Šuto Orizari, Šutka, Shutka – whatever you want to call it – is one of Macedonia’s coolest attractions in my opinion. Then again I am a blonde gypsy and fascinated with all things Roma…
Whatever, you still have to go if you are ever in Skopje, whether you are a gypsy or not, as there really is no other place in the world like it.
In case you missed it, Shutka came in at #5 my list of “things you should know before traveling to Macedonia” as it happens to have the largest concentrated Roma population in the world and it just a 15-20 minute bus ride from central Skopje. Romani is an official language, the mayor is an ethnic Rom, and they even have their own Romani TV and radio stations, newspaper, and flag. Pretty huge achievement for a minority that is used to facing nothing but discrimination or forced assimilation in every other European country.
Shutka is also famous for being the stomping grounds of Esma Redžepova, Queen of Gypsy Music, and has been the backdrop for some pretty interesting films. Several scenes for Emir Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies were shot there, as was Aleksander Manic’s entire documockery (I just made that word up), The Shutka Book of Records. I wouldn’t say either film is an accurate depiction of what Shutka is really like, at least not in my 2 hour experience with it, but the latter is actually a documentary based on real people who live there. Real entertaining people.
My experience with Shutka was much more mellow. Interesting for sure, but nothing that out of the ordinary or outrageous like I was hoping for. I wanted to see Buzescu-esque mansions painted in gold, pimped out oxcarts, dance parties taking place in the street, and FAZLI (see 0:34 above). None of that happened.
Thought what I captured in the video above might have been the dance party I was looking for, but actually the owner of this house just wanted everyone to know that they were the champion of having the loudest speakers in Shutka. I’m pretty sure as the music was ON, but no people or dancing. This also happened.
It’s a real life gooseherd (like a herder of sheep, but with fighting geese) and that is a ski pole in his hand.
The easiest way to get to Shutka is on the #19 or #20 bus. It’s basically the last stop and you will know you have arrived as soon as you pass a big market and start seeing these half wheels to your left – they are half of a chakra, the international Romani symbol.
I ended up going with two other friends but I could sense that I would have been just fine had I gone alone. In fact, we even ran into an American girl (VERY random) who has been living there for two years teaching English for the Peace Corps and confirmed that it is a very safe place. It’s just not many tourists pass through so you’re likely to be met with a lot of looks and some questions, especially from the little ones.
Definitely have a Gypsy Burger (really just a Shutka pljeskavica) from this joint right on the main road – it’s not far from where you catch the bus back to Skopje. These guys were awesome and the younger one spoke English very well. I think one of the first things he asked me was if I was from Miami. Do I look like I am from Miami?
Shutka certainly is a sea of stories and now my dream is to go back for wedding season one of these days. I’d also like to meet Esma, whether it’s in Shutka or Malmö where she will be representing Macedonia at the Eurovision song contest this spring. She seems like a lovely lady.
AND, because I like you, I am going to leave you with this amazing video that I discovered. Watch it carefully – great shots of Skopje’s old bazaar and a pretty clever storyline. By 1:35 Ras Tweed has made it up to Shutka and by 2:11 Esma comes in with a BANG . You’re welcome.