Tuesday 30 October 2018

Skopje, Macedonia (Скопје, Македонија)

Skopje, capital city of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, has been undergoing a facelift in recent years.

The city had been rebuilt following a devastating earthquake in 1963.  Since 2010, however, statues and classical buildings have been springing up.  Some of the buildings are new, others are facades on existing structures.  The aim, undoubtedly, is to give the city a new character.

The facelift has also extended to Skopje's transport system.  There is no metro, nor are there any trams.  Skopje's transport system comprises buses, and more buses.  The city's recent project to reinvent itself has resulted in a couple of hundred classic-looking double-deckers roaming the streets of Skopje.

I visited Skopje in September 2018, a few days before a referendum in Macedonia to change the country's name to North Macedonia.

Advertisements urging a "yes" vote are prominent in the background to these images (above and left).


The double-deckers vaguely resemble London's famous red Routemaster buses.  However, Skopje's classic-looking double-deckers do not have an open rear platform.  Instead, they have two sets of doors (and two staircases).

Despite the "half cab" layout, the engine is at the rear of the bus.








As this image shows, not all of Skopje's new architecture is "classic".  There are also some striking modern buildings in the city.

I found some of the double-deckers carrying advertising liveries, with just the front in the red and white fleet livery.

These buses are wheelchair-accessible and have step-free access.  However, only four seats hare step-free - and three of them are tip-up seats in the wheelchair bay!

The double-deckers aren't the only buses operating on Skopje's city transport network.  I found a large number of single-deckers in use.

Some of the single-deckers were relatively new vehicles, with three sets of doors.


Skopje is also trialling fully-electric buses.

I found this one, its livery proclaiming its green credentials.  The bus has a charging plate fitted to its roof.

Alongside the newer vehicles were large numbers of older single-deckers.  Many appear to be enjoying a second life in Skopje, having been retired from service in Germany and other countries in western Europe.

Most of the older buses were displaying their route details on cards in the windscreen.


Some of the older vehicles carry red and white livery, or plain red.  Some are adorned with advertising.

I found some of the older buses carrying traces of their previous ownership.

In some cases, they not been fully repainted into red or red/white, and still had other colours visible.

Some still displayed the name of their previous operator (below left), or the logo of a transport system in Germany (below right).


I even found a couple of buses with German displays still showing at the front.

The vehicle below is on route 23, as displayed on the card in the windscreen, rather than route 1 to a destination in the Austrian Alps!

As well as buses brought in from other parts of Europe, I found a small number of older buses which were locally-built.

Not all of the single-deck buses I saw were full-size.

I noted one or two midi-sized buses operating.

There were also a few articulated buses in service.

Those I saw were older, some second-hand from western Europe, others locally-built.

Skopje's bus network is provided by JSP (website with very limited English).  Fares are paid by smartcard - the Skopska card can be bought from kiosks at some of the main bus stops in the city.

For travel beyond Skopje, Macedonia has only a very limited rail service.  However, there are coaches to destinations both domestic and international. 


The coaches leave from a coach station beneath the main railway station, a kilometre or two east of the centre of Skopje.



Many of Skopje's city bus services terminate in their own bus station next door to the coach station.

A coach service between Skopje city centre and the airport is operated by Manora Group.  The coach timetable is designed to fit around flight arrival and departure check-in times.


In the city centre, the service starts from the Holiday inn, close to Macedonia Square, then calls at the coach/rail station and a suburban shopping centre.

A sighsteeing tour of Skopje is operated by JSP, using one of the red double-deck buses.  There is at least one open-top bus, although a closed-top vehicle was in use when I visited Skopje.

The tour operates twice a day from the "Macedonia Gate", close to Macedonia Square in the heart of the city.

Overlooking Skopje, with some fine views over the city, is Mount Vodno.  A cable car up the mountain opened in 2011.  It operates all year round, but is closed on Mondays and the last Tuesday of the month.

I was in Skopje on... a Monday and the last Tuesday of the month!  These images therefore show the cable car infrastructure.

To reach the cable car, bus route 25 operates roughly hourly from the city centre.


Finally, a couple of other blogs worth reading.  Josie Wanders provides a useful further insight into Skopje's public transport system, whilst Nächster Halte gives another perspective of Skopje's double-deck buses.