Macedonia as a whole has proven itself to be a great destination to visit. And its capital city, Skopje, has all the diversity, entertainment, and atmosphere of a mid to large size city with a lot to do. But as far as living here goes, I have some reservations.
The city is a mix of humble tradition meets brand new gaudy grandiosity. In general, there are a lot of cool places to hang out in the city that are both relaxed in nature, but buzzing with life all around. The people around here definitely enjoy their downtime and there are plenty of beautiful sidewalk restaurants to enjoy Happy Hour or a normal Saturday afternoon. There aren’t a lot of green spaces in the city, though there is a lot of beauty. But the good thing is that Mount Vodno is less than 30 minutes out of the city and people often go hike, run, or walk their dogs there. I’m sure it also keeps people cool in the summer months.
Like all of Macedonia, Skopje is a cozy metropolis without a hefty price tag. Eating here is a joy, because even the nice meals at expensive restaurants are ridiculously affordable. If hotel accommodations are any indication, housing here must be very cheap as well. The downside to this is that the country’s population is quite unhappy with Macedonia’s financial standing. Particularly because all this money is being squandered for the benefit of large squares and marble statues. In fact, a lot of people from Skopje are trying to figure out ways to leave because the situation is so difficult. So the cost is not only financial, but the cost of quality of life, financial uncertainty, and public frustration.
Despite their hardships, and they have had plenty, the people of Skopje are extraordinarily kind. Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and I can actually see that she is quite representative of the people here. Everyone is extremely welcoming, accepting, and courteous. It’s been a real pleasure being around people that are so warm.
Macedonian food has really grown on me over the past couple of days. Though I don’t find the traditional fare quite as good as it was in Ohrid, there is a lot of Turkish, Italian, and Mediterranean variety here. That being said, the country is a little far removed from some of the flavors and cuisines I enjoy, like Mexican. Skopje is not a good place to have Mexican food. You’d probably guess that on your own but I had to try it out for myself.
Comfort and safety
A couple of things really irk me about Skopje. The first is that it’s kind of a driving city. I wouldn’t call it pedestrian unfriendly, as there are plenty of avenues that are designed specifically for pedestrians. But in many parts of the city there are crosswalks across 4 or 5 lane streets with no light. And cars aren’t always in a hurry to stop for you so you kind of have to jump in. It seems minor, but I wouldn’t want that kind of daily stress. I like cities where pedestrians share the road a little more evenly with cars and public transportation.
The other thing that I would consider a safety hazard in Skopje as well as an assault to my comfort is the smoking. Restaurants allow smoking inside, even if they’re confined to smoking areas, which as the rest of the world knows, are bullshit. I can’t really live a comfortable life choking on someone else’s secondhand fumes while I’m trying to enjoy a beer and some fried cheese.
Total livability score: 4/10
Though living in Skopje would provide a pretty laid back hipster life with a lot of good food, the smoking is kind of a dealbreaker for me. But I’d be willing to reconsider if the smoking laws were reconsidered.