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Honeymoon in Republic of Macedonia

Places to visit in Macedonia

Skopje

In its 2,500 years of existence, Macedonia’s welcoming capital city has had many different embodiments. All of them – from Roman to Byzantine, from Ottoman to Yugoslav – have left permanent traces on the city as is evidenced by Skopje’s varied architecture and its mix of cultures. Yet in addition to its strong historical associations, Skopje is a forward-looking city offering an abundance of modern amenities and attractions.

Here one can find sleek modern hotels above the cobblestoned Ottoman streets, outstanding neoclassical homes right around the corner from grand old Yugoslav-era buildings, red-bricked Byzantine churches and rounded Turkish mosques, chic cafés, shopping malls and brightly-colored new offices.

The concentrated complexity of Skopje today attracts visitors offering a great variety of things to see and do, constantly reminding the public of the city’s storied past. Chief among sights to see are the Stone Bridge crossing the River Vardar, the Ottoman-era Old Bazzar (Stara Charshija), and the Kale Fortress walls. In the sloping narrow streets of Stara Charshija one feels the spirit of the old city with its small shops, mosques with their ceramic tiled interiors, the outdoor bazaar and hamam that continues to exist from Turkish times. A short climb up to the Kale Fortress is well rewarded; from this hilltop where Skopje’s masters ruled for centuries one enjoys a commanding view of the city and its surroundings.

The world’s greatest cities boast at least one secluded natural escape. Skopje has two – a long, tree-lined park along the river and the forested hills of Mount Vodno which overlooks the city from the southwest and offers excellent hiking and wilderness serenity. It is within walking distance of downtown Skopje. The summit of Mt. Vodno is also crowned with the enormous Millennium Cross that presides over the city. One gets even more magnificent views of Macedonia’s capital from this point.

Macedonia’s capital suggests something to suit all modern tastes and appetites. It features well-established hotels, restaurants and cinemas, as well as shopping malls with all the latest fashion, and usually at lower prices than in Western countries. The city is a major regional center for concerts, theatre performances, dance and sporting events, all of which frequently feature well-known celebrities from abroad as well as the best in the neighboring countries.

Skopje owns a public transport network and taxis, as well as a plethora of modern internet cafés if one wants to keep in touch with the folks back home. Hotels operating to the highest standards are centrally located, the water is eminently drinkable and the food hearty and nourishing with all international tastes represented - in addition to the excellent local cuisine, of course! Also, it is one of the safest cities in Europe.

Ohrid - the City and the Lake

The city of the immortal Ohrid is the sublime lakeside point that for many represents the culmination of the Macedonian experience, a kingdom of light and water, a repository of ancient ruins from Macedonia’s earlier kingdoms.

Ohrid’s major attractions are all located within a remarkably concentrated and eminently walkable area, among and above the narrow streets of the Old Town lined with restaurants and cafés perfectly suited for relaxing in the cool summer evenings. Ohrid’s many café bars and nightclubs also make for a vibrant nightlife.

As for the lake itself, it is so large and so deep that one might mistake it for a small sea. Full range of water sports, fishing andboating is available, and numerous churches alongside Ohrid’s lake shores make for fascinating side trips and walks.

The wooded ridge above the lake’s eastern shore is largely taken up by the National Park of Galichica, an unspoiled wilderness ideally suitable for nature enthusiasts.

The uniqueness of Lake Ohrid and the city’s historical architecture has been attested by UNESCO, honoring it with an official designation as one of the few places on the cultural institution’s list “World Inheritance”.

Bitola

Macedonia’s second biggest city Bitola is a grand old town that still bears the marks of its turn-of-the-century importance being a center for diplomacy. At the same time it exemplifies the country’s time-honored coffee culture where people take regular day breaks and head off to one of the numerous Bitola cafés chat and catch-up.

The many cafés lining the city’s pedestrian main street (the Shirok Sokak) provide endless see-and-be-seen opportunities for Bitola’s fashionable youth. The stately old architecture of Bitola goes back to more than a entury ago when the town was a center for international diplomats to the Ottoman administration, superseding Skopje and becoming known far and wide as the “city of the consuls.” Even today, some of the faded elegance of that bygone time can be seen in the neoclassical facades of downtown buildings; old gentlemen would converse in Bitola’s parks, all dressed up in their finest Sunday suits wearing hats.

