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North Macedonia is bright and original even for a sophisticated traveler!

When to visit North Macedonia?

North Macedonia is a small state in the middle of the Balkan peninsula. It consists of a mountainous landscape with deep river valleys. The country has a warm Mediterranean climate with little rainfall.  Between the mountains, there are also high plains, where there is a predominantly dry continental temperate climate, which is milder in parts of the central Vardar valley, where the main agricultural areas are found.  The best time to travel is between April and October. On our website, you will find many local private tour guides who will show you this beautiful country and tell you the stories and share their experiences you will never forget!

 

The “Stone Bridge” near Zovich townlet or also known as the “Movie Bridge” is one of the most attractive architectural creations in the Mariovo region. It is constructed of engraved stone and prone stone blocks. It has an arc figure, adjusted to the layout of the landscape. In the lower part bordering the river on the side of the townlet, a watermill was constructed, which until lately was used by the local residents. The watermill is also built of carved stone and shrouded with rock slabs like all traditional huts in the Mariovo region.

Worth traveling to North Macedonia

Although Alexander the Great was born in the Greek part of North Macedonia, this has not prevented the small Balkan country from erecting large, beautiful statues of the world-historical personality in the capital Skopje.   

Alexander the Great Monument, Skopje, North Macedonia​ 

And precisely in Skopje, there are enough statues to look at – over 100 statues of heroes, politicians, writers, and saints between large classical buildings, which almost make Skopje look like a mini version of Rome 2000 years ago. All in an attempt to make the small, now independent country after the war in Ex-Yugoslavia a desirable travel destination. In addition, Skopje is home to the famous Mother Theresa's House of Mercy. She was of Albanian descent but lived in North Macedonia throughout her childhood.  

So, even if North Macedonia has a bit of a hard time boasting great personalities, nature in itself is reason enough to go to North Macedonia. Lake Ohrid in the central mountain country is one of the few places in the world that has the status of being on UNESCO's World Heritage Lists for nature and culture respectively.  

Ohrid is naturally on the world heritage list because the lake is one of the world's oldest – 4 million years old. And the city is on the cultural list because it contains no less than 365 churches. One for every day of the year. That is why it is also called the "Jerusalem of the Balkans".  

As a natural area, the lake is an idyllic bathing spot and is perfect for sailing trips. The former Yugoslav president Tito had his summer house here down by the lake. The historical and cultural Ohrid has beautiful Ottoman houses, churches as well as mosques.  

At the end of the lake is St. Naum monastery in beautiful surroundings. Just entering the serene monastery gives you a sense of healing. And it is said that the power of St. Naum can still be felt. If you put your ear to his grave, you will be able to hear his heart beating. 

Ohrid pearls are not discovered in a shell but are assembled in a way that the shiniest (inner) part of the shell, is handled and after that is very well processed, so the wanted shape, the „sedefastc “grains are created. The second process of completing this pearl is spreading over the grain with the emulsion which is emanated from the shell of the Ohrid fish, bleak. In the past, there have been some models of necklaces caused by Ohrid Pearls which gave emphasis on occasions such as weddings, celebrations and name days, proposals, etc. And they were called according to the circumstance. Old traditional practices with which the older ladies and women garlanded themselves for carnivals and other formal affairs. Ladies necklaces are owned by nearly every married girl because at that time it was a rule for the men to ask for the bridal hand with this jewelry. Family Filevi offers a vast collection of unique handcrafted jewelry. The great choices of various colors of classy, natural pearls allow you to choose the ideal mixture that will match your style. Each creation features an individual method, concept, and design. They are made in various lengths according to the client’s craving. The models are for people who want to be different, with their own spotlighted tastes and lifestyle.

The lake has also given its name to the very special Ohrid pearl, which over time has been given to royalty and international celebrities all over the world. 

In 2019, the country changed its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia after a decades-long name dispute with Greece. The names Macedonia and North Macedonia thus refer to the same country when you look at any travel.

 

Bitola, Heraclea ruins

The Heraclea ruins date from the 4th century BC and were built by Philip II of Macedonia. Heraclea was conquered by the Romans two centuries later and was an important area of ​​the Via Egnatia. Excavation of ruins is still taking place, but at present, you can see, among other things, the Roman bath and the theater. At the ruins, there is a small museum that tells the story behind the ruins.

The Church of Saint Demetrius was constructed in 1830 with the voluntary donations of local vendors and craftsmen. It is plain on the outside, as all temples in the Ottoman Empire had to be, but luxuriously ornamented with chandeliers, an engraved bishop throne, and a carved iconostasis on the inside. The quantity of golden decorations is evident and points to the existence of late-Byzantine painting and baroque technique. There are many different items, including the goblets made by local experts, a darohranilka (treasure) of Russian roots, and several images of scenes from the New Testament, carried from Jerusalem by pilgrims. The beginning scenes of the movie “The Peacemaker” with  George Clooney and Nicole Kidman were shot in the "Saint Dimitrija" church in Bitola.

