FYR Macedonia

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FYR Macedonia - the land of the sun
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MACEDONIA

The Republic of Macedonia, formerly a part of Yugoslavia from which it declared independence in 1991, is situated in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula. The country is characterized by large and high mountain massifs giving way to extensive, flat vallyes and plains.

The country has had some controversy around its name, with Greece also laying claim to the title of Macedonia for one of its northern regions, much of which fell within the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon. The dispute continued until today, which is why Macedonia is officially known as the Republic of Macedonia and sometimes referred to as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

FUN FACTS

  • There are (supposed) parts of the cross on which Jesus was crucified in the foundations of the monasteries of St. Bogodorica Prechista in Kichevo, and St. Jovan Bigorski and St. Georgij Pobedonosec in Debar.
  • According to NASA, Kokino is the fourth oldest astronomic observatory in the world. It is located approximately 30 km from the town of Kumanovo, and about 6 km from the Serbian border.
  • Ohrid Lake is the oldest and one of the deepest lakes in Europe. It is estimated 4 million years old and has 200 endemic species that haven’t been found at any other place in the world. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979.
  • Macedonia is the only country that got independence from Yugoslavia without shedding a single drop of blood. It remained entierly at peace at the heat of Yugoslav wars.
  • Alexander the Great, who was king of the former Kingdom of Macedonia, was the first world-size conqueror who extended his empire across Greece and Persia to India and Egypt. During his time, the Kingdom of Macedonia was the most powerful state in the world; but after his death, the empire fell apart and it became the first Roman province in 146 B.C.
  • The Millennium Cross is a 66 meter-high cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje, and it is the biggest cross in the world.
  • Macedonia has more number of mountains and mountain peaks than any other country in the world.
  • Macedonian sidewalks are used not for walking but for parking.
  • The first Slavic school, Ohrid Literary School, was established in Macedonia by Saint Clement of Ohrid.
  • The Cyrillic alphabet, official in Macedonia, is based on the alphabet developed in the 9thcentury by two Macedonian brothers - St Cyril and St Methodius.

WHY VISIT

1. Mix of new and old

If you wish to enjoy both modern and traditional atmosphere then Macedonia is a great choice for you. It offers great modern shopping malls which are connected to the old town via Stone Bridge.

2. People

People of Macedonia are very warm, helpful and welcome everyone and even tough Macedonian is the official language almost everyone can speak basic English.

3. Food

From delectable cheese pastries to finer dining, local foods are delicious. You can try sopska salad, cucumbers and tomatoes smothered in delicious salty white cheese

4. Outdoor activities

Depending on the season you can enjoy many outdoor activities starting from swimming and kayaking in the summer, skiing in the winter, caving, fishing and so on.

5. Sites

This country is rich in history dating back all the way back to 6000 years before Alexander the Great. Macedonia offers many archaeological sites, monuments and such. The brand new Archaeological Museum of Macedonia in Skopje traces the country’s history, the folk costumes from different regions and are all displayed in the Museum of Macedonia.

6. Macedonian variety

Macedonia is a great place for culture lovers since it pack more into a small space than any of its neighbors. It is rich with Orthodox Christian tradition and also has an Islamic heritage that underpins Macedonia’s appeal. There are also many buildings in Byzantine style.

7. Amazing wine

Seeing Macedonian wine outside of Macedonia is rare, but that isn’t because they don’t produce any wine worthy of being exported. Macedonian wine is great. Most famous is Tikves.

8. Rich in nature

Macedonia’s nature is unbelievable. Countless mountains, 3 national parks, 53 lakes, the Vardar River etc.

SKOPJE

Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, the City that lies in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, at the crossroad of important communictions, a city with a 2000 years old tradition. Skopje is a modern citiy with population of almost one million and presents Macedonia’s major political, economical, educational and cultural center. It conyinues to be focus for new residents, economic development, construction and refurbishment.

