What everyone agrees, however, is that the Skopje 2014 Project has turned the central area of Macedonia Square, the Ottoman bridge and the banks of the Vardar into an impressive sight. At first sight, things are unpromising.
There is nothing impressive aft er you exit the M3 motorway and head towards the centre of Skopje on Alexander of Macedon Boulevard. Old Tito-era blocks of flats flank the road and many women still sport the characteristic hairstyles fashionable in the mid-1970s. The only eye-catching objects in the streets are the billboards advertising mortgage loans or high-quality health care somewhere in Turkey. You realise that the city is not at all the same when the fi rst red doubledecker bus appears. It pulls up to a bus stop, the doors open and disgorge a bunch of locals with the weary faces of people caught in the daily routine.
The city commissioned the doubledeckers from a Chinese company and introduced them into the transport system in May 2011. Contrary to what you might think, it has nothing to do with London. Skopje had its own red double deckers 50 years ago, and the new purchase is a revival of the tradition.
The closer to the centre you get, the more visible the signs of change become. The red buses are everywhere and a bronze statue of a heroic horseman guards the building of parliament.
Then there is the triumphal arch. Its official name is Macedonia Gate, its location is telling. The arch stands where 11 October Street, which commemorates the date in 1941 when Macedonian armed resistance against the Axis forces was organised, meets Pella Square, named after the capital of the ancient Macedonian Kingdom, of which modern Macedonia claims to be the offspring. Its main arch perfectly frames a huge statue of another horseman, dominating the foreground. Pella is now in Greece.
The official name of the statue, which is 22 metres high if you count the plinth, is Warrior on a Horse. Everyone knows, however, that it represents Alexander the Great. The famous military commander is considered an important part of the history of the Greeks, who include him in their legion of formidable ancient Greek artists, writers, philosophers and so on. To the Macedonians he is the brightest star produced by their ancient forefathers.
The newly-revealed Alexander is the pièce de résistance of Macedonia Square.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers