Macedonia (Македонија) is a small nation with a complex and fascinating history. Part Balkan, part Mediterranean and rich in Greek, Roman and Ottoman history, it offers impressive ancient sites side by side with buzzing modernity, managing to pack in much more activity and natural beauty than would seem possible for a country its size.
Easygoing Skopje remains one of Europe’s more unusual capitals, where constant urban renewal has made the city a bizarre jigsaw puzzle whose Turkish old town, ancient fortress, communist-era centre and contemporary building spree combine to create a multifaceted city that never fails to surprise.
Elsewhere in the country hiking, mountain biking, wine tasting and climbing beckon, while the remote mountains conceal fascinating medieval monasteries, superb alpine trails and traditional Balkan villages. Ohrid, noted for its beaches, summer festival, sublime Byzantine churches and 34km-long lake, is the centre of the country’s tourism industry, while in the winter months skiing at resorts such as Mavrovo become the main draw.
Most visitors to Macedonia pass through Skopje at some point during their trip, but few linger there for very long. It’s true that when you are faced with Skopje’s rows of concrete apartment blocks and scruffy areas of waste ground, a quick escape to Ohrid can seem like a tempting proposition. But it would be a mistake to write off Skopje too quickly. Its attractions include one of the most authentic bazaars in the Balkans, a pair of churches containing some of Macedonia’s finest examples of religious art, a clutch of laid-back cafes, and a varied range of possible daytrips.
Modern-day Skopje, like several other Balkan cities, can only be understood with some knowledge of the catastrophes that have shaped it. The most important of these was an earthquake in 1963, which killed about a thousand people and destroyed a huge proportion of the city’s buildings, including the homes of around 100,000 people. The wily Marshal Tito was able to extract aid from both East and West (including several countries significantly poorer than Yugoslavia), and a massive construction program got under way. As a result much of Skopje’s architecture, especially south of the Vardar river, dates from the 1960s and 1970s. Fortunately not all of Skopje’s heritage was lost, and the northern half of the city still preserves many reminders of Skopje’s heyday as an important trading town of the Ottoman Empire.
Curving around a small bay at the northeastern corner of the lake, Ohrid is the largest town in the region. People have lived here since ancient times, taking advantage of the protection provided by the hill overlooking the bay. In the Byzantine era the missionary saints Clement and Naum settled in Ohrid and the town became a centre of monasticism and learning, its influence spreading throughout the Slavic Orthodox world. At times the Archbishopric of Ohrid stretched as far as the Adriatic and the Aegean.
The houses of Ohrid’s old town are artistically arranged on the hillside. In Ottoman times Christians were confined to this area within the city wall, and the need to make the best use of the available space inspired some creative architectural responses. Two good examples of houses built by wealthy families are the Robev and Uranija Houses, now occupied by the National Museum.
Ohrid is said to have more than forty churches or remains of churches. One of the most impressive is the former cathedral of Sveta Sofia, which has a far more spacious feeling than most of the other churches, and some very well preserved frescoes. Higher up the hill is the snappily named Sveti Kliment Bogorodica Perivlepta (St Clement’s Church of the Holy Mother of God Most Glorious). In contrast to earlier anonymous frescoes, those at Sveti Kliment are known to have been painted by the innovative artists Mihajlo and Eutihije. The complex also includes a gallery of icons.
St Clement’s monastery was located at Plaošnik, on the wooded slopes below Tsar Samoil’s fortress. From a distance the large church of Sv Kliment i Pantelejmon looks like a typical mediaeval Macedonian construction, but on closer inspection it becomes obvious that it is a modern structure – it was consecrated in 2002. Beside it are some remains of an early Christian basilica. A footpath from Plaošnik leads downhill to Kaneo, where the Church of St John perches on a promontory. There’s not much to see inside the church, but few visitors to Ohrid can resist taking multiple photographs of the Armenian-influenced exterior with the lake in the background.
Tsar Samoil’s fortress is visible from just about everywhere in Ohrid, and even in the hottest weather most people drag themselves up the hill to have a look. There is not much to see inside, but it is possible to walk most of the way around the battlements. The pathways have been protected with sturdy railings – an unusually safety-conscious development for a ruin in the Balkans. Not surprisingly the views are wonderful, taking in the rooftops of Ohrid, the complete oval of the lake, the slopes of Galičica, and the mountains of Albania (snowcapped for much of the year). Footpaths leading west from the fortress pass through refreshingly shaded pine woods and down to the sheltered Labino Beach.
The modern part of Ohrid has little of specific interest other than the lake shore. In the evenings locals and and tourists alike follow the path south along the shore. Rollerbladers weave their way past flocks of sheep as they pass the yacht club and the spick-and-span Army beach at Biljana, following the path as far as Tito’s old villa, inevitably in a prime location overlooking the lake, and still out of bounds for non-VIPs.