It is also a very attractive tourist destination with its fortress, cultural and historical monuments, archaeological sites sport halls, caves in the canyon of the River Treska and Lake Matka and a health spa in the eastern part of the city. It is steadily becoming a vital regional route for international flight operators. The town with the beautiful quay of the Macedonian river “Vardar”, the narrow streets in the Old Bazaar which is the biggest bazaar preserved in the Balkans today, the town is internationally famous for being the birthplace of Mother Teresa.

WHY VISIT

1. It’s finding itself

These days Skopje is going through a major reconstruction, mostly building by the riverfront. The most interesting part is the choice they made when they choose to go with Neoclassical architecture which was popular back in the 18th and 19th century. It is a city in flux seeking to revitalize itself and its image.

2. The Historic Sites

Despite going through a major makeover and modernization, Skopje still has a great sense of history to it. One of the monuments that testify to that is the impressive Kale fortress that you can see from pretty much everyone in the city. Below the fortress lies the equally historic Old Bazaar which has been the city’s center of commerce since the 12th century. One of the major historic landmark is the Stone Bridge that leads from Macedonia Square towards the bazaar and fortress.

3. A contemporary city

Tough it is rare to come across some modern shopping center of international cuisine in the city of Ohrid, but you can still enjoy local cuisine and find some conveniences that you except of a modern European city.

4. Monumental

As you walk around Skopje you will notice that there are many statues. The biggest one is the gigantic monument of Alexander the Great on horseback in the center of the city. The monument really is so large and detailed that it will quickly grasp your attention. It is rightfully growing into an icon of the city and a great one at that.

5. Representative of the Country

Skopje may be a small city but is a great representative of the rest of Macedonia. Skopje can give you a decent sense of this small country. You will be able to see a wonderful mix of Christianity and Islam found throughout, the mountainous terrain, the friendly locals and interesting history.

 

TOP PLACES

1. Skopje

Skopje is the capital city and a cultural hub. Here you can get a taste of how the country has embraced a modern European way of life while still paying tribute to its ancient past. The best example of this is Skopje’s Stone Bridge, which is a link between the new side of the city to the old Ottoman quarter. Crossing from a neighborhood of modern office buildings and condos to the Old Bazaar is like traveling back in time.

2. Canyon Matka

Canyon Matka is a beautiful place situated just 17 kilometers southwest of Skopje. It is surrounded by the steep walls of gorge and will be a great outdoor experience for nature lovers. For an even richer experience you can rent a boat to take around and see the caves.

3. Mavrovo National Park

Mavrovo National Park is the biggest National park in Macedonia. It is home to the highest mountain peaks and country’s best skiing place.

In the warmer months, Mavrovo is a lush and verdant place. The lake located in this national park is the largest artificial lake in the country. During the summer it is a place where everyone comes to swim. This place has an unusual thing which is the purposely flooded St. Nicholas Church. It was flooded in 1953. when the lake was dug, but has since then been partially exposed, creating an unexpected sight.

4. Saint Jovan Bigorski

This Monastery supposedly contains the forearm relic of St. John the Baptist. It is built in Byzantine style and is known for its 19th century masterful colossal wood carvings and stone architecture. The wood carving shows a number of biblical scenes from both the Old and New Testament.

5. Ohrid Town

This town is the largest town along the lake Ohrid and is recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural significance. Lake Ohrid the a great place to stay for a few days and explore the old town sites and surrounding monasteries. While you are there, you can also visit Tsar Sauil’s Fortress for a gorgeous view over the city and nearby 13th century St. Clement Church as well as the Ancient Theater.

6. Monastery of St. Naum

The Monastery of St. Naum is about 18 miles from Ohrid, situated on a rocky cliff near the border with Albania. Its impressive 16th and 1th century frescoes make it a popular attraction and a great day trip option from Ohrid. You can enjoy panoramic lake views and also visit the nearby Drim river.

7. Bitol

Bitola is the second largest city. It is situated southeast of Lake Ohrid near the border with Greece. It offers a great sample of Macedonian culture and food and sightseeing places. One of them is Magnolia Square where you can enjoy you coffee while taking a rest.

