Located in the heart of the Balkans, north of Greece, south of Serbia & Kosovo, west of Bulgaria and on the east of Albania, is the small country of Macedonia – which together with Israel are mentioned in the Bible.
Macedonia doesn’t have sea access (it is fully landlocked), doesn’t have a ski resort like Aspen of Chamonix, but it has great history. Historically the country occurs in connection with kingdom of Philip 2nd and Alexander The Great, the spreading of the Christianity, the Roman & Byzantine empire, the Slavic colonization and the Ottomans as well.
What is most important to mention – Macedonia is the cradle of the Cyrillic script (used by many million of people in Europe and Asia) and the Slavic culture. It was in Ohrid, Macedonia where at the 10th century, St. Clement of Ohrid founded the first Slavic University in the whole world.
52 Reasons to Visit Macedonia and Insider Travel Tips
To make the most of your visit to the Republic of Macedonia towns and other destinations
1. Macedonia is a Holy land and the name is mentioned in the Bible.
2. Alexander the Great was just 33 years old when he died in Asia, after conquering most of the known world at that time (323 BC).
3. The sun crystal that Alexander The Great used to blind his Persian enemies, can be found only in Macedonia (Alshar mine, mt Kozuf).
4. During the Ottoman rule, Macedonia was divided on two provinces: Macedonia Prima (Salutaris) and Macedonia Secunda.
5. In Macedonia, Christianity began to spread since the time of the holy apostles with their mission to the land, being the first mission to Europe. Among them was, St. Paul the Apostle.
6. In Macedonia, Christianity was the most rooted and developed than in any other part in the Roman Empire, right up to the fourth century.
7. Via Egnatia was a road constructed by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. Part of it was running through territory of the Republic of Macedonia (towns of Lychnidos and Heraklea Lynkestis).
8. St. Clement of Ohrid founded the first Slavic University in the world (10th century).
9. St. Clement together with St. Naum (both followers of Sts. Cyril & Methodius) have developed their masterpiece, the alphabet called Glagolica and turned into the Cyrillic script.
10. Tzar Samoil established the one and only medieval Macedonian state in 976AD, first with seat in Prespa region and later in Ohrid – where today the remains of his rule are still visible.
11. Unfortunately Samoil’s kingdom lasted short, until 1014AD. It was conquered by the Byzatines. After the Belasica battle, Samoil’s army was ambushed and brutally defeated. Samoil survived by fleeing to Prilep. By royal order the eyes of the fourteen thousand soldiers were gouged out; every hundredth soldier was “pardoned” and left one eye to lead the wounded multitude to their tzar, Samoil. According to Jovan Scylitsa fifteen thousand soldiers made up Samoil’s army. Samoil of Macedonia did not survive the sight; when the procession of blinded soldiers reached Prilep, his heart, otherwise audacious and strong, could not endure it; he died a historic figure on the 6th day of October, 1014.
12. For almost 5 centuries, the Ottoman Turks governed in Macedonia, from 1371 to 1912 and in 1767 they forbid the oldest church in the Balkans dating back to the 10th AD, the Archbishopric of Ohrid, (which was restored in 1967 under the name Macedonian Orthodox Church).
13. During the First World War, Macedonia was divided by the front line of the Macedonian Front (1916-1918) and many Macedonians were forced to fight for the opposite armies of, Serbia, Greece, France, Great Britain on one, and Bulgaria and Germany, on the other hand.
14. Macedonia was a wider geographical region and an Ottoman province, until it was divided among Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria after the Second Balkan war in 1913.
15. Agnes Gondza Bojadziu known in the whole world as Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, on August 26 1910;
16. Macedonia and Macedonians have existed even before… August 2, 1944 the date when the first modern Macedonian state was formed at the First Plenary Session of ASNOM;
17. September 8th, 1991 is the date of the national holiday when Macedonia gained independence form Yugoslavia.
18. Macedonia is a small country with a big soul… It was admitted as the 181 member of the United Nations.
19. In the beautiful country of Macedonia, there’s a peak called Solunska Glava (Solun’s head) from where, the city of Salonica (which is northern Greece) can be seen.
20. The city of Ohrid and Ohrid Lake are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, since 1980.
21. The Ohrid Lake however is among the oldest lakes in the world.
22. Kokino, located 30 km from Kumanovo, is a megalithic observatory similar to Stonehenge. Being over 3,800 years old, it is the 4th oldest ancient observatory in the world.
