The very beautiful Macedonia (FYR of Macedonia, to be more exact) 🙂 after belonging to many empires over time, it is nowadays mostly shared by Christians and Muslims, who still come together at the fascinating Old Bazaar in Skopje, one of the Balkans’ largest markets.

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Old Bazaar
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Traditional Macedonian bags at Old Bazaar

The territory of Skopje has been inhabited since the times of Neolithic and later Bronze ages. The most famous settlements have been found within the old Kale Fortress situated upon the city. The word kale arrives from turkish  word for the fortress. The fortress is thought to have been built during the rule of emperor Justinian I, the Byzantin Emperor.

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Kale Fortress since the Byzantine Empire

Macedonia was part of Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empire, and most recently it was a federal Yugoslavian republic until it gained its independence in 1991, and Skopje became country’s political, cultural, economic, and academic center.

The city survived the great earthquake in 1963 of a 6.1 magnitude which destroyed 80% of the area. Today’s symbol of the earthquake is The Old Railway Station in Skopje with the clock on it. The clock stopped at 5.17 on July 26, 1963 as the earthquake hit the city.

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Old Railway Station clock stopped after the earthquake in Skopje, 1963

Through Skopje flows the river Vardar over which is spreaded Stone Bridge that connects city center and Old Bazaar. Built on Roman foundations under the patronage of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, the bridge is also less frequently known as the Dušan Bridge after Stephen Uroš IV /Dušan of Serbia.

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Stone bridge, 5th century
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Incription on the Stone Bridge

My very good friend from Skopje brought me up the city walls to eat typical local food: ajvar (various vegetables’ souce) and drink Skopsko beer.  The place where we ate is called Čaršija and has many great restaurants with local food, music and the best view on the city.

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Maria and me drinking Skopsko beer

Skopje has a projekt of 2014 which has been postponed to nowadays. It includes building many statues, renovating old buildings and building new ones but with its upmost kitchy style if I am to be asked, and many locals too, especially if they are asked where their money is going to. The estimated unofficial price tag of the project is €500 million.

It is a project of a questionable taste that brings in conflict urbanisms vs. politics as the government is trying to re-build the history as weel by this project. This is well to be seen with the Statue of the Warrior on a Horse, supposed to be Alexander The Great or Alexander of Macedonia (which was that time the region of Greece).

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Alexander Great at the main square

Then there are this small statues after every corner representing girls from Skopje or some other public figure…

Then there is this kitchy bridge, one of many actually, over the river Vardar, with many lamps and statues, again.

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Kitchy bridges of river Vardar
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Kitchy bridges of river Vardar with many new buildings under construction

Aside from locals who have issues with the cost, I have to say this Porta Macedonia looks great. A triumphal arch located on Pella Square, whos construction started in 2011 (small giggle) 🙂

The Greek Foreign Ministry has lodged an official complaint to authorities in the Republic of Macedonia following the inauguration of the arch which features images of historical figures including Alexander the Great, ofcourse. 🙂

Arch

Amongst famous people from Macedonia, are Mother Teresa and singer Toše Proeski. 

Although she was from parents of albenian heritage, she was born in Skopje in 1910 (then part of Ottoman Empire) and practiced christian catholics religion. She left to Calcutta, India and became famous for her work to help the poor, and was affectionately called the “saint of the gutters”. Before she died, she recieved the Nobel Prize for Peace. As a nun and missionary, the pope Francis  canonized her as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

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Statue of Mother Teresa in front of Her Memorial House built on the spot of her birth house 
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Toše Proeski

Toše Proeski was pop singer from Skopje, born in 1981 and popular across Balkan area but died in a car accident on a highway in Croatia coming back from his concert. He was 26.

After Skopje I was heading to Mavrovo. A national park consisted of Šar mountain and Lake Mavrovo.  We were accommodated in a 5 star hotel Mavrovo for 4 beautiful days.

Set in breathtaking scenery amid grassy plateaus and snowy peaks, the abandoned church of St Nicholas was reportedly the victim of an artificial lake created to supply water to a local power plant.

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Mavrovo Lake with submergd St Nicholas church

We visited as well the cave Šarkova dupka, found by locals and guided down by them as well. It was claustrophobic at the beginning but we managed to do it.

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Šarkova dupka cave

Travelling more through the National Park of Mavrovo, we were admiring the green landscape that was covering rocky mountains and their cliffs secered by the brooks and rivers.

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National Park Mavrovo 

The last point we reached was a Macedonian Orthodox monastery Saint Jovan Bigorski, lovated on a cliff amongst the forest as mystical place. The church is dedicated to saint John the Baptist with many beautiful frescos inside. It is considered one of the finest examples of wood-carved iconostases. According to its 1833 chronicle, the monastery was built in 1020 by Ivan I Debranin. The Ottomans destroyed the monastery in the 16th century, but it was restored in 1743 by the monk Ilarion.

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The cloaster of the monastery
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View from the monastery
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Zen place

The monastery has a large collection of holy relics including John the Baptist, Clement of Ohrid, Lazarus of Bethany, Saint Stephen, Saint Nicholas, Saint Barbara and part of the Holy Cross.

Bigorski inner side
Main altar
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