Bitola is Macedonia’s second largest city. For much of its history it was one of the most important cities in the Balkans. In the Ottoman period traders came to Bitola (also called Manastir) from all over the region, foreign powers set up consulates, trains ran to Belgrade and Thessaloniki, and wealthy local families imported the latest European trends in architecture and fashion. The city appears to have inspired an unusual degree of affection in its inhabitants, and there are many songs celebrating the beauty of the city (and possibly even more celebrating the beauty of its female inhabitants). In the twentieth century history moved on and left Bitola behind. It was marooned in a corner of Yugoslavia, cut off from its hinterland in Greece, and the upstart Skopje became Macedonia’s centre of gravity. Today the remnants of the glory days are rather faded, and the city lacks any must-see attractions, but it’s a pleasant and welcoming place.
The main pedestrian strip, Shirok Sokak Street (also called Marshal Tito street, inevitably), runs through the centre of the city from south to north, ending at the landmark Clock Tower. It is an attractive and colourful place to sip a coffee, take in the eclectic 19th century architecture, and watch the locals enjoying their evening stroll. Nearby is the Sveti Dimitri Church. Plain on the outside due to Ottoman building restrictions, the inside is a riot of decoration – a sort of Byzantine Baroque that is very striking when you first walk in, if perhaps a little oppressive if you spend too long looking at it.
Cross the tree-lined Dragov River to the Old Bazaar (Čaršija). As well as a number of mosques and the Bezesten (covered market), you’ll find a network of little streets intersecting at implausible angles and lined by tiny shops, some so specialised that you wonder how they can survive.
.Bitola is overlooked to the southwest by Baba Mountain, with its highest point at Mount Pelister (2601m), and is a starting point for visiting Pelister National Park. As both of my visits to Bitola have coincided with truly appalling weather I have not managed to see much of Pelister myself. The highlights are generally reckoned to include two glacial lakes, Golemo Ezero and Malo Ezero. The Bradt Guide includes a description of a hike from Brajčino (on the Prespa Lake side of the mountains) to Bitola, with an overnight stay at the Golemo Ezero mountain hut. Another possible excursion is to the Vlach village of Malovište. If you simply want to stretch your legs for a few hours while staying in Bitola, there are some pleasant walks in the Pelister foothills to the southwest of the town and around Bukovo village.
Institute for preservation of monuments of culture, Museum Bitola is a national institution of culture which main goal is the protection, systematization, scientific processing and presentation of the cultural legacy of municipality of Bitola. In the framework of the Institute and Museum of Bitola included are the following edifices: the Old Barrack, Antique locality of Heraclea Lyncestis, Art gallery (Yeni Mosque), Hajdar Kady Mosque, Memorial House of Goce Delcev, Memorial House of Stevan Naumov Stiv, the Magaza located at “27 March” Street. Provides artefacts from 3000 BC till 1945 AD. Considering the fact that the Institute and Museum of Bitola is a complex facility which in this integrated form acts since 1976 beside the review of the museum activity the review will be given also for the protection activity of the institution.
Kratovo National Museum
Kratovo was founded in 1993 from a museum collection. The museum consists of four departments, which include: archaeological, historical, ethnological and conservation. The museum has so far implemented two permanent exhibitions, including: setting 200 ethnological objects, opened 2004 and historical setting “Kratovo through the centuries”, opened in 2007.
Bay Of Bones – Museum On Water – Ohrid
Prehistoric settlement on the water. Restored houses 5 meters from the bottom of the sunny waters of Lake Ohrid. This is only a small part of what existed here around 1200 BC. In ancient times, this settlement had 60 houses and was connected to the shore by the use of a movable bridge.
A site where the underwater archaeological explorations brought out stone tools, ceramics and bones of animals and deer horns. Settlement reconstructed in 2008, wooden houses above the level of water, and museum with the salvaged artifacts.
A place where, during the warm summer evenings, theatrical performances are held and the spirits of the ancient past are brought back.
Museum of Tobacco – Prilep
The efforts for establishment of a museum which will expertly shape the materials related to tobacco, directly, or where is the motivation and inspiration, collected after the Second World War, are crowned with the cooperation of the company “Jugotutun” from Skopje, “Tobacco Institute” and “Institute for Protection of the cultural monuments, Natural rarities and Museum” from Prilep. Thus, the Tobacco Museum, owned by the Tobacco Institute – Prilep, was established under the expert guidance of the Institute and Museum – Prilep. Since its founding in 1973, so far, 1700 exhibits divided into four groups are collected and processed:
exhibits for enjoyment of tobacco;
exhibits from the production, advertising and current operation of the tobacco industry;
exhibits from traditional production of tobacco;
Art collection with motives from the tobacco planting;
Exhibits at the Museum of tobacco are mostly purchased from institutions and individuals from across Europe, a small part of Asia and Africa, part of them are excavated from the sites in Belgrade, Skopje, Bitola, Prilep, Ljubljana, Frombok and Warsaw, and a small part are a result of giving gifts. Many of the exhibits are real rarity.
Due to all of this, the Museum of Tobacco – Prilep is at the same time international, artistic-handicraft, manufacture and industrial, representative, expensive.
Most important, most representative and communicative single adjusted part of the Museum of Tobacco is the permanent exhibition which is located at the Tobacco Institute and has 750 exhibits.
