Macedonia is a small country situated in the Balkans. Between its neighboring countries: Serbia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Albania and Greece. It is a small country rich in food, wine and nature. In this article you can read the 6 basics about Macedonia.
1. The people
As a foreigner you might think the people here are constantly arguing, but that is just the language. So don’t worry they are not angry. Actually the people here are very warm and open to foreigners. Trust me, being hugged for the first time you meet someone is not something that is considered normal in the Netherlands. Also people want to show you everything and tell you all the stories about their country.
2. The food is awesome!
If you like meat you have come to the right country! And they basically eat everything with salads, rice or beans. Actually the Macedonians eat healthy. But they also love olive oil…
The one thing that I love is the green market! All the fruits and vegetables of the season are there and it is awesome and cheaper to shop at the markets than the big supermarkets. Also one tip if you go to a market, buy the ugly fruits and vegetables, they are the most delicious. First time I was searching for the nice round red tomatoes, but the big pinkish and NOT round tomatoes are the best!
3. The wine
Somehow Macedonia is not that good in selling their wines worldwide, but the wines are definitely one of nicest I have tried. Try the brands: Bovin, Popuva kula or Dalvina. Those are my favorites. Also Tikvesh and Stobi are very tasty. Do not miss the opportunity to drink Rakija! This is a traditional liquor made of grapes, strong but nice. If you get the chance to try homemade Rakija, please do! Also note that if you want to buy alcohol in the evening there is a time limit. In the summer you cant buy until 9 pm and in the winter until 7 pm.
4. The nature
Macedonia has a lot of national treasures. Most famous would be Ohrid Lake, it is the oldest and one of the deepest lake in Europe and it is well known for its crystal clear water. Beside the beautiful lake, there are three national parks:
– Mavrovo: the largest of the three parks, located between Lake Mavrovo and the Albanian border. 730 square km of birch and pine forest, gorges, karst fields and waterfalls, plus Macedonia’s highest peak, Mountain Korab (2764m).
– Galichica: situated between the two biggest lakes in the country: Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa. It stretches over an area of 227 square km.
– Pelister: the park is located nearby the city Bitola on the Baba Mountain and covers an area of 171.5 square km.
On a lot of mountains and forests you can find mountain bike and hiking routes, just be careful and prepared, because not every where you can go without a tour guide!
5. The city of statues, Skopje
Before you visit Skopje please note it didn’t look like this five years ago. The government is still working on a huge project, which includes building new buildings, bridges, facades and do not forget the statues. It is a project to attract more tourists to the city, but I have the feeling it does more harm than good to the people of Skopje. Mainly they are angry and annoyed because the money could have been used for infrastructure, hospitals and schools. But no, the government decided to put all the money in rebuilding the city in somekind of a baroque style. And just as a side note: some of the statues are already decomposing… Nevertheless, I heard from my friends andfamily who visit me, it looks impressive, new and they love to make pictures of everything.
So that is a bit of down side (depending the way you look at it), but Skopje offers also a lot of museums; archeological museum, museum of the Macedonian struggle and museum of the city of Skopje. These museums are very nice when you want to find out more about the history, culture and origin of Macedonia. Then there is the old bazar ‘the Carsija’, it dates back from the 12th century! Most dominant is the Ottoman architecture, since they ruled Macedonia for five centuries, and it left remarkable buildings and mosques. They are mostly used now as galleries or museums, but it looks very picturesque with its narrow streets, historical buildings, many cafes and small stores.
Besides all the historical sites, here in Skopje you can find a lot of restaurants, cafes and kafanas! Now a kafana was something I never heard of, but the only thing you need to do is sit, eat and drink (just drink a lot you will have fun) and there is mostly a band playing the old national songs of Macedonia and also Serbia. And everyone knows the songs and sings along, even me after a year being here, can sing along with some of them (I do need a little alcohol for that though).
6. The cities Krushevo & Ohrid and my favorite village Lazaropole
If you want to visit Macedonia and get an impression of the country, please do visit the villages and Ohrid. Especially in summer because Skopje is way to hot, 40-50 degrees is normal in the summer here. My favorite town is by far Krushevo and the village Lazaropole. Especially Krushevo has a lot of history going on and it is beautiful in all seasons! In the year 1903 the Ilinden Revolution started and lasted for 10 days. This is seen is a turning point in the history of Macedonia, a new era started at that point. Lazaropole is for the people who want to escape the city and chaos of daily life. Lazaropole is build 1350m high on the mountain making it one of the highest situated villages in the country. Only in the winter almost no one lives there anymore.
Ohrid is a beautiful city to visit in spring and summer, autumn maybe but that depends on the weather. In ohrid you can find many, many churches. Once there were 365 churches so you could visit a church every day. Now only around 50 are still in use and definitely worth seeing. Ohrid is not very big and you can walk around and visit the
churches, monasteries and carsija (the bazar). The thing that I really like is the architecture, and you can visit one of those houses to see it on the inside! One thing that you cannot skip is visiting Sveti Naum, you can go there by
boat or by car and it is beautiful with the crystal clear waters and springs, the view over the lake and the very old monastery.