5 Tips for a Fantastic Holiday in Macedonia

macedonian food

It is quite an experience, going on a holiday in Macedonia. This mostly overlooked Balkan country has a good deal to offer, such as beautiful nature, ancient history, plenty of sunshine and interesting culture. To make your holiday in Macedonia even more fun and memorable, it is a good idea to do what the locals do. This mainly revolves around trying to enjoy life as much as you can. Which is simple – you just need to eat, drink, sing and dance. If you also speak a word or two of Macedonian, then you are all set. What are you waiting for?

1. Drink (homemade) rakija
Most families have members living in the countryside who make their own rakija, a very strong liquor made of plums or grapes (similar to brandy). And if there is not a family member who moonshines, then there is definitely a family friend who does. As a foreigner, you will probably be asked to drink along. This is not for the fainthearted, with alcohol contents rising well above forty percent, but it’s worth it to feel welcomed. To still feel welcome the following day, it is a good idea to slowly empty your glass instead of draining it in one gulp. Luckily you do not have to do this on an empty stomach, because rakija is usually served with a salad prior to the main meal.

2. Buy Macedonian wine
While rakija is the number one drink of the country, Macedonians rarely buy it as a (dinner) gift. After all, every family has their own stash. Macedonians do not hesitate to drink rakija in a restaurant or ‘kafana’ (informal eatery with comfort snack food to share, simple main meals and alcohol), but not many people actually drink rakija from the supermarket. Macedonian wine is a good purchase instead. The vineyards of Macedonia, such as Stobi, Popova Kula and Tikves, produce many brilliant reds and whites. The small bottles of wine from the supermarket are also easily taken home as a souvenir in your suitcase (well wrapped in a plastic bag of course). And while the Macedonians rarely do this, you can of course purchase rakija to take home as a gift for a loved one or as a sweet memory for yourself. Tip: all types of alcohol are being sold in the supermarket, in the summer until 21:00 and in the winter until 19:00, even though the shop might be open until as late as 22:00.

3. Accept all and every food you are offered
Guests sometimes seem to be seen as starving creatures. “Eat something! Drink something!” Just deal with it. You have to eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow. Just realize that the faster you eat, the more food will be added to your plate. So learn to eat slowly. And learn to eat cooled down food. By the way, it doesn’t matter at which time you arrive at someone’s home (or a restaurant). There will always be food. To make things even more interesting, while visiting a village, rakija can be on the menu as early as breakfast. And another good piece of advice: make sure your teeth are healthy, because if there is one thing that’s certain: sweets will be sweet.

4. Speak some Macedonian
Macedonians are very proud of their language, which uses a Cyrillic script. The beauty of the Macedonian language is that each letter is always pronounced in the same way. Which means that you can read words exactly how they are written, and therefore you can also write as you speak. Double consonants are not necessary and you sometimes feel like a kid in first grade. This is a treat for learners of the language. And a source of great joy when you realize that even movie stars and English terms are ‘cyrillized’ – Michael Jackson becomes Мајкел Џексон (Majkel Djekson) and consulting turns into консалтинг (konsalting). The fact that all words have male, female or neuter endings is something annoying you have to live with (see below: good morning, good day, good evening). Another Macedonian language fact: The modern Macedonian alphabet consists of 31 letters and is based on the first Slavic alphabet developed by the saints Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century.

Here are some essentials:
Zdravo – Hello
Dobro utro, dobar den, dobra vecher – Good morning, day, evening
Na zdravje – Cheers (when clinking your beer)
Na zdravje – Bless you (when someone sneezes)
Zdravje da imash – Health to you (when someone blesses you after you sneezed)
Fala, blagodaram – Thanks (more polite)
Ciao – Bye
Prijatno – Goodbye (when you leave)
Prijatno jadenje – Bon appetit
Ja sakam Makedonija – I love Macedonia

5. Dance some oro
This dance is really very simple, but participating will earn you many appreciative glances, words and/or pats on the back. The oro is danced in a long line, with people holding one another by the hand. The dance is mainly used to celebrate occasions such as weddings, but can really be embedded into making any gathering a happier occasion (for instance a night out in a kafana). All you need is some national folk songs and some space. With one person taking the lead, preferably with a handkerchief (or paper napkin) in hand. There are some different kinds of oro, but if you master the simplest one, you will already make most Macedonians proud. How to do it, you ask? Well, you do need some sense of rhythm, but basically you just put two steps forward (sideways to the right) and one step back. Do not worry if it seems that the dance never stops, because these folk songs often unnoticeably blend together. It is well accepted to sneak out of the line after some time.

Do you already have plans to visit Macedonia? Let yourself be seduced by the sweet Macedonian life. Immerse yourself in the local customs and experience a holiday you will never forget.

Happy walking in 2014!

skopje city walk winter

Wow, who would have thought a year ago that today we would be sending out New Years Wishes to our designer, cartographer, advertisers, points of sale, and all the other people who helped us, supported us and cheered us on?

What started exactly a year ago with a simple idea, grew to something extremely big in only 365 days. We thought to ‘quickly’ create a city walk and learned along the way that there was much more to it than we could have ever imagined.

Despite the many obstacles on our walking trail, the first edition of the Skopje City Walk was a great success. We are already working hard on the preparations for the second edition, with even more information and maybe some extras.

Also our readers, everyone who has purchased the city walk and our Facebook fans deserve a big ‘thank you’. Without your support, the Skopje City Walk cannot exist. We therefore wish you all much happy walking in 2014!

Skopje City Walk on television

porta makedonija skopje

There we were, on a crisp Monday morning, standing next to the Porta Makedonija. We arrived well in time so we could mentally prepare each other for our first television appearance. When the reporter and the cameraman arrived, it became clear that we should not have worried. They were nice and very well informed about our story. That gave us the confidence that they would make a good item. Which turned out to be true. Our item about Skopje City Walk, which lasted an ample 5 minutes and was broadcasted at various times on Saturday and Sunday, was informative and personal. This is a good way to start the winter!

A nice and useful business gift

karpos skopje

The tourist season is over, but that does not mean the walking season is over as well. Many business travelers visit Skopje the whole year round, and they want to sight-see the city as well. We will therefore use the winter months to promote the City Walk as a corporate gift. Business partners who do not have much time to show their business relations around, will find a good alternative in Skopje City Walk. In addition, the brochure in itself is a beautiful reminder of the city. The media attention really helps us in this. We have already been approached in response to the article in the newspaper by a party who wanted to receive a quote for ninety brochures. Such requests are very welcome!

Skopje City Walk on the front page

skopje city walk news

Besides being the first of its kind, the fact that two Dutch women created the Skopje City Walk is news in itself. Already in the first round of media attention in August reporters wrote about the Dutch women who gave Skopje a city walk. In September, the columnist of a national newspaper called Skopje City Walk the walking tour ‘of two Dutch daughters-in-law’.

The (online) magazine for international volunteers in Macedonia approached us for an interview as well. But the icing on the cake came when a reporter from the same national newspaper dedicated almost a whole page to the Skopje City Walk. With even a link to the article on the front page! The pictures of the article in the newspaper can be found on Facebook. The links to the online articles can be found on our Media page.

Skopje City Walk for sale at the best locations of the city

buy skopje city walk

Another milestone: since this week, the Skopje City Walk is also available at all four souvenir shops in the city center! These small, glass kiosks were build last summer and are owned by the National Museum. The walk through the old town leads along this museum, so this is a good deal for both parties. Of course, the Skopje City Walk is also available in the museum gift shop, and in the Porta Makedonija as well, another sight along the route. Let the late season begin!

Skopje City Walk now also available as e-book!

epub skopje city walk

It is party time! After a few weeks of hard work, Skopje City Walk is finally available as a digital version as well. Not only in pdf and rtf, for easy printing, but also as epub to read on your tablet or iPad and as mobi for your Kindle e-reader. Hooray!

All these online versions of Skopje City Walk can be downloaded at the website of Smashwords. We have chosen for this website because Smashwords allows everyone to publish their e-books for free. We only pay a percentage to Smashwords when our e-book is actually sold. This is a fair concept. And not only that, Smashwords also ensures that Skopje City Walk will soon be directly available in the Apple iBookstore and the webshops of Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Baker & Taylor. So that means several birds with only one stone.

UPDATE MAY 2014: We no longer sell our city walks through Smashwords. Because even though this website is really great, it didn’t do our guide justice. We want to show off our design, which is now possible through E-junkie.

Cup of coffee before the city walk

porta makedonija skopje

To pay some attention to the printed version of the Skopje City Walk in a playful way, we started weekly coffee morning meetings. We host these meetings through CouchSurfing, a platform for and by travelers.

Not only can travelers who are on a holiday in Skopje, start the day with a nice cup of coffee on the main square (the starting point of the two walks), but they can also buy the city walk, ask us questions and get in touch with other travelers. This is a perfect solution until the brochures are available for sale in the kiosks. And we might even continue the meetings after that, because it is also very nice!

Walking Macedonia step by step

art kursumli an skopje

The summer season slows things down a bit. We take turns in going on a holiday, and managers and directors are not always available either. Fortunately, things keep rolling forward nonetheless. We are active on Facebook and Twitter, but also think about a promotional event and a plan to find more points of sale. There is a lot of brain-work going on, but luckily we get lots of pointers from the people around us.

In addition, we dive further into the digital world. We learn the difference between an ebook and an epub and we do some research on how we can publish these through various channels. (Hint: this is a complicated and lengthy process.) Tangible products are fun, but digital books are gaining more and more importance nowadays. We are getting very excited by the idea that we will finally be able to offer a digital version of the Skopje City Walk. All over the world!

The first 1.000 brochures

skopje city walk 1


This morning we received the first 1.000 copies of our brochure. Four full boxes. We toasted with a big glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. A healthy city walker does not drink champagne during the day! Tomorrow we will revisit all the hotels and other potential selling points that were interested in purchasing the Skopje City Walk. Just a little bit longer and our brochures are really lying on the shelves!