A taste of Skopje

A quick, one-day visit doesn’t do this place justice. There are so many layers of culture and history, I could spend weeks here and still not have enough time So instead I played the simple, hungry tourist eating my way through town, guided by a fantastic friend and Skopje native.

First stop: Sveti Nikole, a little bakery on a busy street. It seems to always have a line of customers. The thing to order: simit pogacha.

Don’t get confused. This isn’t the sesame-covered pastry found all over Turkey (and even here in Macedonia). But it is bready. Intensely bready:

Step one: take filo dough, smother it in oil, stack up the pieces and bake them ’til crispy. Step two: Slice the greasy filo and serve it in a soft, slightly sweet, white-bread bun. It’s more white flour than I eat in a month, but it was fantastic. The bun soaks up the grease and the filo gives it an addictive crunch. Very hard to stop, but I had promised to share.

Next stop: a bar called Cobblestone, and indeed, half of the floor was made of recovered cobblestones. But that wasn’t even my favorite part of the decor. It was the mosaic-like display of iron lanterns in color-lit boxes:

And a fun mural:

Then on to… dessert(?) in Apche, a tiny, unassuming bakery full of sugary pastries. We got a traditional combo: boza and tulumba. Boza is a drink made from fermented millet. It’s slightly bubbly (it is fermented), but also thick and creamy, a bit like a non-dairy milk (and I guess at some level it IS millet milk). I enjoyed the drink and would gladly order it again.

The tulumba is sort of like a Turkish gulub jamun: deep-fried dough soaked in sweet syrup. It was tasty, but intense.

Then a quick trip to a small farmer’s market, where I saw beautiful local peppers, called embroidered peppers. They look like they’ve been covered with thin brown thread: The small red berries are something like a cranberry, but I didn’t get a chance to try them.
I got a glimpse of Skopje 2014, a group of new-classical buildings. The photos are too forgiving. In real life, these buildings look like Disney / Vegas creations.

The simple, comparatively-sober shops and cobblestones of the the old Skopje bazaar, the Charshija, were a welcome relief.

We sat down on the patio of Destan, the go-to place for another local specialy: Kjeabapchinja, or as I like to call them, meat-fingers.



 Though my name for them is unpalatable, the kjebapchinja were simply delicious. Seasoned, grilled meat, served with chopped onions, spicy pepper and (more!) white bread, they were just perfect.

We then climbed up the hill to the citadel, where we were treated to a gorgeous statue and an amazing view.

I confess, I didn’t make it out of there without stopping for dessert. This time it was a Macedonian macaroon, made with ground walnuts. It looks a bit like an oatmeal creme pie, but it is oh-so-much more delightful.

It was a gorgeous, delicious visit.