Old Bazaar

I mentioned on another page or two that I visited The Old Bazaar (Стара Чаршија, Stara Čaršija, Çarşı) many times during my trips to Skopje.  I’m told it’s the largest bazaar in the Balkans outside Istanbul (Oh, I visited the Grand Bazaar there as well). It’s on the eastern bank of the Vardar River and stretches from the Stone Bridge to the Bit-Pazar and from the Skopje Fortress to the Serava river.

It’s an absolute maze and filled to the rafters (so to speak) with everything imaginable or just about. On my first trip I was walking around the Old Town and found myself inside it quite unintentionally. I was wandering around, eyeing the contents in the shops and not paying particular attention suddenly found myself under a covered area with vendors crammed together in a tightly packed venue.  Although there seemed to be quite a bit of duplication as many shops were selling much of the same items, the sheer variety overall was quite impressive.

There were areas dedicated it seemed to various themes such as I encountered in Istanbul and in Thailand at Chatuchak Market. One area was devoted to clothing and shoes and materials you could purchase to make your own if you so desired (clothes that is, not shoes). As you can appreciate the clothing area was packed with women.  Miraculously enough it doesn’t seem to matter where I am in the world, the women manage to find the time and money to shop. Funny how that works, isn’t it? 🙂

There’s also an open air grocery store of sorts with enough variety to satisfy any normal person. I did spend some time here looking things over and inspecting items I’d not seen anywhere.  As I travel it’s quite interesting to identify and sample locally available items and this place was no different.  Honestly, I don’t recall the names given to some of the vegetable and fruits I grabbed but one thing I have learned to do is grab a bottle of water and wash thing off.  Unfortunately, like most of my more valuable lessons, I’ve leaned that if it isn’t fried or in a container that hasn’t been opened, don’t eat or drink it. I managed to avoid food poisoning while traveling in Macedonia by applying the aforementioned rule.  But, I should mention I’m not sure about the water purification standards here nor the food preparation rules, I just use the same rule outside of North America and Western Europe to stay safe.

While I wound my way through the Bazaar I came upon an area where a makeshift Mosque had been set up and people were praying.  Always attentive to local customs I stood for a moment out of respect and then made my way around quietly so as not to disturb them.  It’s always a good idea to avoid upsetting the locals and remember that I’m a guest in their country.  This is also a good rule and if the culture is not homogenous, I can normally mix right in.

The bazaar in Old town has numerous entry/exit points all in my opinion designed to keep you inside.  Whether this is intentional or not the winding design accomplishes this purpose and I found myself spending hours upon hours finding my way through or browsing the shops in search of the perfect souvenir.  If you have a chance, visit the bazaar but set aside time as it is large and quite a maze to navigate.

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