Guide to SKOPJE

The dice has long been cast in Gevgelija!

A report from Macedonian Las Vegas

The town of Gevgelija is only 3 km far from Macedonian-Greek border and 70 km from Thessaloniki. With population of 16.000 and around 20% of unemployment rate, it is a record holder in employment rate in Macedonia. This is due to the fact that there are a number of casinos and hotels, as well as small joint ventures with foreign business partners most of whom are Greek citizens.

The casinos have been a special feature of Gevgelija for the last 30 years. In the past Gevgelija was considered an agricultural town, whereas now it is recognized as Macedonian Las Vegas. The die has long been cast in Gevgelija. The first hotel and casino was opened in 1987 in the centre of the town. It was hotel Jugo and Apollonia Casino. There are two more casino hotels now, “Flamingo” and “Princess”, as well as a few more smaller casinos and electronic casinos. Their regular visitors are Greek citizens who come from the northern parts of Greece and travelers passing through Gevgelija on their way to or from Greece. During the last few years there has also been an increase in Macedonian citizens visiting the casinos.

In the late 1980s the casinos were the main reason why one could see Greeks on the streets of Gevgelija. These days it is a whole different story. Greek citizens are seen everywhere around the town, especially on Thursday, traditionally market day in Gevgelija. They are regular visitors of Gevgelija’s dental practices, beauty salons, hairdresser’s, restaurants, supermarkets and still primarily its casinos.

As you are walking down the streets of Gevgelija for a moment you might think you’ve crossed the Greek border. Almost all shops, hotels and medical practices are trying to attract the attention of Greek visitors, so they write their names, titles, adverts and even guideposts in Greek.

There is also transport from Thessaloniki to the border where usually chauffeurs provided by the casinos await their clients to take them for a round of poker, black jack or roulette, and for some free drinks and food. In these difficult times of the world economic crisis and the climax of the crisis in Greece the number of visitors in the casinos varies, so casinos are trying to attract visitors by offering huge prizes and providing entertainment with popular Greek singers.

During winter season you will find Greek tourists in the ski resort Kozuf which is two hours’ drive from Thessaloniki. This ski centre is interesting not only for recreational skiers, but also for fans of extreme winter sports. In summer Kozuf and surrounding mountains offer attractive hunting grounds to a growing number of Greek hunters.

With all this said and written, and according to what citizens of Gevgelija say, we can freely conclude that whenever there is common interest involved, the name issue or any prejudice inherited from the past cannot spoil any relations. The die will be cast in Gevgelija far into the future and the hospitality of its citizens guarantees that all visitors are welcome.

The name Gevgelija comes from the Turkish words “gel geri”, meaning “come back”, and these are words that the citizens of Gevgelija say in the hope that all those who have visited the town will come back again.

Jordan Dukov