On the slopes of Mount Vodno in the village of Gorni Nezeri, is one of the most important monasteries in Macedonia. Pantelejmon was built in the 12th century, and still preserves some of the country’s oldest Byzantine frescoes.
Filled with savory ingredients like cheese and spinach, twisted into a spiral shape, and baked to flaky perfection, pita is one of Macedonia’s favorite traditional dishes. One Sunday morning, we visited the popular restaurant Oreov Lad in order to learn how it’s made.
Situated in Skopje’s Old Bazaar near the Kale Fortress, the Museum of Macedonia is one of the country’s oldest and largest museums. Originally established in 1924, it covers three separate disciplines: archaeology, ethnology and history.
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.
On the western edge of Skopje, we came across an archaeological dig in full swing, with dozens of laborers hard at work dusting off rocks, writing in notebooks, and carting away earth-laden wheelbarrows. This was the site of the ancient Roman city of Skupi, and the archaeologists were in the process of exposing its massive theater.
Among the Ottoman-era buildings still standing in Skopje’s Old Bazaar are three Turkish trading inns and an old covered market called the Bezisten. We visited them all, to see how these ancient buildings have been incorporated into the modern city.