Welcome to Day #3 of 100 Days of Travel. It’s a new world and a new type of traveling. For the next 100 days I’m exploring Macedonia and Albania as safely as possible.

I was never that much into brutalism until I saw the main branch of the Skopje Post Office. Now I’m obsessed.  Built in stages starting in 1974, it’s a surreal mix of concrete corners, portholes, and buttresses. It was built by the Janko Konstantinov, a Macedonian architect working mainly in Scandinavia and the United States. When Skopje was leveled in the tragic earthquake of 1963, Konstantinov returned to craft this exercise in the surreal.

Across the street is the Government House of Macedonia. Like many downtown buildings, this one was a victim of the infamous Skopje 2014 project, where the government sank a whopping 684 million euros into renovating the city center. An online poll with limited options resulted in this Baroque design. Personally, I prefer the post office.

The two buildings are a study of contrasts, but mostly what I’m reminded of when standing between them is that I need to vote.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been watching the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe unfold as I lived and traveled through the region. It’s a messy and complicated affair, full of nationalism, media suppression, and corruption. But I’ve also seen the people fight back against with art, music, and protests.

Clockwise from top left:
Tbilisi protests, Georgia 2019
Anti-corruption protests, Romania 2017
Russian political activist Maria Alyokhina, Slovakia 2018
Protest concert to protect rivers, Albania 2016
Campaign to free political prisoners, Ukraine 2018
Vilnius street art, Lithuania 2018

It’s a near constant battle to avoid backsliding into authoritarianism, and up until four years ago, I always thought the United States was well past this point. Turns out we are not. It’s like we built a well-constructed house, forgot to install a side door, and the neighbor’s racist dog got in and shit all over the furniture. Democracy is not a given, even in one as old as the United States, so today I’m heading back to the post office to cast my vote.