Departing from the park which protects Vevčani’s natural springs, a path of eight kilometers meanders through the hills to Gorna Belica. It’s a strenuous, non-stop ascent, but reaching this remote mountain village is worth the effort.
Independence was all the rage during the swift, painful breakup of Yugoslavia. But it’s hard to imagine that the citizens of the village of Vevčani weren’t just having a laugh, when they held a referendum in 2002 to establish their own micro-country. The Vevčani Republic has never been recognized by anyone, but after buying passports in the gift shop, I suppose we’re honorary citizens.
On the western coast of Lake Ohrid, not far from the border with Albania, is the town of Radožda. On a normal weekday, this must be a sleepy village on the shore. But when we visited on a weekend toward the end of summer, “sleep” was the last thing on Radožda’s mind. Radožda was ready to party.
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.
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.
Nestled in the pit of a volcanic crater an hour northeast of Skopje, Kratovo is famous for its Ottoman-era towers and high stone bridges. We spent a day exploring its back streets, enjoying the lively atmosphere and walking along the steep ravine which divides the town in two.
We showed up in Gevgelija raring to hit the casinos. Gambling is one of our favorite vices and Gevgelija, a small city on the border with Greece, has a reputation as Macedonia’s gaming hot spot. But even though a casino was just across the street from our hotel, we ended up taking a rain check. What went wrong?
Just off the “Alexander of Macedon” highway, not 30 minutes from Skopje, Veles is a city which we frequently drove past, noting it only as a marker along the way. “Already at Veles? Making good progress!” But one day curiosity got the better of us, and we decided to stop off and see what the town had to offer.
The tiny town of Krklino is on the tourist map of Macedonia for exactly one reason: the private automotive and ethnographic museum run by Boris Tanevski and his family. Their eccentric collection of traditional costumes, antique radios and vintage cars has been luring people away from nearby Bitola since opening about a decade ago.
Founded by Philip II of Macedon, the ancient city of Heraclea Lyncestis is located just south of Bitola. With its location along the Via Egnatia, the Roman highway which once ran from the Adriatic Sea to Istanbul, the city was an important and prosperous center of commerce until a devastating earthquake led to its abandonment in the 6th century AD.