As we were leaving the Mavrovo National Park, on the way back to Skopje, we made one last pit stop at Sv Jovan Bigorski, or the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist. Originally constructed in the 11th century, this church set high in the hills is one of the most popular in Macedonia.
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.
The village of Vodoča is located a few kilometers outside of Strumica. We visited a monastery there, before walking up to Lake Vodoča for a midday swim. On the long hike back to Strumica, we stopped for lunch at an entertaining hilltop restaurant, and saw the remains of a medieval fortress.
South of Skopje, on the outskirts of an unassuming village called Markova Sučica, is the Markov Monastir. Built in 1346 by King Marko of Serbia, this medieval monastery has remained remarkably unaffected by the passage of time.
For four days in July, the central Macedonian town of Prilep is taken over by Pivofest: an annual celebration of beer which has become the nation’s biggest festival. It’s not exactly the most traditional event on the calendar, but that wasn’t going to deter us from attending. We’re talking about a giant beer party, after all. Tradition can wait.