Museum of Macedonia

This museum is located in Skopje near the old market square in the northern part of the city. The museum is housed in a modern, white building and has an impressive collection covering the entire history of the area. Near the museum, you will find the bazaar district, which is one of the largest and most colorful in Europe.

 

Reflection of the city of Ohrid in the crystal water of Lake Ohrid

Ohrid Town

Ohrid city is the Macedonian tourist mecca. There are approximately 30 cultural monuments in the area and they attract many tourists. There are numerous ruins from ancient times and from different time periods in and around the city. From Ohrid, there are also good opportunities to take a trip to the Albanian border, among other things, to see the Church of Sveti Naum from the 17th century.

Old Town of Ohrid

One of the most beautiful walks you can take in Ohrid is in the old town. Here you will find beautiful architectural buildings and a cozy atmosphere. The district also offers an archaeological museum that can tell interested parties the history of the area.

Samuel's Fortress is a fortification in the old town of Ohrid, North Macedonia. It was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire led by Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria in the 11th century. Nowadays, this important tombstone is a major tourist magnet and was heavily rejuvenated in 2003 with the expansion of completely new battlements where none had endured. According to current excavations by Macedonian archaeologists, it was argued that this stronghold was constructed on the location of a premature fortification, dated to the 4th century BC, which was presumably created by King Philip II of Macedon. During the late 900s, King Samuil of Bulgaria repaired the fort by reconstructing it into a medieval-style citadel which still stands as is today.

Lake Ohrid – a pearl lake in the Balkans

The town of Ohrid by the idyllic mountain lake of the same name in what is now North Macedonia was also a popular holiday destination during the Yugoslavian era. So popular that Yugoslavia's great leader Joseph Tito had his summer house by the lake. It can be seen on a boat trip. But there is much else to see for both those interested in nature and history when you visit the Balkans.

The Ohrid pearl

The lake is one of the world's oldest - approx. 4 million years old and thus both the city and the lake are on Unesco's lists of world cultural and natural heritage. The lake has given its name to the special pearl, which, like other pearls, is not made naturally from mussels. Instead, they are made from fish scales, which are painstakingly laid on layer after layer according to a special method, which today is carried out by the two well-known families, Talevi and Filevi.

Going into the bases of how Ohrid Pearls are being created, The tale goes back to 1925 when a Russian warrior remaining in Ohrid possessed this secret recipe from his motherland around a lake with an identical fish in Russia. The Talevi and the Filevi clans passed on the secret recipe. Both families fiercely save the recipe a secret which still stays a secret today. An emulsion for the secret formula is formulated from the fish scales and then used to shield the surface in layers of Ohrid Pearl which is made from ground shells. What we do comprehend is part of the secret is the scales of the “Plasica”  -  an endemic fish in Lake Ohrid . The emulsion creates a gorgeous and refined pearl, rich in various colors and shines. Another intriguing fact is that wild pearls are long-lasting for only 150 years, but Ohrid Pearl is durable forever! One of the most prominent persons that had the honor to wear a piece of jewelry produced by Talevi family was queen Elizabeth ||

If you walk through the narrow alleys, you can admire the special Ottoman architecture with chalk-white facades and black-painted half-timbering with protruding balconies.

In the town's shops, in addition to pearl shops, there are also filigree shops, an old paper factory with homemade paper, and an old printing press from Gutenberg's time.

Saint John the Theologian, Kaneo is a Macedonian Orthodox church settled on the ridge over Kaneo Beach fronting Lake Ohrid in the city of Ohrid in North Macedonia. The shrine is committed to John of Patmos, the author of Revelation, who has been an identical person to John the Apostle. The building date of the temple stays unspecified but manuscripts detailing the church belongings suggest that it was created before the year 1445. Archaeologists accept that the church was built before the elevation of the Ottoman Empire. Restoration work in 1964 uncovered frescoes in its dome.

Spread of the Cyrillic alphabet 

Ohrid was in many ways a center in antiquity. The city was located midway on the ancient Via Egnatia, which connected the Western Roman Empire with its capital in Rome and the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium with its capital in Constantinople (now Istanbul).

The Early Cyrillic alphabet is a writing system that was created in the First Bulgarian Empire during the late 9th century on the base of the Greek alphabet for the Slavic people living near the Byzantine Empire. As of 2019, approximately 250 million people in Eurasia use Cyrillic as the official writing for their national languages, with Russia accounting for about half of them. With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Cyrillic became the third official script of the European Union, following the Latin and Greek alphabets.

