I was there for 6 months when I was in the US Army as part of Operation Able Sentry and it was a dirty place. The impression I got was they hated each other, especially the Gypsies. It seemed like EVERYBODY hated the gypsies more than they hated other races/ethnic groups. I felt sorry for them. The two largest cities I visited frequently was Skopje and Kumanovo. Skopje was in far better shape than Kumanovo. I met a few nice girls there who I hung out with when I was able to go there. They gave me a tour of the place got to see a huge Soviet Anchor that was left there by a river that runs through the city, ate at a decent restaurant and was able to buy many music CDs for practically nothing. The city had its "clean" area and trashed areas.
Kumanovo was just dirty, but the people were nice to me. Some of my Soldiers would go there and hook up with the local women so there are probably some half American babies running around it now. I remember it having a large gypsy population on the outskirts. They pretty much kept to themselves and their children., unlike the Macedonian children. wouldn't run up to my HMMWV and beg for candy.
Smaller Towns in the country side weren't in the best of shape, but the people were very nice. While walking patrols with my guys we got invited into homes for tea and even though we couldn't communicate through language we could through pointing and smiles. I made sure we left them something like a case of our MRE's or bottled water. While my driver and I rode in between the observation posts I was responsible for we used to stop at little stores and buy cokes and talk to the folks. One place we stopped at the guys bought out different guns and we had a shooting contest with them.
There are still remnants of the cold war there. Under my main OP was a huge bunker. It was pitch black down there and we would explore it all the time. There were a few bunks in it, but really nothing else. It was just creepy.
I know the Serbs are touchy about their border. My patrols got into it a few times with them over their border, but no international incident came of it. Eventually the Serbs started placing minefields where we patrolled to discourage us from going near their border.
Out from the cities it is really a beautiful country, especially near the Bulgarian border. We went on an air mobile patrol there and once we jumped off the Blackhawk helicopter we looked around and it was sheer beauty. The clouds were low, green rolling hills,, just a serene quiet. For those of you who watched the NuBSG series, that scene at the end where Admiral Adama is sitting on that hill next to Roslin's grave, well that is what it was like up there. Very peaceful.
Over all Macedonia wasn't a bad deployment. It was dirty, but there were some nice areas and there is stuff to do and there are nice people there.