"Unexplored Gems" FYR of Macedonia by FruitLover
FYR of Macedonia Travel Guide: 3,231 reviews and 11,681 photos
Macedonia - that name evoking images of ancient, great civilizations - is also a warm and welcoming modern-day republic in the heart of southeastern Europe.
Macedonia remains one of Europe’s last great undiscovered countries: a natural paradise of mountains, lakes and rivers, where life moves to a different rhythm, rich historical ruins and idyllic villages that have remained practically unchanged for centuries.
Macedonia’s geographical and cultural position as bridge between East and West, as the crossroads between Christian Europe and the mystical Orient, is attested to today in its inhabitants. The Macedonian people is a mixture of ancient Macedonians and Slavic tribes that settled here starting in the 5th century C.E. Minority populations include: Albanians, Turkish population established during Ottoman times; the Roma, Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats and Vlachs. In essence, today’s Macedonia is a unique patchwork of cultures, where Balkan bloodlines have mixed with others more exotic still. Macedonia resonates with the names of the many peoples who have set foot on its soil.
In addition to its diversity, Macedonia’s cultural richness is expressed in its archaeological legacy. Although just a little country, it holds many antique theaters, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques, in addition to relics from the Stone Age and even earlier periods of human civilization.
The oldest traces of human habitation in Macedonia are the cryptic, 30,000 year-old stone engravings or “rock art” unearthed in the Kratovo area, as well as the astronomical observatory/ religious ritual site of Taticev Kamen, dating back almost 4,000 years.
The word Macedonia instantly conjures up memories of Philip II and his son Alexander the Great, legendary emperor of the 4th century B.C.E. who brought great expanses of the known world under Macedonian/ Greek rule. Today, many ruins remain to attest to this ancient heritage, Macedonians, Hellenistic and Roman, in the sites of cities such as Heraclea, Stobi and Skupi, strewn with amphitheaters and temples, and decorated with intricate mosaics and frescoes.
The missionary Apostle Paul brought Christianity to Macedonia for the first time. Nine centuries later, his Byzantine successors Cyril and Methodius created a brand new alphabet, the precursor to Cyrillic, to expedite their missionary work with the Slavic-speaking Orthodox Christians of the Balkans. In fact, the first Slavic university was established in the 10th century, in placid Ohrid - famous during Byzantine times for its 365 churches, one for each day of the year.
Today, Macedonia’s Christian heritage is visible everywhere, from the myriad churches that fill up the landscape throughout the country to the enormous “Millennium Cross” that lights up the Skopje night sky from high atop nearby Mt. Vodno.
Following the decline of the Byzantium Empire, Macedonia and the entire Balkans came under control of the Ottoman Turks. Macedonia owes its Oriental influences to five centuries of Ottoman rule, a phenomenon that affected everything from cuisine and language to architecture and religion. The mosques of Tetovo and Skopje and the latter city’s grand castle (Kale), and Stone Bridge exemplify vividly Ottoman aestheticism.
- Macedonia’s Lake Ohrid is one of the deepest and oldest in Europe.
- All fruits and vegetables are grown organically in Macedonia; tomatoes and peppers are legendary.
- Macedonia has literally thousands of sites where relics can be found going back 3800 years.
- Macedonia’s mountains are numerous; Shar Planina, Macedonian Alps, have 43 peaks and a height of 2500 meters (over 7500 feet).
- 70 or more monasteries are located in Macedonia, a country that also features many churches and Islamic mosques.
- Tresca River canyon at Matka features almost perpendicular scarps that rival the monoliths at major US and Australian national parks.
- Wildlife in forests and savannas of Macedonia include bear, wolves, goats, and deer; kiosks can be reserved for either open hunting or shooting at corralled game.
- Hot thermal baths are scattered throughout this seismically active region; many are used for therapeutic treatments.
- Macedonia has discovered its own Stonehenge, an ancient astronomical observatory created by a civilized tribe of sun worshippers in 1800 BC.
- Rock formations at the valley of Dolls near Kumanovo resemble those of Bryce Canyon National Park in UT, USA.
- The mountain town of Galicnik, halfway between Skopje and Ohrid, features a worldwide wedding festival every July, where couples travel as mutual “chosen ones” to tie the knot in colorful traditional garb amid festival joy and celebration.
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