Skopje is a very interesting city and I like living here, but I also need to get out of it every now and then – as with every more or less big city. My Sunday was meant for some natural recreation, after I had spent my Saturday walking through the city, guided by a young man who is pretty upset about the place as he only sees “corruption” and “clientilism” as significant aspects of Macedonian culture. I have promised to do some outsider-research on that, my pure gut feeling tells me though that there is more to it.
After two weeks living and working in Skopje I was in an urgent need for a break from the city: A break from the, as repeated perpetually, very polluted city and also a break from the politics and the constant confrontation with disproportionate gambling of corrupt political figures with the future of (young) Macedonians – because that is what continuously surrounds you in the city center. It is right there in front of you, 18-million-Euro-ferry-wheels and fake facades, fake splendor to socialist blocks. Every wall has a passive-aggressive connotation to it, it says “in your face, that’s how we spend your tax money”.
Long story short, this is a post about the beauty of nature and not the ugliness of corrupt politics – I decided to go to the Matka Canyon with a friend.
Matka literally translates to “womb” in Macedonian. Around the canyon you can find several caves, one of them being the “Vrelo Cave”. Since I am scared of caves, even if they come without water, I am never going to take more than a glimpse at this cave which is a pity, because being supposedly the deepest under-water cave in the world this is quite an attraction.
Anyways, on a rather chilly, not to say cold, cloudy Sunday I was not much in the mood for taking a boat through the canyon anyways. Instead, with our backpacks stuffed with goodies my friend and me decided to go for a walk.
It is pretty easy to get to the Canyon. The bus number 60 which conveniently stops right by my house does not commute often, but at least it does every other hour – only costing about one Euro odd. It follows the Partizanski Bulevar into the outskirts of the city and is stuttering through narrow streets uphill towards the Canyon.
The path along the river is asphalted in the beginning and I was already doubting the beauty of Macedonia’s natural heritage, but – oh boy was I wrong. The whole tour begins with the floodgate (at least that is what I think) to the reservoir and many signs around forbid any kind of photography. The Matka lake is, by the way, the oldest artificial lake in Macedonia.
After that, before the hike-like-walk begins some restaurants by an adorable little stone church invite for a beer or Macedonian cuisine near the jetty. They were also very friendly to show me the way to their bathroom. After this there is no possibility to pee (none!) for a couple of hours (until you made your way back) – just so you know.
The path along the rocks by the Treska river (if I am not mistaken that is the river flowing through the canyon) is obviously not untouched – people have marked their territory with trash – but still it is not an all artificial path. Especially after, let’s say, 1 hour, when the trash ceases, because less people go that far it does get pretty rough at times and some climbing and jumping and bending is necessary. But this is great, not only because it is exercise for us lazy city people, but also because it adds to a great experience. The path is slowly leading uphill, further away from the water, but towards an even more stunning view of the marvellous canyon.
We visited, as I said before, the canyon on a grey, rather dull day. Still, it was an astonishing experience to see the Canyon. Maybe even better than going in spring, when everything blooms and blossoms and the sun is out and the beauty of the place is so overwhelming it makes you cry. I am prepared now for improvement of an already fascinating scenery for the next time (and there surely will be a next time!). I have to admit though – I am a mountain-person anyways. I love mountains and I find them particularly fascinating if they come with pretty patterns like the ones in Matka. I am also a river-person and a river with water as lusciously turquoise and cyan as the one in Matka, despite the joyless weather, had an easy game to win me over.
We spent 5 hours in Matka, before we caught the bus back home, the last before dawn, and time flew by, as it does when you have fun and the air is fresh and you even have delicious picnics in front of a stunning panorama. Matka is this kind of place you want to go to realize how pretty this world is and to also realize how badly we treat our bodies and souls to constantly lock them into grey, dirty cities. I might sound like I am praising Matka too much and maybe I do. But it is a very nice place to take a break from the always-critical, always-political, responsible adult-life and to exchange it for some rock-climbing, view-enjoying, laughter-echoing moments outside. Natural recreation at its best!