Meet the Macedonians

Meet the Macedonians

After the first month in a new location, we always take stock of our opinions with a self-interview. And after the second month, we like to learn more about the locals. So, we set out into the streets of Skopje to interview a few random Macedonians. Given the general friendliness of the people here, we didn’t anticipate any difficulties. But as soon as we pulled out the pen and paper, many would clam up. There’s apparently not a lot of trust toward foreign media… but we were able to coax a few folks into talking.

We met Blerina near the fountain of the Murat Pasha Mosque. She was walking briskly, apparently on her way to class, and we promised to only take a few minutes of her time.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m studying English in the University here. I’m still not sure what my job will be!

What’s your favorite food? Well, I love pizza, it doesn’t matter what kind. As far as Macedonian food goes, I guess I like anything that comes of the grill.

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? Skopje! It’s the best city for young people, for fun and studying.

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? It seems like tourism is increasing, and it makes me proud to see more and more visitors discover our country.

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? We have a lot of work to do, in terms of cleaning up. People litter too much, and the streets can be quite dirty.

What kind of music do you like? Hip-hop. I love Beyonce. Also, Toše Priesko.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I would choose an island. Bora Bora, maybe!

Mexhit was working in a corner shop within Skopje’s Old Bazaar. He was instantly friendly, and asked us to sit down and take a load off. His English was passable, but we quickly discovered that he could speak excellent German, which made our ensuing chat a breeze.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I clean and sell jewelry, here in Skopje’s ?aršija.

What’s your favorite food? There’s nothing better than tav?e grav?e [a dish of baked beans which is one of Macedonia’s specialties].

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? I am from Lojane, which is a village near Kumanovo (northeast of Skopje, on the Serbian border). For me, this is one of the most beautiful places in Macedonia.

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? The nature. The towns and cities are nice, but it’s the nature which makes the country special. Just go to Loyane, and you’ll see what I mean!

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? The politics are depressing.

What kind of music do you like? I listen to popular music, and especially love the blues.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I love nature, and have an appreciation for organization. Given that, the place I’d love to visit is Switzerland.

We met Mihajlo and his wife Emilija while in Berovo, in the east of Macedonia, near the Bulgarian border. He was born in Skopje, but moved to escape the stress of the (relatively) big capital city. Consummate hosts, they would later invite us over for dinner, and show us around their town.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I had been in real estate for years, in Skopje. But since moving to Berovo, Emilija and I have gotten into natural products like honey and jam. We produce them here, then sell them in Skopje.

What’s your favorite food? (Mihajlo) My favorite is Turli Tava [a rich chicken stew baked in a clay pot]. (Emilija) I like most Tav?e Grav?e.

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? You get one guess. Berovo, of course!

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? We have one of the best climates in all of Europe, and the foods we produce here are without equal. Vegetables so fresh, tasteful and delicious, you can’t believe it. And the nature is amazing.

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? Our economy needs a lot of improvement. There aren’t enough opportunities to succeed for young people.

What kind of music do you like? I liked rock in my youth, but now we prefer Macedonian folk. And spiritual music, classical, and choirs — the kind of stuff you hear in church. One of our favorite groups is Leb i Sol, which kind of brings Macedonian folk into the modern day.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? There’s one country I’m so upset to have never visited. New Zealand. When I was younger, a friend and I planned on moving there, but it never happened.

Like a vision, statuesque Viktorija was marching toward us in the main plaza of Skopje. She looked to be in a hurry, and I didn’t expect that she’d take the time to chat with us, but it was worth a shot. As we approached, she lowered her sunglasses, pushed her hair to the side, and smiled. Viktorija had time for us, after all!

Where do you work, or what do you study? I own a private business here in Skopje, selling clothes.

What’s your favorite food? I eat mostly just fresh vegetables and fruits. A lot of salads. Occasionally, I’ll have some meat, but I prefer to avoid it.

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? Lake Ohrid is without a doubt the best area in Macedonia.

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? We are blessed with historic monasteries and churches. Have you had a chance to see some of the ancient iconic art that we have? Amazing.

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? Sometimes, the people could be more friendly.

What kind of music do you like? I love disco, but also modern music. Among Macedonian artists, my favorite is Karolina Go?eva… she’s great, don’t you agree? [Actually, we’ve never heard of her.] What?! I can’t believe it! Well, the next chance you get, check her out!

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I would be very happy to go to Tibet.

