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Skopje’s new neo-classical splendour is divisive and expensive – not to mention of questionable taste
Walk along the river towards the heart of Skopje, the Republic of Macedonia’s capital, and you’ll quickly find yourself among a host of gleaming, neo-classical buildings, complete with ornate columns and rooftop figures of nymphs. The buildings weren’t there five years ago.
In early April, the riverside bars are just shaking off the cobwebs of winter, returning tables and chairs to terraces that look out over many of the new structures. Bridges lined with pristine statues of Macedonian heroes, writers and artists cross the slow-moving waters of the Vardar river.
Long a forgotten corner of Europe, the former Yugoslav republic has gone into overdrive since 2010, erecting huge government and civic buildings as well as hundreds of statues in the heart of its capital. Now almost complete, the project, known as Skopje 2014 (it was meant to be finished last year), is just as intriguing and arguably as divisive as it was when first announced.
The project has two main aims: to draw in more tourists and to try to reclaim aspects of the country’s history from neighbouring Greece, appealing to the patriotism of many ethnic Macedonians. It has cost somewhere between €200-€500m (depending on who you talk to) and has resulted in a completely new-look city centre. […]