Macedonia, just below the surface – May 2013

I had never been to this country. Not many people do, for that matter. I mean to say few west-Europeans. The majority of tourists here are Turkish, Greek or Bulgarian. Macedonia is a real vortex of ex-Yugoslavia with a fine landscape. Here everything is contradiction in the will to overcome the past ! But where is the present, where is the past ? You can never know.

 

At its heart, Macedonia holds innumerable hardened scars from the soviet era, and Skopje in the east is the most blatant example ! Arriving by road you discover that this town has a strange appearance, where the ‘Macedonians’ rub shoulders with a big melting pot of Slavs, Albanians, Vlachs, Serbians, Romanians and Bulgarians in a very young state that searches for its bearings as much politically as historically!

You will be disconcerted by the obvious effort to make symbols out of nothing. If soviet buildings are there, as big as they are immensely empty, monuments are relentlessly created around them in plaster, in the same style as the ancient Greeks ! Antiquity is used as a sort of camouflage here, and 30 year old buildings look like real historical relics.

Wander around a bit and you will see Alexander the great at every crossroad! Immense statues of bronze celebrate a patriotic hero that has in fact nothing to do with the country since ancient Macedonia was situated in the north east of Greece ! Incidentally, this tale of statues almost triggered an armed conflict between Greece and modern Macedonia in the 2000s !

It goes to show how complex this country is. It is also complex in its constitution, because if Macedonia is a state, the principle of ‘minority’ is inexistent there. There’s more talk here of ethnicity, that is to say that even if the Macedonian language is the most widespread, it has no chance of being the official language. In parliament, each representative speaks in the language of their community. In the same way there are 126 national television channels. To illustrate, imagine a channel that we’ll call ‘France 108’and that would speak for the chtimis community in Marseille!!  A truly surprising country, and beautiful too ! Big mountains criss-cross the landscape, the snow-capped peaks follow on from green hills and dark lakes which carry on from pastures…

A country that I recommend, I will return because it really merits lingering in order to understand it! I only travelled across the country,  met a few people and went to a concert. My point of view is only what I felt, there is nothing objective, but Macedonia truly captivated me!

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