Near our apartment, we walked by a fashion studio, and noticed Ana sitting inside. There weren’t any customers at the time, so we asked if she had a few minutes to spare.

Where do you work, or what do you study? Besides working here, I’m also studying political science at the university.

What’s your favorite food? I love Chinese.

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? Lake Ohrid… I try and get there whenever possible. So beautiful!

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? The food is great, and the people are incredibly nice.

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? I think that as a whole, we’re too concentrated on politics, and not enough on culture. There are a lot of great artists and other people who are doing really interesting things, and as a country, we should put a lot more focus on them.

What kind of music do you like? I love jazz, but my favorite artist of all time is Carlos Santana.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I would love to get to Japan someday.

Orde was one of the more boisterous sellers at the green market near our house. We figured he’d be happy to share his opinions, and we weren’t wrong! He immediately agreed, and provided an entertaining interview.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I work here in this market, selling t-shirts, and have for years.

What’s your favorite food? Meat. [Anything else?] No, just meat. [Do you want to elaborate on that? Like, how you prefer it prepared, or what kind of meat?] Let me think. Yes, I like meat. Prepared like meat.

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? Lake Dojran and Valandovo. [Is that your hometown?] What? Do I have to be from a place, in order to like it?! Valandovo is just a great area!

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? We have a good relationship with Russia, and I love that. It could be even better. Putin is a wonderful leader.

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? Repeat after me: Cor-rup-tion. Obviously. It’s just so bad here.

What kind of music do you like? Oh… I like older music. My favorite is disco, from the 1970s.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? If I could, I’d book a one-way ticket to the Bahamas, right now.

Adis was walking across the Stone Bridge into the Old Town, when we slowed him down. A bright, friendly guy, he was happy to answer our questions.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m working right now with my father in a shoe store. We do a lot of exporting.

What’s your favorite food? Chicken and pizza. I guess my favorite is chicken pizza!

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? I was born in Skopje, so I love it, but Struga is the prettiest town I’ve been to in Macedonia.

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? We have the best food in the world.

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? Really, I can’t think of anything I don’t like. Life here is good.

What kind of music do you like? I like hip-hop. Ledri Vula [a rapper from Kosovo] is my favorite.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I would choose Milan, Italy. I’m into fashion!

It took us about ten seconds after meeting Evdokia to know that we were going to be friends. She’s as cool as can be, embodying Macedonia’s more alternative side.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a lawyer, working in Human Resources.

What’s your favorite food? You want specifics? [Sure.] My favorite would be a salad with avocado, pistachio, rucola, and cherry tomatoes. [Okay, less specific!] I also love moussaka and sarma, which are stuffed grape leafs.

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? I love the Old Bazaar in Skopje; such a great place to go out at night. But the best part of Macedonia is its mountains, particularly Mount Korab, and the Matka region.

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? We have an excellent subculture that nobody knows much about. There are a lot of artists and underground bands, and a surprisingly active alternative scene. But you have to know where to go. [… for example?] Balet and Menada in Čaršija are good places to start.

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? People litter too much. It’s a lack of education, and also somehow hypocritical. Macedonians, we keep our houses immaculate. Like, you’ll never find trash or dirt inside a Macedonian house, but step outside and it’s a totally different story.

What kind of music do you like? My favorite kind of music is alternative. Growing up, I loved Depeche Mode, U2, and especially Kate Bush and Tori Amos. I also like jazz, for example the music of Jan Garbarek. But we have a lot of great Macedonian artists, like Arhangel and Mizar.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I would love to visit Tibet. Spiritual capital of the world!

We intercepted Ivan outside the restaurants which line the Vardar River near the main square. He didn’t immediately warm to the idea of an interview, but after hearing about our project, agreed to take a few minutes out of his busy day.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a doctor, and I work in the hospital here.

What’s your favorite food? It’s important to stay healthy, and there’s nothing better than fresh fruits and veggies. Luckily, Macedonia is great for that.

What’s your favorite place in Macedonia? Skopje is the best place to live and work. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

What about Macedonia makes you most proud? We’ve had a rough history, but I think the best thing about Macedonia is the future that lays before us.

And what do you like the least about Macedonia? Our politics are difficult, and the economy could be a lot better. But like I said, I believe that things are going to improve.

What kind of music do you like? Classic rock. The Beatles are my favorite, and I love Crosby, Stills and Nash. Dylan. As far as Macedonian music goes, I love Toše Proeski.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Paris.

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