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MACEDONIA CRAD-E OF CULTURE LAND AND NATURE

Ministry of Economy Tourism Department


Publisher: Ministry of Economy Autor of the text: Danilo Kocevski Autor of the photographs: www.dzingo.com Production: Skenpoint


CRADEL OF CULTURE LAND AND NATURE

T

he existence of Macedonia can be traced as far back as the times of the Bible, which says that during his first journey out of Asia, St. Paul the Apostle went to preach in Macedonia among the Macedonians. In his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude the ”apostle” of contemporary world literature Gabriel Garcia Marquez mentions “the wise alchemists of Macedonia”. Several legends try to explain the origin of the name Macedonia. According to some, the country received its name after its king, Macedon. On the other hand, the schol-

ars claim that the name has its origin in the old Macedonian words makos (big, high), and don (land), which, when put together, render the meaning of a big, high, mountainous land. Nowadays, the Republic of Macedonia is a veritable treasury of culture and art. As hardly anywhere in the world, this re­gion treasures a large number of historical monuments: churches, icons, monasteries, archaeological sites, mosques, old books and other artefacts. The Ma­ce­donian collections of icons are acknowledged to be among the best in the world, of


the same rank as the collections of Sinai, Mt. Atos and Russia. The oldest easel icons originate from the late 10th century, but the terracotta icons found at the site of Vinichko Kale, near the town of Vinitsa in Eastern Macedonia, are a real rarity. They present unique examples of early Christian art from the period of the late 4th to mid 6th century. The first Slavic alphabet and lite­rature also have their roots in Macedonia. The cultural mission carried out by the brothers Ss. Cy­ril and Methodius of Salonika has been of crucial significance for all Slavic people. Taking the language spoken by the Mace­donian Slavs from the vicinity of Salonika as its basis, the two brothers devised the Glagolitic alphabet and translated into Old Slavic the most important ecclesiastic books necessary for the religious

services and for their mission of converting the pagan Slavs to Christianity. Macedonian churches and monasteries have a long tradition. The frescoes in the small church of St. George built in the 12th century near the village of Kurbinovo, in the vicinity of Prespa, together with the frescoes in the church of St. Panteleimon near Skopje, dating also from the 12th century, present the highest achievements of Byzantine art from that period. Alongside these, one must not omit the church of St. Leontius in the village of Vodocha, the Church of the Holy Mother of God in the village of Velyusa, both in Strumitsa region, the church of St. George in the villa­ge of Staro Nagorichane, Kumanovo region, the Monastery of Treskavets, Prilep region, the Monastery of Lesnovo (14th century), Kratovo region, and the Monas­tery

of St. John Bigorski (19th century), Gostivar region, whose woodcarved iconostasis presents a masterpiece of the Miyak wood-carvers. Since ancient times Mace­donia has had an exceptional strategic position on the Balkan Peninsula and in Southern Europe. Its central position on the Balkans provides excellent communication. The borders of the Republic measure 849 km and it occupies an area of 25 713 km2. The population of the Republic of Macedonia are the citizens: Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Serbs, Vlachs, Bosnians, Romanians and others. According to the last census the Republic of Macedonia has about 2,050,000 inhabitants. Commensurate with its Constitution, it is an autonomous and independent civic and democratic state where all the inhabitants, regardless of their ethnic origin, have the same


civil rights and freedoms. The road communications make the main transport net­work in the Republic. The basic roads were built as early as the Roman times. The Roman Via Egnatia led from Rome, through Ohrid and Salonika, to Cons­t­ant­inople. Nowadays the main international highway, the E-75, which starts in Ostende and goes via Brussels, Nurneberg, Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade, passes through Skopje and ends in Athens. The air transport facilities are also of great importance. There are two airports in Macedonia, in Skopje and in Ohrid. They are used not only by the Macedonian airlines but also by other foreign airlines. The airports in some of the neighbouring countries are only a short drive away. All this speaks in favour of Macedonia as an easily accessible area in the central part of the