8. Heraclea Lyncestis

The city we know today as Bitola was known in the ancient world as Heraclea Lyncestis - a city founded in the 4th century B.C. by Phillip II of Macedon. These ruins are located just 2 kilometers from the city center of Bitola and are witness of the ancient Roman rule. The most beautiful attraction of this site is the mosaic floor.  

9. Stobi

The ancient city of Stobi is one of Macedonia’s most significant archaeological sites. It was founded by the Kingdom of Paeonia in the the century, but eventually overtaken by the Kingdom of Maceodnia, and later on by the Romans and Byzantines. During the Roman times, Stobi was the capital city of the province of Macedonia Secunda. It is located just one hour ride southeast of Skopje near the town of Gradsko.

10. Popova Kula Winery

If you are a wine lover then you must visit Popova Kula since it is one of the best wineries in the Povardarie Wine region. It represents one of the Macedonia’s best, accommodations, gourmet dining, cooking lessons and sightseeing tours.

TOP PLACES

1. Old Bazaar

Old Bazaar has been a center for trade and merchants as early as the 12th century and nowadays it represents an iconic heritage site for the city. It represents a vivid picture of this country’s past and its inheritance from the Ottoman empire. Even today it has many authentic shops for jewelry and handcrafted products, hence being a paradise for collectors of original arts and products. Its coffee and tea shops perfectly fit in the timeless surroundings and offer an original experience for every traveler. Besides walking down the main street you can visit numerous sites around this place like bezisten, the old clock tower and several mosques from ottoman time.

2. Kale Fortress

century by the Byzantines and it still remains the dominant structure in the city. Due to the earthquake in 1963 it was partially destroyed but was very quickly restored and conserved. Today it is one of the most distinguishable sties of the city along with the stone bridge and the newer statues on the Macedonia Square. The fortress is within a walking distance of the city center and the view is astonishing, so if you have a chance you shouldn't hesitate to visit.

3. Matka Canyon

Matka Canyon is only 30 min drive from the city and is one of the favorite weekend destinations for citizens of Skopje. Although it is an artificial lake in a canyon formed by the river Treska, the surroundings are astonishing and full of natural beauty. As the river carved the canyon many caves were created and most famous one is Vrelo Cave.

4. Mustafa Pasha Mosque

Mustafa Pasha Mosque is located above the Old Bazaar and is one of many relics still remaining from Ottoman times. Built in 1492 by the sultan’s vizier in the region it represents one of the most beautiful ottoman remains in the country. It gives a great view of the Old Bazaar and a very pretty garden. The mosque was recently restored but its beauty and simplicity in the construction remain the same from the 15th century.

5. The church of the Holly Savior

The church of the Holly Savior was built in the late 17th or late 18th century. It was built on the remains of a previous church that was burned during a fire.In that period Macedonia was still under Ottoman rule, and the church had to be constructed with a large part of it underground as the Ottomans did not allow Christian churches to have a dominant exterior look. But still, when u enter inside you will be able to witness a masterpiece and brilliance of the interior carvings which also feature a preserved fresco from the previous church. The church is also an eternal home to one of the great Macedonians, Goce Delchev, lies buried in the yard of the church with a monument dedicated to him.

6. The Skopje Aqueduct

Aqueduct lies just 3km from the city center near the village Vizbegovo and it was used as the primary method for water supply from the 18th century. Its origins are not yet clear but it’s believed to be constructed during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, and nowadays only 386 meters with 55 arches remain.

7. Millennium Cross

Near Skopje is the Millennium Cross which is 66 meter tall and is situated on the top of the mountain Vodno. It was erected in 2002 to commemorate 2000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and in the world with donations from the Macedonian Orthodox Church. From the top of the mountain you can enjoy a spectacular vistas of Skopje and its surroundings since it offers stunning views..

8. Skopje Main Square

Plostad Makedonija is Skopje’s central square and heart of the city. Also known as Macedonia Square, Plostad Makedonija has a fountain featuring Alesander the Great on his horse Bucephalus.

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