Macedonia is a country with a rich cultural heritage. It was the birthplace of Alexander the great, part of the Ottoman Empire and of communist Yugoslavia. The last part the Macedonians are trying to forget, the first part is being celebrated. All over the country new statues and monuments are build in remembrance of historical figures as knight’s, saints, writers, composers and warriors. With the old attractions as monasteries and Roman ruins it makes an interesting mix.
I did a short (one week) trip. My flight took me to Ohrid. From there I went to Bitola by bus, went on to Skopje for the weekend and returned to Ohrid. Travel was easy, the people friendly and life was cheap.
The old town of Ohrid and the lake with the same name are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The town is said to have had 365 churches, one for each day of the year and has been referred to as the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’. The lake and the town are touristy, but you can easily get away from that. Just book a local apartment and stay away from the tourist hotels.
The small cobble-stoned streets with its old houses are a delight to wander around in, especially at dusk. And the Sofia cathedral, the church of St Climent and especially the church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo are very picturesque sights. A boat trip takes you to the Sveti Naum monastery that includes a garden with roses and peacocks and a Byzantine church with wonderful frescoes.
The second town of Macedonia has a center witch inherited a sophistication from its Ottoman past as the ‘City of Consuls’. Among its main attractions are the pedestrian Širok Sokak (wide street in Turkish), with its cafe culture, the Church of Sveti Dimitrea, and the Bazar. A little outside of the center is the Heraclea Lyncestis. Founded by Philip II of Macedonia and conquered by the Romans in 168 BC. The early Christian Basilica and Episcopal palace have beautiful well-preserved floor mosaics depicting animals and endemic trees.
Nearby is Pelister National park, with the 2600 meter mount Pelister, that makes a rather challenging but interesting walk.