AW80D: Skopje, Macedonia

Stone Bridge D

In Skopje, a resident who shall remain anonymous said to Dolphie, there are now more statues than people. The capitol of Macedonia is investing in a reawakened sense of cultural heritage. Dolphie was able to visit many of these new stone and metal citizens.

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This national identity is not without controversy, however. See that statue of a guy on a horse? (You probably can’t tell, but that is 72 feet tall!) That’s Alexander the Great, who, as we all know, is from Macedonia. Except he’s from the historical Greek Kingdom of Macedon, and was born in what is now a town in Northern Greece. So is he Greek or Macedonian?

Actually, for that matter, is Macedonia really Macedonia?

This has been a contentious issue ever since Macedonia declared itself an independent country in 1991. Greece has been going to great lengths to protect what it believes to be its Macedonian heritage, even preventing the United Nations from recognizing Macedonia’s official name, the Republic of Macedonia, and instead labeling the country the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Another suggestion from Athens is that the entire country be called the Republic of Skopje.

The Washington Post got a quote from a Macedonian government official about the disagreement: “The Greeks are sorry that they are called Greece and not Macedonia. What else can I tell you?”

But Alexander the Great isn’t the only famous name that stirs up controversy among Macedonia and its neighbors.

Mother Teresa Plaque

Mother Teresa is also claimed by two countries: Macedonia and Albania. She was born in Skopje (which was then part of the Ottoman Empire), but was ethnically Albanian (there are still many ethnic Albanian citizens of Macedonia) and 24 years later moved to Albania.

These are disputes that no single Dolphin could settle. But there is also history of a less disputable nature in Skopje. People have lived in the area for at least 6,000 years, and the city itself was taken over by the Romans about 2,000 years ago.

Fort Skopje

This is Skopje Fortress. When exactly this incarnation of the fort was built is unknown, but it is at least about 400 years old. The first fort at this site was (probably) built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I (circa 550ish), who is sometimes referred to as Justinian the Great and called by some historians the Last Roman, which is also pretty awesome (and would make a great movie title, too!).

(You can see evidence of the dispute between Macedonia and Greece right here in this Google map! See how it says “Skopje, Macedonia FYROM”?)

After Macedonia, Dolphie only has one stop before returning once again to his native shores. And this time, it’s going to be personal! (You have to imagine that being said in the ominous movie preview guy’s voice.) Meaning, of course, that Dolphie’s last stop is not for business, but for pleasure. Where in the world do you think a dolphin would want to go most? (Hint: it’s in Europe.)

(Two things: 1 – AW80D stands for Around the World in 80 Dolphies, wherein we follow the international adventures of Dolphie, mascot of Shoreline Community College; 2 – Credit where credit’s due, so thanks Wikipedia, Lonely Planet, and The Washington Post, and if you’d like to see where I got my information, just click the links.)

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