Skopje: Millennium Cross

One attraction you can’t miss in Skopje, regardless of where you are in the city, is the Millennium Cross as it sits high above the city on Mount Vodno, visible from just about anywhere. At 66 ft, it’s more than double the size of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio and is pretty darn impressive. Whilst viewing it from afar is nice, it’s much more fun to get up close and personal with this gigantic structure.

The Millennium Cross from afar.

In order to do that, I caught one of Skopje’s funky red buses from the international bus station which leaves every 40 minutes starting at 9.20am. The day to try and avoid going is Monday since the cable car doesn’t run on this day (though I went on Tuesday and it didn’t run then either). At the international bus station, the stand is labelled ‘KPCT’ and the journey costs the same as all Skopje bus journeys – 35 MKD one way.

The trip to the cable car is pretty short with the bus winding up Mt. Vodno and giving some brilliant views of the city. It dropped me off at a car park next to a nice park, complete with free Wi-Fi and food and drink stands. Just beyond that is the cable car, though it was completely shut when I arrived. It looked as though some sort of renovation work was going on, though in typical Balkan style there wasn’t any sign or staff to tell you.

So my choice was to either admit defeat and head back to the city or hike to the top of the mountain to see the Cross. I hadn’t looked into hiking and there were a series of confusing signs advertising a load of trails that didn’t seem to exist. After stocking up on water, I decided the easiest thing to do was to just follow the winding road up to the top of the mountain, especially as I wasn’t prepared.

The hike is long and boring but fairly easy. It was the heat that knackered me and the fact I hadn’t properly hiked in a while. I was becoming increasingly aware of how unfit I was! The road keeps winding and looping so it takes considerably longer than it might have done, though there are a couple of shortcuts along the way. It took me around 1 hour and a half to get right up to the top. There are benches and picnic areas on the way, though I didn’t see too many people.

Millennium Cross

Funnily enough, at the top it wasn’t the Millennium Cross that  blew me away (though that was impressive). Instead, it was the breathtaking view of Skopje you got from the top of the mountain. Macedonia had already shocked me with how green it was but I got even more of a sense of that from up here, with the views giving the impression that Skopje has been plonked inside a valley, nestled amongst the hills. There’s a scene in the Force Awakens when the Millennium Falcon arrives at the grassy planet and Rey exclaims that she’s never seen so much green. That’s how I felt looking down on this fantastic city.

The view of Skopje and beyond from Mount Vodno.

To the other side of the mountain, there are also breathtaking views of the green hills and fields. The views were so good that the booming building work going on right next to me didn’t even bother me. It was really stunning and I enjoyed eating my lunch with a view before heading back down. I had to wait a while for the bus going back – about 1 hour or more. The bus arrived but then the bus driver just wanted to chill for a bit so I’m not sure on the exact schedule going back down to the city. The park is nice though and there’s free Wi-Fi to quell your boredom if there is a bit of a wait.

I don’t know if I had the choice that I’d hike it – the spectacular views came from the top not from the hike itself and I imagine you’d be able to see a lot more from the cable car since the whole hiking route was tree-lined. But I’m glad I didn’t miss the opportunity to go up and get those stunning views and see the Millennium Cross up close. I guess unreliability is one of the quirks I’ve gotten used to in the Balkans.

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