A small mountain towers over the town and the lake, with respectively a Roman amphitheater where gladiators fought with lions, and an old castle. The amphitheater is used today for music festivals and other cultural events, just as the lake is used once a year for a swimming marathon - 35 km of swimming from one end to the other.

It was, among other things, where the Cyrillic alphabet was spread through the learned monk St. Clemens at the end of the 8th century. He founded a seminary, the original buildings of which can still be seen and which are now being modernized for use today.

Fish from Albania

There is a wealth of fish restaurants with everything good from the lake, which houses several endemic species that can only be found here. For example, the so-called Ohrid trout. Some of the fish are protected, but only forbidden for Macedonian fishermen to catch. However, Albania's fishermen have no restrictions on the other side of the lake. Since Albania "owns" half of the lake, the fish can still be caught there.

The local restaurants also offer a number of Balkan specialties, preferably served with Macedonian wine and music played by Roma/Gypsies. In the center of the city, there is also a Turkish bazaar and mosque, still used by the local Muslims. Religion naturally plays a big role around the lake. The city is also called the Jerusalem of the Balkans with countless churches. And the beautiful Kaneo church down by the lake is called one of the most photographed in the Balkans.

A health-giving monastery

Along the Macedonian shore of the lake are a number of beach hotels or small guesthouses and apartments that can be the starting point for a pleasant holiday in beautiful surroundings with a local private tour guide who you can easily find by putting North Macedonia in the search line on our web site on our main web page www.pg.world.

At the end of the lake, before you get to Albania, is St. Naum Monastery. St. Naum lived at the same time as St. Clement, but he did more in health and medical science.

The Monastery of Saint Naum is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in North Macedonia, called after the medieval Bulgarian author and enlightener Saint Naum who established it along Lake Ohrid, 29 kilometers (18 mi) south of Ohrid city. The sanctuary was founded in the Bulgarian Empire in 905 by St Naum of Ohrid himself. St Naum is also buried in the temple. Since the 16th century, a Greek school had operated in the monastery.

It is said that just by entering the serene monastery, one gets a sense of healing. Several locals use the small church to pray for a healthy life, health, and purification.

Skopje

It's time for a vacation in Skopje. On Saturday afternoon, the sun is high above Skopje. The three girlfriends walk giggling across the cobbled streets of Den Gamle Bazar, one with a scarf and two without. In the cozy kafana, the men drink Turkish coffee and have a little rakija, while the pieces on the backgammon board change places. The women are relaxing in one of the large shopping centers located right next to the old train station, where the 1963 earthquake stopped time on the station clock forever.

A few curious tourists try to decipher the Cyrillic letters on one of the countless statues. Over the entire town lies the smell of grilled meat, just waiting for the evening's many guests. Welcome to Skopje.

WHY SHOULD YOU GO TO Skopje?

Many people only come through Skopje as a short stop on the longer round trip in the Balkans and that's a shame. The small capital by the river Vardar has a lot to offer! Feel free to stay at least three or four nights in order to experience as much as possible of the local culture, history, and excellent cuisine.

The large tourist hordes have not yet found their way to Skopje, and you can therefore enjoy a relaxed and very authentic holiday. There are tourists in the city, especially from the surrounding countries: Kosovo and Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Albania to the west, and Greece to the south.

The new administrative building for the “Water Supply and Sewage” building under the hill of Skopje Kale, right next to the new City Hall, is in the dominant architectural style of Skopje, North Macedonia

On the journey, you will also come across some Germans and Scandinavians who come for the beautiful nature and the exciting history. What you won't yet find in Skopje, thankfully, are the horrible tourist trap restaurants where you just get picked on by the nose and you can pretty much walk the streets in peace without being accosted by waiters, vendors, and beggars.

HISTORY AND CULTURE IN Skopje

Skopje is especially known for being the birthplace of Mother Teresa, the Kale fort, the old bazaar, and then the great earthquake of 1963 that left most of what was known as one of the world's most beautiful cities in ruins. Skopje and the whole of North Macedonia also offer plenty of unique nature and a long history that goes all the way back to the cradle of civilization.

 

One of the other great celebrities on those edges is Alexander the Great. Who can actually claim to call the great hero 'theirs' is a controversial question that is part of the name conflict between Greece and North Macedonia.

FORMS of THE YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA, MACEDONIA, AND North Macedonia

North Macedonia makes most people think of as the longest country name in Melodi Grand Prix FYR Macedonia or just FYROM was the country's name until 12 February 2019, when the country officially changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia The reason for the name change must be found in the conflict with Greece, where in the northern part of the country there is a land area also called Macedonia.

