Today, Lake Prespa is a place of almost perplexing tranquility, with nothing of the tourism that reaches the shores of nearby Lake Ohrid. But this hasn’t always been the case. The abandoned Hotel Evropa, on Prespa’s western shore, is proof that this was once a major tourist destination.
We dedicated one of the days we spent on Lake Prespa to the nearby Pelister National Park. Extending roughly from Prespa to Bitola and down to the border with Greece, this park was established in 1948 to protect 170 square kilometers of southern Macedonia’s pristine mountain land.
Poor Prespa, always playing second-fiddle to Lake Ohrid. This is Macedonia’s second-biggest lake, behind Ohrid. It’s not as old, nor as fascinating, nor as pretty, nor does it have water so blue. It’s almost completely bypassed by tourists and locals alike and, relative to Ohrid, its shores are devoid of life. But we spent four nights here, and gave the lake our full attention. It’s your time to shine, Prespa. Impress us!
The Pelister National Park isn’t just home to mountains, forests, and wild animals, but also to people. The Vlach town of Malovište is a few miles within the park’s boundaries. We spent half a day here, meeting the locals, and enjoying the ultra-throwback feel of a town that time forgot.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, a village girl was anxiously awaiting her wedding, scheduled for that same afternoon. Having prepared everything well in advance, she wasn’t sure how to fill the morning hours. Having heard about another wedding in the neighboring village, she decided to walk over and see the happy couple who would be sharing her special day…
Found in the hills of Kriva Palanka, Sv Joakim Osogovski is one of the country’s most popular monasteries, and on Sundays is packed with worshipers from both Macedonia and nearby Bulgaria. But we were visiting on a quiet Monday afternoon, when the only other people present were the priest and a few workers cleaning the church’s carpets.
Near Kumanovo, the tiny town of Staro Nagoričane is home to the 14th-century church of St. George, which possesses some of Macedonia’s most important frescoes. We swung by on our way back to Skopje after visiting Kokino.
Before arriving in Macedonia, I might have guessed that the country would offer gorgeous nature, good food, and forgotten mountain villages. But I wasn’t expecting to find multiple megalithic observatories. We had already visited Cocev Kamen near Kratovo, and now turned our attention to the “Stonehenge of Macedonia,” Kokino.