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Skopje - Capital City Of Macedonia

Skopje is an attractive and culturally rich city near to the Macedonian - Bulgarian border. It is the capital and largest city in Macedonia. It is an attractive city located on the upper course of the Vardar River.

The city has a lot in common with Bulgaria including the famous Cyrillic Alphabet, although not all the sounds used in Skopje are similar to Bulgarian sounds, its food is also fairly similar with menus which include plenty of Russian salad and Tarator soup.

Skopje is easily accessed from Bulgaria by car, train or bus. Indeed, the Bulgarian capital is only a 183 km away by means of a scenic toll free road, which takes you through some impressive countryside. When you are inside of the city you can access everything either on foot or by public transport. The most popular way to travel is by taxi and you will be amazed at the sea of yellow cabs, which abound here.

Historically rich

Skopje is a dazzling city with a rich history and is well worth the visit from Bulgaria. As part of the Roman Empire, it was known under the name of Scupi, which meant "look out." It was also captured by the Ottoman Empire and for five hundred years of Ottoman rule it was known by the Turkish name Üsküb or Üsküp. The city's personality changed immensely during this period. The Ottomans brought the Islamic religion and built many mosques and other classically Ottoman buildings, such as public baths and travellers' inns, some of which still exist today. During World War II the city was handed to fascist Bulgaria by the occupying German army and the Macedonia question has haunted many Bulgarians ever since. The city developed quickly after World War II, but this trend was abruptly interrupted in 1963 when it was devastated by a devastating earthquake. Today Skopje is a modern city with a wide range of cultural monuments.

Much to see

Skopje presents visitors with some magnificent and fascinating sites and one must-see is the church of Saint Panteleimon, a fabulous example of the Comnenian royal art in a Byzantine style. The church is enriched with fantastic 12th century architecture commissioned by members of the ruling Comnenus royal family. Another unforgettable site is the Mustapha Pasha Mosque, which is unquestionably one of the most beautiful buildings of Islamic architecture in Skopje. Positioned on a hill facing Fort Kale, this mosque overlooks the city. It was built in the last decade of the 15th century when the military spahi system of Turkish feudalism had reached the peak of its development. Mustapha Pasha, an important figure in the Turkish state during the rule of Sultan Bayezid II and Sultan Selim I, donated it. The year of Mustapha Pasha's death is engraved on the entrance of his tomb, which is located by the mosque, but both were seriously damaged during the earthquake. Restoration work however has reestablished the mosque and tomb to their former glory. The interior of the mosque is decorated with calligraphic inscriptions with the names of Allah, Mohammed and his followers and quotes from the Qur'an. The Millennium Cross is one of the more modern must-see sites located on the peak of the Vodno Mountain. The cross was finished in July 2007 and is a massive 66 meters high, which makes it the largest cross in the world. It can be seen from 30 km away.

Shopping

Skopje has an abundance of shopping malls and boutiques, which will satisfy the needs of the most demanding shopaholic. Gradski Trgovski Centar is the main shopping mall in Skopje. It's located on the city square and it's filled with clothing shops, restaurants and libraries. It has four levels where you can buy some branded clothes in some of the bigger outlets such as Mango and Happening. You can find something interesting in some smaller boutiques such as VIP, Emporium or Baba Lu. The mall is really convenient and if you don't enjoy trudging round the shops, you can find everything you want here.

Eating and Drinking

Skopje thrives with excellent restaurants, serving traditional food, as well as restaurants where you can taste Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Greek, Arabic, Indian, or Spanish cuisine. There are also plenty of fast food restaurants offering a wide selection of snacks. Meals in international restaurants cost around 18 Euros per person. Meals generally tend to be long affairs where the food and drink are seen to be less important than the conversation and company. Popular dishes include Russian salad and meat with minted rice. Downtown Skopje is packed with cafes and bars including some fun specialty. The local drink is one we all know from our trips to Bulgaria - Rakia. Recommended restaurants include Uranija, Tri Biseri, Kamnik and the Gino Italian Restaurant.

Where to stay

There are plenty of places to stay and a variety of price ranges to suit all budgets. The Aleksandar Palace Hotel is one of the most expensive at 187 Euros a night but it is the best in Skopje. It offers guests a large casino, tennis courts, excellent room service and great food. The Imperial Hotel offers comfortable accommodation and first class service. One of the best things is that it is very quiet and you can get a good night s sleep for the price of 35 Euros a night. Cheaper B&Bs can be found around 10 minutes from the city, where you can expect to pay from 15 Euros a night.

Don't miss out

If you're spending a lot of time in Bulgaria, take advantage of its close proximity to the culturally rich Macedonian capital and make the effort to see a little more of Bulgaria's welcoming neighbours.