Having a population of 125,000 residents, Bitola has all the characteristics of modern life: hotels, cultural events, and nightlife.

At the same time, its proud and patriotic people are devoted to passing on the Macedonian cultural heritage. In addition to the celebrated Bitola Theater, the city has over 500 traditional songs dedicated to it.

Lake Mavrovo

The largest artificial lake in Macedonia is part of Mavrovo National Park. Due to its elevation (over 1,000 meters, or 3,000 feet), this mountain lake sometimes freezes over in winter. Abundant with the famous trout, Lake Mavrovo also makes for an excellent swimming and boating spot in the summer months. An additional point of interest is the half-submerged church in the middle of the lake.

Mountains in Macedonia

Mountains in Macedonia are categorized according to the following criteria: 1) time of origin, 2) geological composition and 3) size and the geographical orientation. As such, they are divided into two groups: Rhodope and Dinaric. According to the height, they can be high, medium and low.

The Rhodope group is considered older and embraces the larger part of the mountain regions in eastern Macedonia, while the Dinaric group is younger and divided in 3 subgroups: Vardar zone, which includes the mountains on both sides of the river Vardar, right after the great curve of the river north-west of Skopje; Pelagonia massif is the second one located southwest of the Vardar zone and eastern of the Shara zone; and Shara zone, the highest one in Macedonia, located in the far western part of the country, stretching in north-south direction along the borders with Serbia and Montenegro, Albania and Greece.

By their shape, mountains in Republic of Macedonia are very different, ranging from mild round shape in the eastern part, to fully Alpine in the western. Such diversity offers great possibilities for developing sports as alpinism, sport climbing, speleological, cannoning, paragliding, skiing, ski-climbing etc. On the slopes of some of the mountains, there are ski-centers such as Popova Shapka on Shar Planina, Mavrovo (Bistra), Begova Cheshma (Baba), Krushevo (Mountain Krushevo), Oteshevo (Galichica) and other smaller centers, constantly developing.

Cuisine & Wine

Macedonia has a long and praised tradition of culinary delights. Over the centuries, many civilizations have enjoyed the produce of its fertile soil. Having avoided negative influences of urbanization, Macedonia remains the agricultural heartland of the Balkans, filled with a variety of foodstuffs native to both Mediterranean and Central European climates. Few countries as small as Macedonia can offer such diversity of products like citrus fruits, grapes and hazelnuts, tobacco, rice and mountain teas.


Also, Macedonia is rich in the meat industry, producing beef, chicken, pork and lamb, as well as a whole range of game. Macedonia’s many lakes yield a variety of freshwater fish, most famous of all being the Lake Ohrid trout.As a dairy producer, Macedonia is especially well known for its cheese: soft white cheese (sirenje), similar to Greek feta; yellow cheese (kashkaval), similar to Italian Locatello Romano; and also its yoghurt and milk. Every Macedonian village offers unique and tasty local varieties.

Macedonia is famous for its wines; vineyards and wine cellars make wine with high quality grapes like Vranec, classic Cabernet Sauvignon and mellow Merlot. Today, several small boutique wineries in Macedonia produce delectable red and white wines comparable to any French, Italian or Californian sorts. Alongside its wines, Macedonian winemakers produce fiery brandy (rakija) and mastika. Products of Macedonian breweries are enthusiastically devoured by tourists and locals as well.

Traditional Macedonian cuisine combines Balkan and Mediterranean tastes, inherited largely during long centuries of Ottoman rule. Some specialties like taratur (sour yogurt with bits of cucumber), pindzur (cream salad with peppers and eggplant) and the world-famous baklava are a characteristic of the Balkan cuisine in general.Other Turkish-influenced dishes include grilled beef kabobs and the omnipresent burek, a flaky sort of pie filled with ham, cheese, spinach, ground beef and combinations thereof.

Dishes like tavce gravce (baked beans), shopska salata (a salad made of sliced tomato, cucumber and onion, topped with ground soft white cheese), selsko meso (pork chops and champignon mushrooms in a rich brown gravy), pastrmajlija (a sort of pizza topped with meat and sometimes egg) and above all, ajvar (the national sauce, made from sweet red peppers) are the pride of Macedonian cuisine.

Source: www.exploringmacedonia.com

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