23. Visit Marko’s Towers (a citadel), located just outside of Prilep, is a rocky mass composed of several fine sculptures. It is on the list of possible UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
24. Stone town of Kuklica, located outside Kratovo, is an area consisting of more than 120 naturally formed stone pillars that are over 10 million years old.
25. Try not to miss the Skopje Jazz Festival which continues to grow every year. Even though it promoted a genre which at first glance looks distant from the local culture and tradition, it managed to attract a very large audience and to build a reputation as a prestigious festival not only in the Republic of Macedonia, but in a wider sense in the Balkans and in Europe.
26. Struga Poetry Evenings is an internationally acclaimed poetry festival held annually in Struga, Macedonia. During the several decades of its existence, the Festival has awarded its most prestigious award, the Golden Wreath, to some of the most notable international poets.
27. The Galichnik Wedding Festival is an annual festival held in the village of Galicnik near the city of Debar in which a selected couple gets married in the traditional “Galichka” style wedding. Traditionally the wedding lasted for 5 days with the main activities on St. Peter’s Day (12 July) every year. It was the only period of the year when couples got married. Today it is part of the festival “Galichko Leto” and it is a two-day event held on the weekend nearest to 12th of July and it serves as a cultural and tourist attraction.
28. Macedonians have a dance, called the “TeÅ¡koto”, symbolizing the suffering of the Macedonian people trough the centuries.
29. There is a long tradition of wine production in the whole region. There is no question about it – Macedonia has the best wine in the region of south-east Europe and the wine is world wide known for it’s taste and quality.
30. Macedonia has 34 mountain peaks exceeding 2,000 meters. The highest is that of Mount Golem Korab which is 2,753 meters above sea level. Titov Vrv in the Shar Mountains is 2,748 meters high, while the peak of Turchin in the same range reaches 2,702 meters.
31. The Vardar, 301 kilometers in length, is the longest river in Macedonia. Its largest tributaries are the rivers Bregalnica (225 km), Crna Reka (207 km), Treska (138 km) and Pchinja (135km).
32. Macedonia has four national parks (Galichica, Mavrovo, Pelister and Jasen) comprising a total area of about 110,000 hectares.
33. The town of Krushevo is the highest (1,350 meters) in Macedonia and the Balkans as well, while Gevgelija is the lowest, at an altitude of only 45 meters.
34. The first railway on the Balkans was the railway between Salonica (Greece) and Skopje, built in the 19th century.
35. Kiril Lazarov a handball player from the small Macedonia, holds a world record – most scored goal ever in the World Cup, 92 goals.
36. At the beginning of November 1962, because of several days of torrential rain and unregulated riverbanks, the Vardar river suddenly flooded Skopje and it’s surroundings. About 4,500 hectares of land and 5,000 family houses were flooded. Nobody expected that 8 months later another disaster, even bigger and more dangerous, would strike. An earthquake. July 26th, 1963. An earthquake unrecorded by more recent chronicles of this city, accustomed to peril and suffering. The city was leveled, paralyzed, almost wiped from the face of the earth. Only a few seconds were enough to turn the entire city into ruins.
37. 1903 is the year when Macedonians raised against the Ottoman rule in Macedonia and expelled them from the Krusevo, unfortunately for 10 days, as the first Republic in the Balkans lasted – the Krusevo Republic;
38. Tose Proeski – is a synonym for the term “music” all over Macedonia and the rest of the Balkans and considered to be a top act of the Macedonian music scene. Proeski was known for his trademark quote “Ve sakam site” (I Love You All), and was called “Elvis Presley of the Balkans” by BBC News. He died in a car crash in Croatia on October 16, 2007. The government organized an official state funeral for Proeski, which was held October 17, 2007 in his home town of KruÅ¡evo, including military honour ceremonies by the Honor Guard Unit of the Macedonian army, such as a honor guard, a military orchestra and a honorary rifle salute. The funeral, which was broadcast by the national Macedonian TV was attended by many domestic and foreign delegations, including the President Branko Crvenkovski, the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, members of the Macedonian Parliament and its President LjubiÅ¡a Georgievski and other high-ranking officials, the US and the EU Ambassadors Gillian Milovanovic and Erwan Fouéré and other diplomats, representatives of the Red Cross, the USAID and other organizations, sport clubs etc. Also, the funeral was attended by many notable musicians from Republic of Macedonia and other countries, including: Karolina GoÄeva, Kaliopi, Vlado Janevski, Lambe Alabakoski, Elena Risteska, Jovan Jovanov, Martin VuÄiÄ‡, Adrian Gaxha, Tijana DapÄeviÄ‡ and her sister Tamara Todevska, Aki Rahimovski (the frontman of Parni valjak), Toni Cetinski, Ceca RaÅ¾natoviÄ‡, Å½eljko JoksimoviÄ‡ and many others. The religious service was held by the Macedonian Orthodox Church led by the Archbishop Stephen of Ohrid, as Proeski was a declared Orthodox Christian.