In the determination of the prevailing character of the exhibition are taken into account those criteria that are followed by already accomplished relevant exhibitions, which are based on the museum theory of the exhibition.
Permanent Exbition – Exhibits
Pipes are most numerous, various in forms, in materials that they are made of and techniques used for it. The wealth of motives and ornaments is an integral part of the presentation of the collection of pipes.
Museum of Macedonia – Skopje
This is a national museum with departments that research and exhibit the arheological, ethnological,historical, and artistic heritage of Macedonia.The museum cares for over 66,000 items; on permanent display are exibits from arheology,ethnology, history, and an Icon Gallery.In Kurchumli Han, within the museum complex, an exibition of stone monuments is on display.Macedonia’s long and legendary history has been carefully preserved in its museums, the most important ones being in Skopje. The Archaeological Museum takes the tourist on a journey through the millennia, from the Neolithic Age, the Bronze and the Iron Ages, the Classical and the Hellenic Periods, all the way through to the Roman, Slavic, Byzantine and Turkish Periods.
The Historical Museum gives a chronological overview of Macedonian history throughout the centuries up to the National War of Liberation.
The Ethnographic Museum offers thematically displayed set of items.
Finally, the Natural History Museum showcases many examples of the indigenous and sometimes odd flora and fauna found throughout Macedonia.
Apart from their permanent exhibitions, Macedonia’s museums organize temporary exhibitions as well as other appealing events with featuring gift shops where tourists can purchase certified replicas of Macedonian icons, booklets and other souvenirs.
In addition to the major museums established in Skopje, smaller museums and archives with their own unique collections can also be found in many beautiful Macedonian towns.
Archaeology: from the Paleolithic Period 10.000 BC to the 14th c. A.D; settling of the Slavs, 6th c. A.D to 1945.
Ethnology: folk costumes, jewelry, traditional architecture, textiles, crafts, economy, customs and traditional musical instruments – history of art exhibition of fresco-replicas, Lapidarium – stone monuments exhibition in Kurshumli Inn, Icon Gallery 14th – 19th century icons exhibition.
Gradska Kafana Epinal
The exceptional quality of the food and the impressive selection of delicacies will make your breakfast, lunch or dinner pleasure. The long standing memories restaurant Gradska Kafeana offers a wonderful dining experience for business lunches, romantic dinners by the fireplace, pre & post theatre & special occasions. In the summer you can enjoy a pleasant evening dining out on the terrace.
The great atmosphere is only surpassed by the food which is excellent, and the superb staff. “Gradska Kafeana” Restaurant offers a wide variety of choices: full “a-la-carte” menu, seasonal specialties, sea food delights, and high quality modern international and Macedonia menus. The experience that makes us different from any other restaurants is selection of five trout from specially designed fish-tanks. The wine list boasts of fantastic selection of carefully chosen wines.
The Restaurant Millenium is consisted of 140 seats. In the relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant you will have the opportunity to choose and taste meals from domestic or international cuisine. The space is ideal for organizing celebrations, promotion, cocktail, business and private meetings.
Pizza Restaurant Korzo
The temple of delicious food Pizza Restaurant Korzo in the centre of Bitola on Shirok Sokak ( Wide Road ), not far from the usual city noise but in an impressive and relaxing ambient of green and fresh .
Pleasent atmosphere enrich with wonderful park and fountains, as well as huge coverd summer terrace, which offers a shelter from dynamic and stressful life at every moment.
Engilish Pub Corner
The English pub “Corner” is located next to hotel Kratis in the very centre of Kratovo. It is a unique object in many things, connecting the tradition of old English pubs, with the ancient history of the town and the stone architecture, which is specific for the facility where this pub is located.
The traditional Macedonian cousin, intertwined and modified with European additives, guaranties rare pleasure in the distinguishable and balanced tastes of the food cooked in the pub. The famous Kratovo pastrmaylia is made and served in several ways, which the personnel will be glad to prepare for you during your visit of the pub.
More than 30 draught and bottled beers, assortments of vines and rakiya, along with many soft drinks enrich the offer of this restaurant, giving you top service in a beautiful interior during your visit to Kratovo.
The hotel guests restaurant is a place where visitors of the Hotel Kratis may fully enjoy the delight of tasty specialties, from the traditional and European cuisine. This room has 70 places.
The ballroom is an ideal place for your unique and once-in-a-lifetime moments, weddings, baptizings, celebrations. The capacity of this facility is 310 places.
The fresh mountain air is senced at the summer terrace with a capacity of 60 places and a panoramic picture with towers, bridges and the historic pines dating back as far as 7 centuries ago, being the oldest trees in the Republic of Macedonia.
The pizza- restaurant “Roma” is located in the center of the city Krushevo, it has the capacity of 95 seats, air-conditioned hall, wireless internet, a wide variety of traditional and international cuisine, with a 10 year old tradition.
An opportunity to enjoy comfort and a unique ambient, intimate dinners, family festivities, business dinners.
Specialties that you should try:
– Melted cheese
– Roma pot
– Krusevo pot
– Baked burger on cream
Visit and spend extraordinary moments in a wonderful ambient, with good food and excellent service.