So, another New Year’s Eve but this time I’m in the Balkans. I managed to find my way to Skopje for the festivities and rented a room at the Best Western in the city center. The rooms were incredibly expensive considering I wasn’t in the west and I brought this to the attention of the staff to find out what they would say. Basically I was told this is the price, take it or leave it. Well, I figured I’m in the hotel now and I would rather get on with the evening than look for other accommodations. So, I paid up and moved into my room. The view was on the main pedestrian area which was great as I could monitor the activity while in my room.
It was cold as you can imagine and I started my night by walking down to the Alexander the Great statue as there was quite a crowd gathering. The evening was in full swing and the fountain was in it’s full glory with the colored lights illuminating the fountain spray. There was a stage with one or more bands that played til the wee hours as I recall. I enjoyed the area for a bit then made my way to the nearby bars to select one. The first one was just off the main drag and seemed to be popular so we tried to get in. Seems you have to purchase tickets in advance which I was unaware of up until that moment. We debated the issue and ended up being able to get in, perhaps due to the novelty of the issue in that we were a group of Americans. They probably figured we’d spend a bunch of money on booze, which we didn’t as I wanted to visit several venues to get a feel for how the Macedonians celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Well, the place was literally packed and the same policy applied inside in that the tables were all reserved in advance. So, we all grabbed a drink and began to mill around as best we could despite the standing room only atmosphere. No one seemed to be drinking very much to be honest but were busily engaged in conversations despite the blaring music. As the midnight hour approached I waited anxiously to experience the celebration but oddly enough none came. I’m not sure if it was the venue or the culture but the 12 o’clock hour came and went before the DJ came on and basically staged the countdown. It was sort of anti-climactic at this point but what the heck, when in Rome I say. After the countdown was finished we made our way out of the place as I was concerned the place was escape proof if any issue arose due to the crowd, and it was downstairs as well.
My friends and I made our way out and began a process of stopping by all the outdoor cafes in an attempt to gain entry. Everything was full and we finally found a place near the hotel with a few seats outside where we could sit. The outdoor cafes in Macedonia or Skopje in particular are covered in the winder with plastic draped on several sides . Once inside there are these heaters sitting in poles that keep the place tolerable. Also, the seating is either traditions seats, stools or in some cases couches. It was all a great experience and the last place found me sitting on a couch with my friends, watching the locals celebrate. We chatted with the waitress (yes in Macedonia there are waitresses unlike Kosovo). I hung around watching and enjoying the evening till well after midnight and ended up in my room around 2 a.m. The music on the strip was unbelievably loud until well after 4 a.m. I believe and I was basically awake until around that time since it was pointless to attempt sleep.
Being an early riser, I was up and in the lobby around 8 a.m. despite the lack of sleep. When went to sleep, or rather tried to, the strip was covered with confetti and debris from celebrations. But, by the morning there were teams of people on the street and the place was immaculate by the time I hit the pedestrian area. It was quiet in the town when we checked out after having breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Around 11 a.m. we drove back to Kosovo having experienced a memorable night on New Year’s Ever in Skopje.
I had a great time and if you have the chance celebrate with the Macedonians but be sure to reserve your table in advance. I forgot to mention the entire downtown area was aflame with the Macedonian colors and was really quite a site to behold. The local government and probably the business owners had gone to great length to make it a memorable night and it was indeed.
Yep, I took a bunch of pictures and you can see them here