The breakup of Yugoslavia happened as an influence of a sequence of political disruptions and battles during the early 1990s. After a time of political and financial crisis in the 1980s, constituent republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke apart, but the unresolved problems generated bitter inter-ethnic Yugoslav fights. During the Breakup of Yugoslavia, the media recreated a critical role in convincing public opinion of the quarrel. Media owned by state authorities permitted foster an environment that made war possible by attacking civic principles, fueling worry of ethnic violence, and engineering approval. Although all sides in the Yugoslav Wars used propaganda. Most media outlets were complicit in the tactics, surrendered to their separate ethnic and political forces, and acted as instruments for nationalist propaganda. The exceptions were a bunch of independent media.

To add to the confusion, Alexander the Great ruled over a land area then called Macedonia. This area overlaps the current Greek Macedonia while the later Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Macedonia was located in what is today respectively Greece, Bulgaria and what is now North Macedonia.

Confused? Add to that the fact that the population of North Macedonia has been made up of many different peoples throughout time. With its location on one of the most important trade routes of the time, annexed by Romans and Ottomans, among others, and most recently a part of Yugoslavia, the country has, together with the immigration of Slavs and Roma throughout history, an ever-changing population composition.

The Stone Bridge is a bridge across the Vardar River in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of North Macedonia. The bridge is also known as the Dušan Bridge named after Stephen Dušan, Emperor of Serbia. The bridge is supposed a symbol of Skopje and is the main part of the coat of arms of the city, which in turn is integrated into the city's flag. It links Macedonia Square to the Old Bazaar 

The largest population group today is made up of Macedonians, who are Macedonian Orthodox, followed by Albanian Muslims and a Turkish minority. When you sit in a kafana in the old bazaar, it is therefore not uncommon to have the muezzin calling the Muslims to prayer in one ear and Balkan pop numbers in the other. Skopje has always been and still is a melting pot for many cultures, and this gives the city a very special atmosphere.

Skopje is just not like the usual charter holiday, where everything is arranged for tourists. Firstly, North Macedonia is still an unknown destination and there are very few English guidebooks that even mention Skopje. You, therefore, have to familiarize yourself with the country you are going to visit but luckily you can read a lot more about Skopje here.

Secondly, one of the really big challenges is that the road signs are in Macedonian Cyrillic. This can make it more than difficult to find your way around the city. It is recommended to go with two maps: one with the road names in English and then one local. That way you can compare the cards along the way. If you don't have mobile data on your phone, you can also take a screenshot of your route when you are in a place with wifi.

If you stop a Macedonian to ask for directions, it often happens that they just go on without help. The Macedonians as people may seem a little arrogant, but for the most part, it simply covers the fact that many do not speak English very well. It is therefore certainly not out of unkindness! If you find yourself in a bar in the late hours, you will find that the locals are very keen to talk when things have gotten a little inside the vest.

Having said all that, in Skopje, you can have as much adventure as only the Balkans can provide. If you are used to fending for yourself when you travel, and if you go out to see, taste, and hear things you have not experienced before, then Skopje and North Macedonia are obvious destinations.

The Turkish bath Daud Pasha Baths

North of the Turkish bridge in Skopje you will find the Daud Pasha Baths. It is a Turkish bath that used to be the largest of its kind in the entire Balkans. The Turkish bath is still open and definitely worth a visit.

Church of Sveti Spas

The church of Sveti Spas is located in the northern part of the city. The church has a slightly strange location in the street scene because it is half buried in the ground. The reason for this is that when the church was built in the 17th century, no church was allowed to be higher than any mosque.

A national gem of Macedonia is the wood-carved iconostasis and the bishop’s throne inside The Church of the Ascension of Jesus (Macedonian: Sveti Spas). The wood carvings are the creation of a local specialist from the village of Gari. The iconostasis is 10 meters wide and the height is a little over six meters.

PRICE LEVEL IN Skopje

Another plus of Skopje is the low prices because you get a lot of quality for the money in Skopje. Where a city break in Rome, Milan, or London is an expensive affair, you can get a five-star luxury hotel room in Skopje for 100 euros. Two people can eat 5-6 courses with good red wine, coffee, and rakija for 30 euros. locals like to take a quick lunch with them from one of the burek bakeries, where you can eat your fill for 1-2 euros.

It is also worth going to Skopje to buy clothes. There are very nice clothes to choose from and you get a lot for your money!

EXCURSIONS OUT OF Skopje

Many choose to combine a holiday in Skopje with a larger tour of North Macedonia and Albania. It is especially popular to go on to Lake Ohrid or combine a visit to Skopje with an excursion to Matka Canyon.

 

Read our previous article Unique scuba diving in different places of the globe

Read our next article Montenegro - black mountain and blue sea

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