curious tourists like me stare, entertained and amused, and take lots of photos.

Yes, the city at times looks rather comic but I have not seen anything quite like that before. And I keep telling everyone I meet here in the Balkans that they must go and see the eccentric Macedonian capital - particularly during the night.  

Text and photos (c) Agne Drumelyte, 2013.

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