Spray washes over me as I try to capture the moment on film. Fountains dance in time to classical music as gods, warriors and lions look on in stony silence. A rain shower drenches majestic blasts of water choreographed into a fascinating performance. I find myself mesmerised and unconcerned that I am slowly becoming sodden in my quest for the perfect picture of these fabulous Skopje fountains.
The fountains of Skopje
It is impossible to come to Skopje and fail to be impressed by these incredible fountains. The government fuelled frenzy of constructing mammoth statues and fountains started in 2010 with the announcement of ‘Skopje 2014.’ The original plan was to build around 40 monuments and revamp crumbling facades. Clearly, someone cannot count, or things got out of hand as statues, monuments and fountains adorn ever corner, every bridge, and every building.
Out of control spending
The city of Skopje just couldn’t say no as the original budget of €80 million morphed into over €500 million. Now that is overspending on a tectonic scale, one might even say frivolous considering the economic woes of Macedonia.
One local sadly informs me that average wages of around €300 aren’t even enough to cover basic monthly costs. Most young people leave to go overseas and send money back to their family in Macedonia. I am lost for words of comfort, struggling to imagine being forced to leave a country to be able to support my family.
It seems bizarre that the government have opted to invest in all this over the top, ostentatious extravagance and still they keep building. Cranes are as plentiful as statues in this city.
A memento of communist propaganda?
I can’t help noticing similarities to Cold War propaganda when such over the top displays were intended as a display of wealth and power. The loudspeakers piping the accompanying music could just as easily be spewing political untruths.
Balkan Insights quotes supporters who suggest the building ‘will transform the image of a city blighted by decades of dreary Socialist architecture and neglect.’ They mention a restoration of national pride and a wish to create a cosmopolitan capital. Well, they have definitely succeeded in that quest – these monuments leave an indelible impression on first-time visitors.
Mind boggling fountains of Skopje
It isn’t just their number but their size as these statues are huge! The musical shows of daylight are majestic and yet the flamboyance of night-time light shows eclipse this spectacle. They are magnificent so whatever your political views on the fountains of Skopje, you really MUST NOT miss them.
Here’s just a few that have captured my heart.
Alexander the Great Fountain – Macedonia Square
Perhaps the highlight of a visit to Skopje is the awe-inspiring 22-metre high bronze equestrian statue of Alexander the Great. Perched on top of a white marble fountain, with warriors and lions protecting him, water cascades in sheets of rain, and forceful spurts. It is so captivating, I find it almost impossible to stop clicking away on the camera.
I could sit for hours and watch this marvel.
Phillip II of Macedonia – Karpos Rebellion Square (or Phillip II square)
The father of Alexander the Great is immortalised in this fountain and it is strong competition for the Alexander the Great fountain. Reached by crossing over the ancient Kameni Most stone bridge, you can revel in a further musical water display.
The Mother’s Fountain – Karpos Rebellion Square
This is much less grandiose but nevertheless an enchanting homage to motherhood with sculptures of pregnant ladies alongside those of women comforting their children.
These are not the only fountains in this square. With various smaller ones scattered around, I can’t help wondering whether the person in charge is indulging some whimsical fantasy.
The River Vardar Fountain
If all that isn’t enough to keep your attention, there’s yet another spectacle planted firmly in the fast flowing River Vardar. Powerful jets of water shoot high into the air in front of the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia, maybe another desperate attempt to keep you transfixed.
Perhaps a ploy to entice tourists or a nationalistic display of power and wealth for neighbouring states?
Here’s what I think
I have no idea which but I know I LOVE IT. Never has a city held me so enthralled and I find myself trying to find ever more creative ways to capture the essence of these beautiful monoliths. I wander for hours through labyrinthine streets, the bazaar and into the hillside of Vodno forever hunting for a new statue or fountain to admire. This city has me hooked.
What do you think?
The blogs I read before this trip seemed to be overly disgusted at this extravagance. I find myself part horrified and part enraptured with these remarkable creations.
For those who have visited, I would love to know what you thought and for those who haven’t what your first impression is.