Skopje: The Lost Shoes of the City (excerpt)

An excerpt from the book “Skopje: The Lost Shoes of the City” by Ivan Šopov.

Unjustified Absence

Not a small number of Skopjans for street musicians – as well as for almost everything else concentrated in the city’s strict downtown – drop in cardboard boxes or on mats in front of them their spare change. If for “normal” concerts tickets are being paid for entering, money in front of street musicians is here dropped for “exit”, escape, justification for the absence: passers-by pay as if they apologize for not having time to listen to their music, being in a rush for something. However, there is another kind of Skopjans as well.

Dear fellow citizens (or maybe you are tourists), you who stay to listen to at least some song from street musicians, you who don’t leave right away, not paying for the freedom not to listen to them, I would form a political party with you, a secret society, a band, whatever…


A young man is waiting for his girl at a bus station. But they see each other before she gets off the bus: he is looking at the windows of the passing buses, until he recognizes through one glass window the one he is waiting for.

They lock eyes, wave at each other, and their faces light up with smiles. Then she finally gets off the metal monster, which, however, has magic on its own in the middle of the routine recurrence of the journey between two distant points of the city; but their meeting is already taking place.

If you spend enough time at a bus stop, you’ll notice that it’s a place where relatives, friends, acquaintances, and even lovers who forget about the secrecy of their relationship, business partners, and enemies who barely hide their ulterior motives, all come to meet.

As long as there are Skopjans who meet this way, I will know my residential address.

The Lost Shoes of Skopje

Walkers who are a little bit more attentive can’t help but notice that across Skopje more and more often could be found shoes discarded or left in the middle of a street or sidewalk. No, it’s not about worn-out shoes that are usually left beside dumpsters hoping that some poor or homeless would find them.  It’s not about shoes laced together and hung on electrical or phone cables, either. Sometimes, it’s about one shoe only, as though some Skopje Cinderella has left it to find her prince, and sometimes there are two shoes, which confuse casual passers-by. If you stumble upon these shoes one day, give the city a gentle caress and touch its feet. Under your fingers, you would feel the blisters of Skopje, which is yet to find the shoes it would feel comfortable in. Discarded shoes prove that it’s the same case with many Skopjans, as well. For some unknown reason, I haven’t yet noticed them running free and barefoot down the streets and alleys. But, here, at this moment, as a sign of some conspiratorial solidarity, I’m taking off my shoes. And I’m giggling.

Translated by Simeon Jankov

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