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North Macedonia: a country in SE Europe

Lake Ohrid brings in the most tourist dollar for North Macedonia. We enjoyed taking a boat trip across the lake...

...and visiting some of the ancient & beautiful Orthodox Christian monasteries. So very ornate - every inch of the interior is decorated with frescos depicting biblical stories.

The centre of Skopje (the capital city) is full of statues - I've never seen so many. They were erected as part of the 2014 Skopje Revamp project.

Alexander the Great is the centre piece - one of Macedonia’s most famous heroes (Mother Theresa was also born here). He has a huge statue in the middle of the main square, in battle mode, horse reared, sword ready to strike.

His father, King Philip II, occupies another large plinth on the other side of the stone bridge - arm aloft, saluting his warrior son. In between them sits his mother - Olympias, with the precious child Alexander in her arms. It’s a scene full of pride - of the family in the heroic son, but also of the nation in the fearless leader and his devoted family.

However, not all North Macedonians are happy. Initially, the cost of the project was announced at €80 million but is now thought to have cost upwards of €500 - surely too much for a poor country. With approximately 1/3 of the population living below the poverty line, it's easy to see why many North Macedonians are deeply unhappy and suspicious of their government.

To add to their woes, the country has been renamed twice since it gained independence after the break up of Yugoslavia, in 1991. North Macedonia was initially called Macedonia but that irked neighbouring Greece whose northern province is also called Macedonia & they feared the potential for a territorial claim on their land.

In 1993, Macedonia changed its name to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The carrot for this change was UN membership.

This didn't quite resolve the dispute and FYROM still wanted membership of NATO and the EU, over which Greece hold power of veto. So, in exchange for removal of said veto, FYROM became North Macedonia.

However, neither NATO, nor EU membership has yet been granted.

For the people of North Macedonia, I'm sorry to say it doesn't look like the frustration will end soon. Sometimes we don't realise how lucky we are - a subject for a future blog post. For now though, my journey continues south-east to Bulgaria.

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I enjoy writing and love to travel. So I’ve convinced my lovely girlfriend to put our ‘sensible’ lives on hold while we enjoy one more year of what my dad may describe as slightly reckless abandon. I.e. no work and definitely no pension contribution. Sorry Dad: I’ll try again next year. 

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