Modern trains, ancient stations

At Скопје you can currently discover two railway stations: the historic one from 1940 that is nowadays the city museum and the current one in Brutalist style. From the outside it looks like a number of pipes stored next to each other, but the Soviet-style inside is very well worth a visit; it is like travelling in time. When in 1963 an earthquake destroyed most of the former railway station, Japanese architect Kenzō Tange was engaged to built a new earthquake-safe one.

Tange won the contest in 1965, construction works started in 1971, but it lasted until 1981 when the new railway station could be used. It was originally planned for 18 million passengers per year but never reached that goal. Half of the tracks have never been used. Since the breakdown of Yugoslavia it has seen a lot of decay. On the Balkans, typically the railway network is rather bad and long-distance busses bring you everywhere you like to go. At North Macedonia this seems to be slightly different, maybe because there are many important cities of other countries surrounding it like Thessaloniki (Greece), София (Bulgaria), Tirana (Albania) or Prishtinë (Kosovo).

The first railway track was opened during the time of the Osman Empire in 1873. It connected Thessaloniki with Mitrovicë (Kosovo) via Скопје. There is also a connection to Serbia and a route towards Bulgaria is planned. In addition to the normal railway network there was also a narrow-gauge network to cities like Ohrid or Bitola. Sections of that which not have been converted are all closed today. The famous Orient Express from Wien to Istanbul was running northeast of North Macedonia through Beograd and София; it never crossed North Macedonian ground. All in all the railway network isn’t as bad as in other parts of the Balkans, but it is clear why there are not so many trains passing through the new railway station – and probably never will.

Железничка Станица Скопје
Скопје / Skopje
North Macedonia

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