39. The best known summer tourist and resort centres in Macedonia are Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran. In winter, the ski centres of Popova Shapka, Mavrovo, Pelister, Krushevo and Ponikva attract the greatest number of visitors. Among the better known spas are those of Bansko (Strumica), Debar, Negorci (Gevgelija) and Kezhovica (Shtip).
40. In the course of one year, each Macedonian eats or drinks an average of 119 kg of bread, 89 kg vegetables, 50 kg fresh fruit, 31 kg fresh or processed meat, 3.5 kg fish, 61 l milk, 9 kg cheese, 120 eggs, 15 kg sugar, 1.6 kg coffee, 5.7 l wine, 13 l beer and 4.5 l hard liquor.
41. The Skopje Zoo is the first established in the Balkans.
42. The four hermits – St. Joakim Rilski, St. Prohor Pcinski, St. Joakim Osogovski and St. Gavril Lesnovski, lived during the 11th century. Dedicating their lives to God and orientating themselves towards the leadership of Christ and ascetic life, they spent their collective days, filled with fast, vigil and prayers, in a cave in Lesnovska forest. As a result of the importance they had with relation to the acceptance and consolidation of Christian belief in this region, people have created different stories about them and their spiritual mission, where they are mentioned as spiritual brothers, but also as blood brothers, or even true brothers. Each left its own monastery: St. Joachim of Osogovo (Kriva Palanka), Lesnovo monastery (Probistip), Prohor Pcinjski monastery (in Serbia) and Rila monastery (Bulgaria).
43. Folkmusic: In Macedonian folk music, the drone of the gajda (bagpipes) and chords of the tambura (two-stringed lute) provide a background for the kaval (flute) and tapan (a huge cylindrical drum). The most famous and popular Macedonian folk dance is called Teskoto (The Hard One). It is a male dance for which music is provided by the tapan and the zurla (large pipes). It starts very slowly and gets progressively faster. This dance symbolises the national awakening of the Macedonian people and is performed with dancers dressed in traditional Macedonian costumes.
44. The smallest ethno museum in the world is located only 5 km on the northwest of Tetovo, in the picturesque village of Dzepcishte, on the foot of the monastery “St. Bogorodica” and the church “St.Atanasie”. As the smallest ethno museum is listed in the Guinness Book of Records.
45. Milcho Mancevski is the director of the most famous Macedonian film “Before the rain”. This movie was nomination for Academy Awards for foreign language film in 1994. Six years after this production, he shot his second film “Dust” which premiered at the Venice festival.
46. Macedonia has few ski-resorts that cannot be compared to the world wide known Aspen, Chamonix, but however they are 3-4 months covered with snow. Mavrovo on Bistra mt, Popova Sapka on Mt. Sar, Kozuf on Mt. Kozuf and Pelister on Baba mt.
47. Lake Dojran is both Macedonian and Greek. However the tourism is developed on the Macedonian side. Here tourist come for fishing and gambling since the lake is one of the richest with fish in the region and many casinos exist in the local hotels. Here local fisherman are assisted by a bird called Kormoran.
48. Lake Prespa is the name of two freshwater lakes in southeast Europe. The only island in the Republic of Macedonia’s side, is called Golem Grad (“Large Town”) or Snake Island (Zmiski Ostrov). The largest town in the Prespa Lakes region is Resen in the Republic of Macedonia.
49. Although Macedonia’s country flag is a red field with a golden sun in the middle, with eight rays thickening towards the end, Macedonians still have sympathies for the old one – the 16 ray sun of Alexander The Great.
50. The National Anthem of the Republic of Macedonia was composed created in the period of (1943 – 1944) by Vlado Malevski, a poet from Struga. It was adopted as an anthem by the time when Macedonia got it’s independence from Yugoslavia. It’s called Denes Nad Makedonija (Today Above Macedonia).
51. Just few kilometers, in the Skopje surroundings, is the only aqueduct remained in the whole country, holding 55 arches, near the Vizbegovo village.
52. What is in Rio de Janeiro – Christ the Redeemer, that is the Millennium Cross, that raises on the peak of Vodno Mt. south of Skopje. The monument is 66m. high and visible even 100km away.
For more information, visit www.travel2macedonia.com.mk
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.