Balkans. The postal service makes communications with the world fast and easy through its numerous branches throughout the country. The Republic of Macedonia abounds in natural beauties and rarities. Many have named it “the pearl of the Balkans” while others compare its beauty, configuration and climate with that of Switzerland. Despite the existence of many valleys, the numerous hills and mountains give it an average altitude of 830 metres. Macedonia is exceptionally rich in water resources. It is often called “the land of lakes” because of the many tectonic, glacial lakes and man-made lakes. There are about fifty large and small lakes in the country, the most significant ones being the three tectonic ones the lakes of Ohrid, Prespa and Doyran. The rivers of Macedonia form three ba-

sins, the largest one being the Aegean basin with its main river – the Vardar. It rises near the village of Vrutok in the foothills of Mount Vlainitsa in the northwest of Macedonia and is 350 km long, 264 km of which flow through Macedonia. It enters the Aegean Sea at the Gulf of Salonica. The Vardar is the main source of hidroenergy in Macedonia. The “Vardar Valley” project, which is still in its early stages, will be of great importance for the prosperity of the country. The rivers Treska, Pchinya and Tsrna are some of the Vardar’s tributaries, while the Black Drim, which runs out of the Ohrid Lake, belongs to the Adriatic basin. It is renowned for its beauty, together with the picturesque river Radika, which springs from the Shara Mountains and flows into Lake Debar. The flora and fauna of the Republic of Mace-


donia are amazingly heterogeneous. Here the Mediter­r­a­nean flora goes hand-in-hand with the plant species of the Euro-Siberian regions. The high mountains, thick forests and lush pastures have encouraged the development of cattle breeding. Thus many works of art show Macedonia as an idyllic place with domesticated scenery in the valleys, but others present its impressive, awesome mountain landscapes. The mountains are the natural habitat of chamois, bear, deer, boar, wolf, and many other animals. Because of the great variety of plant and animal species, many areas in the mountains have been proclaimed national parks and forests protected by the law. One of these is the mountain of Galichitsa (2,225 metres). It is a natural border between the Ohrid and Prespa plains with a peak from which a breath-

taking view can be seen of both lakes. The national park of Mavrovo is situated on Mount Bistra and is rich in rare flora and fauna, crystalclear waters and the wonderful landscapes of Lake Mavrovo. The Pelister national park (2,600) is located on one of the most beautiful mountains of Mace­donia. Its symbol is a rare variety of pines called molika. The abundance of Mediterranean flora is due to the closeness of the Aegean Sea, which is only 60 km away, and the Adriatic Sea, 80 km away from the western borders of the Republic. As a result of all these influences, there are three types of climate in the country: Medi­terranean, moderate continental and mountainous. The convenient climate and the rare plant and animal life are ideal for the development of mountain tourism. There are several win-

ter sports centres, which are well known even abroad: Popova Shapka, Mavrovo, Krushevo, Pelister, Golak and Ponikva. These centres provide all the necessary facilities for sports and recreation such as comfortable resorts and hotels, cable cars and ski lifts. Popova Shapka can accommodate 2,000 tourists, Mavrovo about 1,200, and Krushevo (the highest town in Macedonia with an altitude of 1,250 metres) about 600. Pelister has a modern hotel and well-equipped mountain lodges which can accommodate about 500 visitors. Golak and Ponikva are closely linked localities with their own infrastructure and resorts, which offer comfortable accommodation and good sports and recreation facilities. The numerous mountains, forests, rivers and lakes provide outstanding conditions for


hunting and angling and present a great tourist attraction. The hunting reservations are rich in game and are accorded a special care. Village tourism is developing too. The picturesque village of Galichnik, situated on Mount Bistra at an altitude of 200 metres attracts many eager visitors every summer to see the traditional Galichnik weddings performed according to the long-cherished Macedonian customs. The village is also known for its sheepfolds and farms, first class dairy products and valuable hand-woven rugs. The position of the country and its configuration, climate and hydrography provide exceptionally favourable conditions for the development of tourism. However, transit tourism must not be neglected since important arterial roads connecting central Europe with the Aegean, the Black Sea and the East Medi-

terranean lead across Macedonia. Macedonian spas have been well known since ancient times. There are more than 60 thermal springs tapped at several spas. The best known are Katlanovo Spa near Skopje, Proevo Spa near Kumanovo, Kosovrasti Spa near Debar, Bansko Spa near Strumitsa, Negortsi Spa near Gevgelia, Kezhovitsa Spa near Shtip and Kochani Spa. These springs of volcanic origin have medicinal qualities, which can help cure a wide range of diseases of the respiratory tract, nervous system, kidneys, digestive and reproduction systems and rheumatism. The temperature of the water ranges from 30째C in Kumanovo Spa to 72째C in Bansko. All these spas are connected with the nearby towns by regular bus services and offer suitable accommodation.

The territory of Macedonia was inhabited by non-Indo-European dwellers as early as the Neolithic, 4,500 years B.C. After the Indo-European tribes settled on the Balkan Peninsula, these regions were inhabited by the ancient Macedonians, Ilyrians, Thracians, and Hellenes. The ancient Macedonians populated the central part of the Balkans. Ancient Macedonia reached its zenith during the reign of King Philip II and his son Alexander the Great. Under the rule of Philip II Macedonia was united into a strong, centralistic state. Alexander was one of the greatest army commanders and conquerors in history and he expanded the borders of his empire from the Adriatic Sea to India and Egypt. The Romans conquered Macedonia in the 2nd century B.C. In the 4th century A.D. it be-


came a part of the Byzantine Empire, but during the 6th and the 7th centuries it was inhabited by the Slavic tribes of the Berezites, Dragovites, Velegizites, Sagudates, Rinhines and others, who created specific territorial units called sclavines. The late l0th century was marked by the creation of a powerful Macedonian kingdom by Tsar Samuel. Its seat was first in Prespa and then in Ohrid. During its reign Rome gave its consent for the foundation of an independent Macedonian church - the Ohrid Patriarchate. In the 13th century Macedonia was conquered by Serbia and then in the 14th century by the Ottoman Turks, whose rule stretched through five centuries up to 1912 and the Balkan wars. As a consequence of these wars, in 1913 the compact territory of Macedonia was partitioned into three parts, which were given to Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece. The Macedonian people took part in the anti-fascist war (1941-45) side by side with the other Yugoslav peoples On the 2nd August 1944, at the meeting of ASNOM (Anti-fascist Association for National Liberation of Macedonia), the Vardar part of Macedonia was proclaimed a legal state and became one of the six federal republics of SFR Yugoslavia. Following the referendum of 1991 the Republic of Macedonia has become an autonomous and independent state. Based on a rich spiritual and cultural tradition, the Macedonian national awakening took place during the second half of the 19th century. This was a time of powerful nationalistic movements and figures that fought for the revival of culture, such as the Miladinov brothers, Grigor Prlichev, Rayko Zhinzifov, Kuzman Shapkarev, Marko Tsepenkov and many others. They paved the way for the national resistance and liberation from the Ottoman occupation, anticipating the coming of the apostle of the Macedonian revolutionary movement - Gotse Delchev, and the famous Ilinden Uprising of 1903, when one of the first republics on the Balkans was proclaimed in Krushevo. Although it was short-lived, its existence spoke of the powerful desire of the Macedonian people for independence. The towns in Macedonia were formed in the course of different periods: in antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Ottoman occupation. They all share such common features as: a city wall, an upper and a lower gate, a market place,


