Located at the foot of the Šar Mountains which separate Macedonia from Albania, Tetovo has long been a stronghold of the country’s ethnic Albanians. We spent a day here, getting an impression of life in this crowded and hectic city.
In April of 1941, Macedonia was occupied by Nazi-affiliated Bulgaria, who wasted no time in shipping the country’s Jewish population to the death camp of Treblinka. Almost overnight, the small and tightly-knit Jewish community who had called Macedonia home for hundreds of years, was extinguished. A museum in the heart of Skopje pays solemn tribute to this most horrific episode in the country’s history.
Considering the city’s current craze for stately neo-classical structures, it’s fortunate that so much of the historic Turkish quarter north of the Vardar survived the 1963 earthquake, including two original hamams. Today, the Daut Pasha and Čifte Hamams serve as venues for the National Gallery, and we visited both on a sweltering afternoon in July.
The center of town might be south of the Vardar, but Skopje’s most picturesque neighborhood is on the northern side the bridge. The Old Bazaar, also called the Čaršija, extends roughly from the Kale Fortress to the Bit Pazar. With its mosques, antique shops, baklava bakers, hamams and tea gardens, the Čaršija might as well be a neighborhood in Istanbul. We loved it here, and visited whenever possible.
In 1910, a child named Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was born to an Albanian family in Skopje. Raised a Roman Catholic, Anjezë received God’s calling at the tender age of 18, and gave her life over to the church and the care of the world’s least fortunate. She took the name Teresa and spent the rest of her days making the world a more humane place.
For such a small city, Ohrid has a lot to offer. We’ve already written about the lakeside promenade, the churches, the hiking, the traditional crafts, and the fortress, but we’ve barely scratched the surface. Here are some more of our favorite sights from Ohrid.
Halfway up Ohrid’s biggest hill, between the Church of Sv Jovan and Tsar Samoil’s Fortress, is the archaeological site of Plaošnik. With the arrival of St. Clement in 893 AD, and the subsequent establishment of his monastery, this location became the center of Slavic learning. Today, the Church of St. Clement has been rebuilt and much of the site has been excavated, revealing long-concealed Byzantine mosaics.
As our first month came to an end, we began to realize the extent to which we had underestimated Macedonia. Thus far, our explorations had focused on Skopje, Ohrid, and a couple central towns, but we hadn’t been to the east, seen the wine fields, nor visited any the major national parks. So, there was a lot left to look forward to.
One can still find a number of traditional craftsmen toiling away within Ohrid’s historic quarter. Craftswomen, too. During our time in Ohrid, we had the chance to hang out with Marta Pejoska, who had recently opened a downtown studio dedicated to silver filigree.