My original plan (such as it was) did not include a visit to Macedonia, but since my goal was to get to Croatia, going through Macedonia seemed like as a good an idea as any. The train from Thessaloniki to Skopje (continuing to Belgrade) is an old, rickety train, and it makes every local stop as it wends its way through the countryside.
It was not very crowded, and for most of the trip I had a compartment to myself.
I noticed there were mirrors behind each set of seats, and I could not resist taking an "endless hall of mirrors" photograph.
I got to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, around 2030, and my first priorities were to find food and a place to stay. The guidebooks and websites I looked at suggested that cheaper accomodations could be found in the Muslim quarter across the Vardar river, so I decided to head there. That was easier said than done, since I had no idea where I was. I got someone to point me to downtown, and once I found the river, everything became much more straightforward.
Here are a few snapshots of Skopje in twilight:
I am not sure what this ship-like thing is, but I really like the picture:
There are a lot of fancy buildings lining the Vardar. Most of them are municipal buildings or fancy hotels catering to business travelers. There are a lot of buildings under construction as well.
This is the Stone Bridge, the old pedestrian bridge which crosses the Vardar.
There are two new pedestrian bridges right near the Stone Bridge. They are lined with elegant lampposts and statues of famous Macedonians.
Across the river from Macedonia Square are several large fountains with colossal statuary. I learned on Wikipedia that much of the new construction is part of the Skopje 2014 project. The city was devastated by an earthquake in 1963 and was subsequently rebuilt in a more severe, Eastern bloc style. The project is an attempt to restore the former glory of the city.
After crossing the river, I meandered through the serpentine streets of the Muslim Quarter. At this point I was starving, so I unfortunately did not take any pictures. I managed to find a place to stay which was not too expensive (Hotel Santos), after which I went in search of food. A few places were still open, and I got some sausages in bread (typical Macedonian fare) for a song.