Sep 14

THE HIDDEN TREASURES OF MACEDONIA (РЕПУБЛИКА МАКЕДОНИЈА)

Despite the progress era that came after the war against Tito’s Yugoslavia, Macedonia is still relatively unknown in comparison with its Balkan neighbors, although it has much to offer to the tourists. Bordering Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece, the country has a multi-ethnic population and is surrounded by majestic mountains that will thrill you with their breathtaking scenery. Therefore, it will ring a bell to those of you who have a passion for climbing, skiing and many other amateur outdoor activities.

The history enthusiasts will not be disappointed, either. With a cultural heritage that has ties to Greece and Rome, and with 500 years of Ottoman ruling, the undiscovered treasures of Macedonia are in the process of being disclosed – an increasing number of archaeological sites reveal the significant discoveries of this fascinating country.

We have already focused on Skopje, the capital of Macedonia that is equally interesting and now we are heading towards three other tourist attractions that will certainly leave a strong impression.

Mavrovo National Park

Only an hour away by car from the city of Skopje, you will find Mavrovo National Park. The enchanting landscape and wilderness of the natural reserve make Zare Lazarevski resort within the region a very alluring area for walking, water sports and skiing.

Galicnik Svabda, the famous wedding festival that takes place in the town of Galicnik, is held every year in July. It is a competition between couples, in which one pair is selected and they will have the honor to marry in the traditional style of Galichka. Teskoto dance is a key part of the festivities: men in traditional clothing join their hands, then move them up and down in a certain coreography in the imposing sound of drums and horns. The festivity has a solemn aura, symbolizing the sufferings of the population throughout history and offers the chance to partake in processions of men and women, dressed in traditional Macedonian costumes.

Ohrid

Three hours south of Skopje, you will encounter Ohrid, which is the most beloved of Macedonian cities and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage. The city lies on the shore of Lake Ohrid, which dates back four million years ago and is one of the oldest lakes in the world. It is said that its waters are among the most clear and pure on the planet. A boat trip here feels like a water taxi ride, and is displaying the dreamlike landscapes of Ohrid city and Albania right in front of your eyes.

Ohrid has the characteristics of a maritime city, with fairs, restaurants and places where you can practice water sports. But it is also a place that is full of history and it hosts the National Museum. The museum houses antique and archaeological treasures, which cross all periods, from prehistory to contemporary times. The Roman amphitheater, which sometimes serves as the scene of concerts fills up with a vivid and artistic atmosphere, is worth seeing en route to Fort Samul, where the spectacular view of the city is portraying in front of your eyes.

Ohrid is surrounded by 365 churches – one for each day of the year. If you decide to climb the steep mountain, the ascention will lead you to monasteries and churches such as Sveti Jovan, dating from the 15th century.

If you’re not passionate about history and religion, there is always a part of town where joy and fun is in full swing: Kaneo Beach has an air of French Riviera, as sexy girls in bikinis being a regular here.

Both in town and around the lake, there are many possibilities of accommodation, from camping to modern hotels. Many tourists choose to stay in one of the many apartments offered for rent, which are easy to find if you have your backpack or suitcase that will make you look like a tourist, as you will receive accomodation offers from locals even on the street. During summer, you will have the chance to look at the stars on clear night’s sky of you go camping by the lakeside.

The pace of life here is calm, and locals are always happy to mingle with tourists, on topics related to politics and history of Macedonia. So you can engage in controversial discussions on the subject of the country’s name. Greece, Albania and Bulgaria, they all claim the name ‘Macedonia’, as Macedonia of today represents the famous place that has such a great historical significance. However, nowadays it is referred to as the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM).

Bitola

Bitola is a historic town with a distinct atmosphere, at the foot of Mount Baba. A long time ago, this place used to represent the administrative and economic center of Macedonia. Its importance is reflected in the name it had had, especially in politics, during Ottoman times, when it was known as the “City of Consuls”, reflecting the large number of consulates that were once here. Architectural beauties include the famous Clock Tower, and numerous mosques and churches.

Another significant piece of info is that Pelister ski resort, located nearby, is another attraction in winter, so you have plenty of reasons to visit Macedonia.

Photo source:

Picture 1: destinatii.eu; Picture 2: macedonia-timeless.com; Picture 3: gbtimes.com; Picture 4: tourismplaceinfo.com; Picture 5: macedoniaholidaysandtours.com; Picture 6: lonelyplanet.com; Picture 7: pinterest.com
Aug 30

SKOPJE, THE INCREDIBLE BLEND OF CULTURES AND FLAVORS (SKOPJE)

Skopje, Macedonia’s capital has experienced the devastating earthquake of 1963 that destroyed many beautiful buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries After subsequent reconstruction, it resulted a concrete landscape that many have associated with the image of the former communist countries. Those who have visited Skopje recently were disappointed to see many of the buildings in the center covered by scaffolding, following extensive reconstruction programs of the city, but now things are coming together and Skopje is regaining its old charm.

In any case, a trip to these places reveals a fascinating destination, which abounds in culture and hospitality, making up for the lack of aesthetics, compared to other cities and places of the former Yugoslavia. The urban identity is given by the mixture of apartment blocks, mosques, minarets and Orthodox churches on the majestic background of the mountains all of these being an eloquent evidence of the cultural historical heritage loaded.

Spread on the banks of the Vardar River, visitors have to head north to take a look at the old Turkish part of town, Carsija. Here, cobblestone streets and bazaars are full of shops selling everything from clothes to glittering jewelry. These streets are full of bustle and are the perfect location to make a stop for eating and drinking; the place is practically “invaded” by Turkish restaurants serving mouthwatering dishes.

The sky of Carsija is dominated by Kale Fortress, which is dating from the 10th century. This sight is a mixture of ruins which have existed for only 600 years, but the place preserves artifacts and archeological remains from edifices built in the sixth century A.D. The view the Skopje that you can see from the fortress, above the Vardar River is beyond impressive.

A walk downhill, taking Carsija as a starting point, will lead to Kamen Most, a 15th-century stone bridge which links the surroundings to Makedoniki Polstad Market, located in the south of the river. Marsal Tito is perfect to relax in a café or bar or for shopping in the elegant shops nearby.

Music is an integral part of the rich culture of Macedonia, strongly influenced by the gypsy communities in the area. Suto Orizari, located on the outskirts of Skopje, known under the name of Shutka is the largest community of gypsies and first place belonging to this ethnic group, with independent governance. This place is more of a point of interest to those fascinated by gypsy culture than a tourist attraction in itself.

Makedoniki Polstad Market is reputed to be one of the best places in the Balkans where you can bargain, and if you’re a fan of gypsy music, there are plenty of street vendors who will sell you CDs of local artists. Nearby, there are several parks and recreation points rather than places of conventional beauty. Architecture is a multicolored puzzle that includes everything from shacks to the most elaborate and best looking houses (belonging to the rich people, of course).

If you get here during the summer, you might be a witness to the wedding party taking place just down the street. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the warmth and charm of locals and many people mention a visit in this area as having a special status and being a landmark of their journey in Macedonia.

Photo source:

Picture 1: mcgroup.com ; Picture 2: wowcher.co.uk; Picture 3: blog.hostelite.com; Picture 4: themisanthropesjournal.blogspot.ro; Picture 5: stophavingaboringlife.com; Picture 6: kairosphotos.photoshelter.com