caravanserais, inns, bridges, etc. These features are typical of Skopje, Bitola, Ohrid, Veles, Shtip, Kumanovo, Kratovo, Kriva Palanka, Sveti Nikole, Radovish, Kavadartsi, Kichevo, Tetovo, Gostivar, Strumitsa, Gevgelia, Krushevo, Resen and others. Numerous ancient towns flourished on the territory of Macedonia. The town of Stobi was situated in the vicinity of Veles. It was first mentioned as a settlement in the 4th century B.C. when Philip II opened a campaign against the Paeonians. It was a prosperous town with delicate mosaics, palaces, temples, baths and a theatre. The ancient town of Heraclea Lyncaestis was built south of Bitola. It thrived for over 1000 years, from the mid-4th century B.C. up to the 6th century A.D. The town of Skupi near Skopje was found at the time when Macedonia was a Roman province and it was a religious and economic centre of that area for many years. Stobi, Heraclea and Skupi were highly urbanised towns with streets, aqueducts, theatres, forums, baths and even villas with central heating. The main administrative centre of the Republic of Macedonia today is Skopje, with a population of over 600,000 inhabitants. It is a town with a 2,000 year long tradition and represents an exquisite mixture of Eastern and Western cultures, a place where many roads and civilisations have met and mingled. The name of the ancient town of Skupi located between the villages of Zlokuchani and Bardovtsi, was first mentioned when the Romans conquered the Dardanians and established their own rule in the area. A disastrous earthquake destroyed it in 518, but the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, who had been born in this region, soon raised a new town, called Justiniana Prima, which inherited the ecclesiastic and legal significance of its predecessor. After years of persistent sieges, the Slavs eventually entered Skupi in the 7th century. The town acquired its characteristic oriental appearance after being conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1392. Nevertheless, it has never lost its Christian features, which have withstood all historical turmoils. Due to the spreading of the plague this prosperous town was fired in the 17th century by order of the Austrian general Piccolomini, but by the 19th century commerce in the town was flourishing again and provided an excellent basis for the revival of the Macedonian bourgeois class and


intelligentsia. After World War II Skopje became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, one of the federal states of Yugoslavia. Today it is the capi­tal of the independent Republic of Macedonia. It is a city of new boulevards, bridges, shopping malls and cultural centres, but it has retained the spirit of ancient times in the wellknown Old Bazaar and the numerous historical vestiges from its past: the Church of the Holy Saviour (a me­dieval structure restored in the 19th century), the church and Monastery of St. Panteleimon in Nerezi (12th century), the Sultan Murat and Mustapha Pasha mosques (both from the l5th century), Kurshumli Caravanserai (16th century), the Stone Bridge (15th century, built on Roman foundations), the old fortress, Kale, and many other sites. The old part of the town is undoubtedly the main tourist at­traction, but Skopje has also many modem hotels, national restaurants where the visitors can enjoy traditional Macedonian hospitality, theatres, museums, galleries, night­clubs, bars, casinos and numerous cafes. With its 100,000 inhabitants Bitola is the second largest town in Macedo­nia. It has preserved its traditional ar­chitecture and the spirit of old Macedonian crafts and trades. The glamour of old times, when Bitola was a widely known consular and diplomatic town (1870 1913), can still be sensed in the air. Bitola has an excellent theatre, notable publishing houses and art galleries which are well worth seeing. Some cultural events of world importance take place here. The closeness of Baba Mountain and the Pelister National Park provide excellent conditions for the development of winter and summer tourism. The town of Ohrid with its lake, its natural beauties, and its historical and cultural heritage is a true pearl of the Republic of Macedonia and enjoys the protection of UNESCO. The unique flora and fauna of the lake make it one of the largest biological reservations in Europe and pose a rare curiosity for explorers, who have named the lake “a fresh-water sea”. It covers an area of 358 km2 and the greatest depth measured in it is 228.7 m. Its crystal clear water provides an extraordinary translucency of 215 m. Some of the species, which live in the lake are relics of the ancient plant and animal life which used to thrive throughout Euro-Asia, but

