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Magnificent Old Bazaar In Skopje

Skopje`s Old Bazaar

On the left side of river Vardar, once you pass the Stone Bridge, in front of you opens a view of the Old Town of Skopje.

The Old Town or Carsija (Turkish word for marketplace) stretches from Stone Bridge to Bit – Pazar ( green market) and from Kale Fortress to the place where the monument of George Kastrioti Skenderbeg stands.

In the 1392 Macedonia was conquered by Ottoman Turks.
The city of Skopje immediately started to change its look. On the place of medieval town, typical oriental town started to flourish.

Skopje became the center were international trading routes were intercepting. The city got connected with big trading centers like Dubrovnik, Venice, Ancona, but also with centers from east: Istanbul, Bursa etc.

Entire life of the city took place in the Bazaar, which was major cultural and economic center of the town.
One of the largest bazaar in the Balkans, was Skopje bazaar founded in the 15th century.

Skopje Old Bazaar shops

It was built with small shops arranged side by side, with almost same height. At the beginning the shops were built with weak material and they were turn towards the street. In front they had big shop windows which at the end of the working days were closed with wooden shutters (covers).
As the work expanded, stores started to become larger. They were built with solid material, second floor was built or room behind the shop where the goods were stored.
For better communication with the main streets, that stretched from one to the other end of Bazaar, the shops were connected with smaller streets.

Beside many shops, monumental religious (mosques) and secular building (cover-markets, hamams, hans) were built.

In the Bazaar beside trading, also craftsmanship was established. Many merchants came to this town to work and to sell their products.

Streets in Old Bazaar

Depending on the products, craftsmen were organized into guilds. Inside the Bazaar were many little markets specialized for selling certain goods like: grain, leather products, dried fish, white cheese, milk, all kinds of fruit, household products etc.

For the size and beauty of the Bazaar wrote many famous travel-writers seemed to be competing between themselves about who will use the most beautiful word trying to describe the Bazaar.

Famous Turkish traveler E.Celebi from 17th century said:

“The Old Town consists of 2150 stores, has squares and markets which are built of solid material and decorated with arches and domes.

There’s a Bezisten (covered marketplace) that is so beautiful that the words and pens are powerless to describe it.
The Old Town is strong as a fortress, with iron doors at both entrances, built with domes.

Traders who work here, are lightening incense for the visitors and spray them with rose oil”.

The expansion of the city and the Bazaar was interrupted by big Austria-Turkish war which happened in the 17th century.

When the Austrian general Enea Silvio Piccolomini arrived in-front of the city, a short fight between Austrians and Turks was started. Turks were forced to retreat and leave the city unprotected.

Because the city was in bad shape (there was luck of water, no space for cavalry, the city was without defensive walls) and because of the weather condition, the general decided not to stay here but to retreat after he will burn the city.
Soldiers with torches in their hands were placed thought the city and on given sign they started the fire.

The general was sitting on the hill watching how the city started to vanish in front of his eyes, and said:

“I am sorry for the buildings, because in this war I haven’t seen more beautiful mosques made of marble and porphyry, with thousands of lights, beautiful garden made with barbarian taste, large reserve of livelihood, all of this I had to surrender to the flame.

I can see the fire from this nice place were I stand, with great regret and sorrow, and I` am thinking about the suburbs of Vienna that experienced the same faith”.

After this event the city and its Bazaar very slowly tried to restore its old glory. This process was very difficult, and during the 18th century the city was less important urban settlement.

Skopje again takes up its old place and importance in the politic and administrative life in the Ottoman Empire in the second half of 19th century.
The Old Bazaar survived two devastating earthquakes in 1555 and 1963 and two World Wars.

Today, the Old Bazaar is a pedestrian zone, protected from pollution and noise of vehicles. It is the largest bazaar in the Western Balkans protected as national landmark.

Shops in The Old Bazaar

Here, you can find many shops and most of them are selling clothes, jewelery, shoes, souvenir’s , hats, there are shops for antiques and many tea-bars, coffee-bars, restaurants. Also, you can still see some handy craftsmen working like tinsmiths, shoe makers, hat makers, tailors, cobbler, quilt makers etc.

 

Once, a famous French historian Victor Berer said:

“The city is amazing, through its streets Greeks can be seen with white skirts, Macedonians with white shirts and long pants, Muslims, gypsies, barely dressed with tinny silk, Turkish old women with rose behind her ear with bent scarf on her heads that serves as turban, Jews, tall Albanians with red clothes, black Arabs, all races are represented here with there national costumes.”

Take time and explore, you might catch the picture of past times, maybe the fashion is changed, but the mixture of religions and cultures is still present, and the Old Bazaar remains to be the symbol of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism of the city of Skopje.

So, you must visit this Magnificent Old Bazaar in Skopje.

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