Friday, November 21, 2014

Macedonia, which one?

When our real estate acquaintance Leon old me that he was a Macedonian, I was quick to show off my understanding of his ancestral country.

“Oh, I have been to Greece once. I actually spent a couple of weeks there.”

He looked at me and said, “My mother-in-law would kill you if you say she is Greek!”

I was still trying to show off. “Isn’t Macedonians in Greece the same as the Macedonians in the new country that was once part of Yugoslavia?” I thought I knew the geography as well as the history of the area!

“They are totally different!” Unfortunately, Leon had to rush off somewhere and did not have the time to explain to me.

Until my recent visit to the Balkans…

Indeed these two peoples are different. The Macedonians that I was seeing are Slavic, and those in Greece region of Macedonia are Greeks. Until today, Greece has consistently vetoed the country’s use of the name “Republic of Macedonia” and insisted that it uses the name the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

And whose national hero is Alexander the Great? Both countries claim him to be theirs! Apparently he was from the ancient Kingdom of Macedon, which is now part of the Macedonian region of Greece. No Wonder!

Alexander the Great: Who does he belong?
A good lesson in geography and history. (I should have consulted Wikipedia instead of travelling across seven or eight time zones to learn this “fact”!

There is a tendency for less developed countries with big ego politicians to build monuments. Macedonia is a classic example. Our approach to Macedonia was by coach via Bulgaria. As we travelled closer to Skopje, sun was already setting. I thought I was in Indonesia. Both sides of the road were lined with unruly shop houses selling all sorts of wares in a very Third World-like fashion.

This is not a town in Indonesia!
However, as we crossed the 15th Century Stone Bridge across the city’s Vardar River, I thought I was seeing Putrajaya! Statues after statues and new buildings of monumental proportions suddenly appeared before your eyes. I was told by the tour guide that the country is spending one quarter of its annual budget on these structures! Maybe they can recoup their investment from tourist dollars but I don’t seem to see that many there.

They also have a Dr M
Apparently the city fathers want Skopje to look like London where double decker buses are iconic of the landscape. Even though it has its own coach building industry, it chose to buy them from China, at something like €300K a piece. They are certain not rockets. I suppose someone has made a great killing out of the contract. Hello China, this is one sure way of losing friends and influence in the long run!

At 300K Euro a piece, it should be able to fly?

No comments:

Post a Comment