today can be found only in the Tiberius Lake in the Middle East and the Lake Balkal in Siberia. The fish life in the lake, with its 17 distinct species, is truly amazing. The best known are the two kinds of endemic Ohrid trout, letnica and belvica (Salmothymus ohridanus), and the eel, which can reach up to 1.5 m in length. These fish are a real challenge to anglers and a treat for gastronomes, especially for those who know how to prepare the trout in the famous “Ohrid way”. Ohrid is a town-museum and a cultural trea­ sury of Mace­donia. It has often been re­ferred to as the “Balkan Jerusalem” Situated on the shore of the lake, it abounds in natural and spiritual beauties. According to Herbert Read, an eminent British art historian, Ohrid is “a notable bridge of Europen art”. The antique name of the town is Lychnidos. It became known for the work of Ss. Clement and Nahum, the disciples of the first Slavic educators and enlighteners Ss. Cyril and Methodius. Ss. Clement and Nahum were the founders of the famous “Ohrid Literary School” It was a highly devel­oped ecclesiastic, educational and literary centre, among the first in Europe. Of the numerous cultural and historical monuments in Ohrid, a few deserve special attention. the Church of St. Sophia (11th century), which is the most em­inent medieval monument in Macedonia, the Church of the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos (13th century), situated in the same complex as the famous Gallery of Icons, the church ofSt. John of Kaneo (13th century), with a wonder­ful view of the lake, the Monastery of St. Nahum (10th cen­ tury), built on a steep cliff above the lake 30 km from the town, where St. Nahum lived, worked and was buried. All these churches have valuable frescoes, rare examples of me­dieval art and are the object of study for many internation­ally recognised historians of the medieval period. The town is dominated by the monumental Fortress of Samuel situat­ed on the top of a hill. It was one of the official seats of the first Slavic Macedonian state and has been the ancient sym­bol of Ohrid ever since. The house of the Robevi and the house of Urania, located in the town centre, are real masterpieces of old town architecture from the 19th century. The Old Bazaar is full of shops and stores as well as craft workshops selling a wide range of merchandise including the souvenirs typical of this area. The famous Ohrid “pearl”


and silver filigree work. Every summer the town hosts a prestigious international festival of classical music and theatre. Visitors who decide to travel southward towards the Albanian border will discover the unique splendour of the surrounding countryside. The crystal-blue waters of the lake mingle with mountain views, and forests with crisp fresh air. The village of Velestovo, overlooking the town from the slopes of the nearby mountain of Petrino, has a magnificent view of the lake. It offers great potential for picnics, village tourism and encounters with typical Macedonian customs and traditions. Further to the south are the lovely beaches of Goritsa and St. Stephen. One of the finest parts of the Ohrid riviera, the Gradishte peninsula with its spacious and well-organised campsite, lies between the two picturesque fishing villages of Peshtani and Trpeytsa. The restaurants in these villages offer delicious fish specialities and giomlezets (traditional pie baked on embers) The area of St. Nahum, with its sandy beaches, fresh-water springs the sources of the Black Drim and the church and Monastery of St. Nahum, near the Albanian border, is a real heaven on earth. Camping lovers can find accommodation in the exceptionally well-managed campsite bearing the same name. This part of Lake Ohrid shelters the most exotic cave churches in Macedonia: The Holy Mother of God, near the village of Peshtani, and St. Stephen, near Goritsa. Ohrid offers excellent accommodation in hotels, private houses and camping sites situated on its finest beaches. The second “pearl” of Lake Ohrid, the town of Struga, which is only 14 km away from Ohrid, is host to the international poetry festival known as the “Struga Poetry Evenings”. This town arouses one’s admiration with its old architecture and its many picturesque traces of old tradition and culture. One of the most beautiful rivers in Macedonia, the Black Drim, having passed across the lake all the way from its springs in St Nahum, emerges again from the lake in Struga. The antique name of the town is Enchalon (eel). This location has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Struga is the birthplace of the most eminent representatives of Macedonian culture and national revival in the 19th century, the Miladinov brothers. The Church of the Holy Mother of God, the Monastery in Kalishta with its exquisitely depicted biblical scenes, and the cave church of St Atha-


nasius are only some of the places worth seeing in Struga and its surroundings. This area is also renowned for its fine beaches, excellent hotels and campsites. The hotels in the town and its vicinity can welcome over 11,000 guests. Comfortable accommodation is also provided in private houses where the hospitable hosts provide everything to make their guests feel at home. The basin of Lake Prespa is another popu­lar tourist destination. The extra­ordinary, wild and unique beauty of this lake attracted the Macedonian tsar Samuel to build his first seat in this place. The lake, which consists of two parts, Small and Big Prespa, covers an area of 274 km2 and its greatest depth is 18.76 m. There are 11 distinct kinds of fish that live in the lake, among which are carp and the small, but delicious fish called nivichka. Lake Prespa offers peace and exotic nature and is ideal for a good rest. Several camp sites, children’s resorts and hotels in the tourist centres of Oteshevo and Pretor provide comfortable accommodation. The smallest of the Macedonian tectonic lakes, Lake Doyran, is situated in the southernmost part of the country. Its unique features set it apart from the others. It measures only 9 km at its longest, and 7 km at its broadest part, and covers an area of 43.1 km2 The greatest depth in the lake is 10 m. Due to its mild climate and warm water (28°C in summer), it is considered to have medicinal qualities. This lake is teeming with fish: bleak, carp, catfish and chub, a real angler’s paradise! The ancient method of fishing with the aid of the cormorant, still practised on this lake, is a rare sight that can seldom be found elsewhere in the world. There are several hotels, resorts and camping sites on the shore of this lake, too. National folklore and traditional arts and crafts are still cherished in Macedonia. Nume­rous folklore groups have made Macedonian songs and dances famous throughout the world. The Macedonian oral tradition played a significant role in the continuation of folk poetry through centuries. The finely embroidered national costumes have been an expression of women’s individual artistic skills and of the collective aesthetic creativity. These extremely attractive costumes can be seen during the Balkan Folklore Festival, traditionally held in Ohrid every summer. The embroidery in red and black linen, cotton or hemp thread


gives an original local colour to the costumes, which are still worn in some of the Macedonian villages and on market days in Struga. The palette of the national embroidery has been an inspiration to many contemporary painters. The numerous old craft shops, some of which can still be seen in the old market places, such as coppersmiths, silversmiths, coopers, gunsmiths, kaftan tailors, carpenters, cobblers, blacksmiths and goldsmiths, have played an important part in preserving the tradition and the spirit of Macedonian people. Macedonian cuisine specialities attract the attention of all foreign visitors. The Turkish chronicler Evlia Chelebi, who visited Macedonia in the 17th century, notes that the people there were “big gourmands” and especially mentions “the Lamb kebab prepared in a special way and the various fish specialities”. Macedonian

cuisine cannot do without the national dishes which grace the table- yaniya, shketo, rice casserole, pindjur, baked beans, turli-tava, taratur, grilled meat, fish dishes, pastrmaliya, and various soups. Macedonia has exceptionally good conditions for the production of quality wines, the best among many being the wines from the Tikvesh region. Shopping centres and bazaars lined with shops well supplied with all kinds of goods can be found in all towns and tourist centres throughout Macedonia. Some of the local craftsmen offer their products, too such as: embroidery, filigree work, handmade leather, fur and woollen products, pottery and gold and silver jewellery. Macedo­nian vegetable markets are traditionally teeming with all kinds of seasonal fruits and vegetables and imported products from all meridians. Many specialised

shops offer their various products, ranging from car parts to sports equipment and camping necessities. The Republic of Macedonia keeps pace with contemporary cultural developments in the world. Many internationally recognised events are held in Macedonia and attract the attention of numerous local and foreign artists from all fields of art and culture such as: classical music, jazz, theatre, fine arts, poetry, folklore. Macedonia frequently hosts a variety trade fairs, scientific congresses, symposia and major sport competitions. Everyone in love with natural and artistic rarities, history and old civilisations, mountains and lakes, hunting and angling, old legends and new friendships, good wine and fine food. WELCOME TO MACEDONIA! WE ARE EXPECTING YOU!


Ministry of Economy: tel: +389 2 3093 536; 3093 540 fax: +389 2 3093 540 e-mail: tourism@economy.gov.mk http://www.eYQMPSJOHNBDFEPOJBDPN


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