Skopje Macedonia – Riot Squads and Large Scale Political Rallies ‘r Us

Political rally in downtown Skopje, Macedonia.
Political rally in downtown Skopje, Macedonia*.

As a smart and careful traveller, I always make sure to investigate potential riots and large scale political gatherings in any foreign land. In my first 48 hours in Skopje, capital city of Macedonia, I got to check out both. After reading this article, some people may think Skopje is a hotbed of citizens rioting and spending their Saturday nights attending political rallies. Objectively, is that the truth?

Well, objectivity is such a fickle thing. No matter how this photo series is presented, someone is bound to get upset. This isn’t a new thing on Yomadic, I almost felt like an official apology was necessary before clicking publish on my Croatian and Serbian articles. I’m sure many people now believe that those two Balkan nations are just hives of extreme corruption, filled with decaying concrete communist architecture. Indeed.

Of course there is more to Skopje than just smoking, drinking yoghurt, and watching the occasional riot or political rally. After being here for just a couple of days, I’ve already seen a major road close down due to a face-off between protesters and riot police, and a huge political gathering in the center of the city. So are these photos any less objective than showing a series featuring grassy fields, well groomed wildlife, snow capped mountains, and beautifully preserved historic architecture? You may draw your own conclusions.


click to see an interactive map showing the location of this article


Skopje is amazing, and I don’t use that term lightly. Local architectural ranges from baroque to brutal, and from Disneyland-esque to Las Vegas-esque. Located in the valley of a mountain range, Skopje’s neighbourhoods include the largest Gypsy (Roma) community in the world, and the Ottoman influenced old town on the doorstep of the city center. In both places, you’ll find some of the nicest meat filled pasties you will ever eat. It’s genuinely surprising how many layers there are to what is seemingly just a small Macedonian city.

As usual, a week just doesn’t seem enough. But that’s all I booked in Skopje, in my little downtown communist-era shoe box dream-apartment. Soon, I’ll give a thorough wrap-up of the city. In the meantime, if you want to know more about Skopje, and Macedonia, check out the article over on the Blond Gypsy.

For now, I’ll just leave these photos here.


Potential riot. Skopje, Macedonia.
Potential riot – the moment where protesters reached the police line. Skopje, Macedonia.
time to get wild in downtown Skopje
Saturday night, means it’s time to get wild in downtown Skopje.
lovely Macedonian lady, Skopje
She’s a lovely lady once you get to know her. Skopje, Macedonia.
red beret skopje macedonia
I wouldn’t mess with him. Skopje, Macedonia.
Due to potential rioting, the Kale Fortress of Skopje was closed
Due to potential rioting, the Kale Fortress of Skopje was closed.
Macedonian riot squad stands ready
However, Macedonian riot squads stand ready to direct tourists to the Skopje Museum of Contemporary Art.
Macedonian man has his hat blown away by musician in downtown Skopje.
Macedonian man has his hat blown away by musician in downtown Skopje.
Feeling the rhythm of Skopje, Macedonia.
Feeling the rhythm of Skopje, Macedonia.
Macedonians love to smoke.
Macedonians love to smoke. Cigarettes. Skopje Macedonia.
smoking in Macedonia
We don’t like smoking, oh no, we love it. Skopje, Macedonia.
Macedonian man lighting a cigarette.
Macedonian man lighting a cigarette.
Riot in Skopje
Riot squad commence formation, this is not a drill. Skopje, Macedonia.
dancing and smoking a cigarette in downtown Skopje.
Macedonian man, dancing and smoking a cigarette in downtown Skopje.
Macedonian political rally
Approximately 90,000 people attended this political rally, lasting until after midnight in Skopje, Macedonia.
political rally in Skopje, Macedonia.
People heading in to the political rally, downtown Skopje, Macedonia.

In the name of objectivity, I’ll add this: the riot didn’t occur as the protesters had the good sense to see they were clearly outnumbered by riot police, the downtown political rally was attended by 90,000 and was peaceful, people have been incredibly friendly here in Skopje, and Macedonia does not report official statistics regarding smoking prevalence.

Skopje, wow. Just wow.


BTW, I would love to send you the next dispatch, posted from some-where random around this planet (and you'll soon find out why YOMADIC email followers are my favourite followers):

17 thoughts on “Skopje Macedonia – Riot Squads and Large Scale Political Rallies ‘r Us

  1. Nate,

    If this is what is coming off your x-pro-1 as jpegs… Wow, wow! My god…and in weird street lights.

    Be well


    1. Yep. JPG’s, terrible dull street lights at night time, and at ISO 2500 (no noise reduction or sharpening applied at all, this is how the camera captured the photos). Amazing what can be achieved without a flash these days. Modern camera’s are incredible!

      1. Sure am! Been following you for a while, since back when you were checking out abandoned buildings and it’s been quite interesting to watch your development (if you don’t mind me calling it that) into a travel photoblogger. Big respect Nate.

  2. Awesome photos and thanks for the mention! Definitely did not see this side of Skopje at all while I was there, but even if I had, for sure wouldn’t have been able to capture it the way you have.

    Not entirely sure what is going on there right now and I am sure you’ll break it down in your next post, but I’m guessing the political rally had something to do with the upcoming elections. And riot squads a result of Albanian protests I read about last week.

    Spot on about all the different layers which I think is what hooked me about the place most. Have been trying to think of what else I can recommend to you but I think you’ll find everything you’re meant to. You’re intuitive like that :)

    P.S. Don’t bother checking back on the fortress, I heard it’s been closed for years.

    1. Hey Larissa, I know how you feel about Skopje, and now I’ve seen it first hand, I can see why. Just so much to this place, I’m hooked as well. As for what’s going on in Skopje, I’m not 100% certain, but it was quite the welcoming party!

      (also, thanks for the fortress tip)

  3. Good luck getting into the fortress. That things is like a fortress…

    Great post as always. Looking forward to the wrap-up.

  4. I haven’t thought about potential riots on a foreign land – that’s a good point! :)
    We really need to know about the latest news even if we’re on vacation if we don’t want to be troubled with rallying people.
    Are you the one who took the above photos? I salute you for having the courage to take photos of rallies.

    1. Hi Gemma, yes, I take all the photos. Really, it’s not as much courage as you would think – the rally was trouble free. The riot could have been worse, but as it turned out it was all OK.

  5. Wow…these images are something else. Especially love the first shot, and the one where the older man is getting his hat blown off by the musician. That’s a brilliant capture.

    These photos bring back memories of some of the old NSL crowds (old soccer league!) in Australia.

  6. I expect there to be more and more scenes like this all across Europe as the recession deepens…shame that the people are in strife but pretty awesome to experience events like this for you…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *