Popes and presidents

I haven’t managed to get to the aqueduct yet ! My plane touched down Thursday around noon and I spent the afternoon working, so I was pretty tired in the evening and did nothing except enjoy a nice meal with a glass of wine and a good book (The History of Technology by Headrick). Today is Friday evening and I’m being responsable, so I did my gym exercises at the hotel and am now having a salad with another glass of local wine.

It wasn’t my intention, but I’ve come to North Macedonia at a very exciting time. Tomorrow there will be a lot of energy here in the centre, as they are running a marathon. They’re putting up the marquees in the Macedonia Square and it looks like a big thing. Skopje has half a million inhabitants (about a quarter of the total in North Macedonia) and another half who live in nearby towns but commute to work here every day. For the full marathon there are 318 participants more than half of whom are not local. I’m curious to see it.

The day after on Sunday they’re electing a new president. I’ve often spoken to locals about politics, though always in the most general of turns, as I don’t know the subject very well and don’t want to offend. It’s a bit a touchy subject, many people I spoke to were skeptical about governement in general, thought that there was still corruption in governement and that their vote would not make any difference. I like to talk with anybody who will stand still for long enough, but I can’t have a statistically reliable image of the opinion of the average North Macedonian citizen. I speak often to taxi drivers, as taxi’s are very cheap here and I use them often to get from one place to another in the center of town. Many of them are elderly gentlement whose language I don’t speak, but some have a history of working in Germany and so we converse in German. Exceptionally I will encounter a taxi driver younger than 30 and these always speak English, so I keep their card close at hand in case I want to organize a longer drive to visit some monument outside of town.

Then on Tuesday the pope of the catholic church is coming to visit Skopje and will apparently hold a mass in the main square, right here in the centre! I’m a bit worried about getting out and about on that day, I’m assuming there will be strict security measures and throngs of people. Though that might not be too bad, catholics are very much a minority here: two thirds are orthodox, one third is muslim and half a percent makes up the rest. I’m assuming the reason for his visit to Skopje is that this is the birth place of Saint Theresa of Kolkata.. Her house is no longer standing, though it’s drawn on the tiled ground of the main square and there is a museum and church dedicated to here nearby.

My own plans are a bit more simple: a walk around the marathon action Saturday morning, perhaps a long hike on Sunday, maybe a movie next week on a quiet evening and then I’ll try to visit the aquaduct Wednesday afternoon.

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