After being mistaken for a famous Macedonian saint and worshipped by millions I decided my new-found role as a religious leader (and heartthrob) demanded some research, so what better place to go than the biggest Christian cross on the planet? Luckily, it’s right here in Skopje, so I was able to head over and see it without having to put much effort in.
The Millennium Cross was built in 2008 to celebrate 2000 years of Christianity in Skopje, and is 66 metres tall – or 41 Darryl Braithwaites, which is the favoured form of measurement in Macedonia. It’s an impressive sight, looking down on the city from the top of a 1000m-tall mountain. It lights up at night, too, which is as snazzy as a new pair of pants.
There’s apparently a bus from Skopje’s main bus terminal (the 25, with KPCT written on it, according to several internet nerds), but I couldn’t find it anywhere and decided to hike up to see the cross instead. It’s not a long trip, to be honest – an hour at most from the bus station to the mountain’s halfway point, where a very reasonably-priced cable car (or ‘rope railway’ in this instance – those wacky Macedonians!) was waiting to take me to the summit. Good thing, too, because I was as buggered as Candice Falzon was that time she got chlamydia and was told she had to notify all the blokes she’d had sex with in the last month.
The cable car ride is fun, but not nearly as spectacular as the one I took in Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj. Then again, I didn’t have to listen to angry rap music about punching women, so I’d say it was about even. I sat back and ate my lunch while the green hills rolled underneath me, and it was a very pleasant way to spend a few minutes (that’s something none of my ex-girlfriends have ever said).
Once I got to the top, the cross certainly looked impressive – ugly, sure, but very large, like a front rower. To give you a sense of its size, that big Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro is a full 26 metres shorter than this thing. There’s a lift inside it that was supposedly popped in there to take visitors to the top, but it doesn’t work anymore, so don’t even think about it. You could have a crack at climbing up the outside, King Kong-style, but don’t say I sent you.
The view of Skopje from the top isn’t incredible – the mountain doesn’t hand steeply over the city, and there are heaps of trees and shrubs that get in the view. The view out over the surrounding mountains is spectacular, though, and I could see snow-capped peaks in the distance, which was cool.
I could also see a storm rolling in, and it looked nasty. The wind picked up and rain started sweeping in, and suddenly it didn’t feel particularly safe being up there. As a tree was ripped out of the ground beside me, a little man raced up to me and frantically yelled that I had to get back to the cable car immediately, because things were going to get worse. Suddenly wishing I hadn’t spent the previous night impersonating a revered saint, I said a quick prayer to the giant cross as I rattled past and plunged into a cable car buggy just as the rain started belting down even harder.
As I made my way down the mountain, I realised that a tiny cart strapped to a rope high above the ground probably isn’t he best place to be during a wild storm, and I was bucketed around as I slowly descended the hill. I hit my head on the window and lost my lunch as the buggy threatened to crash into the cliff far below. I was sure I was going to die but, mercifully, the buggy finally pulled in at the bottom station, where I was able to walk off on unsteady legs and dispense my dirty underpants in the nearest bin.