It was a long day of archaeology. In the morning, we hunted down Isar, an ancient settlement dating from the 7th century BC. Later, we drove over to the site of Vardarski Rid, on a hill overlooking Gevgelija. And our afternoon was spent at a museum which collects and displays the best archaeological finds from both sites.
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.
Before leading the nation of Turkey into the modern day, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk attended military high school in Macedonia. Today, his former educational institute has been converted into the Bitola Museum, a special wing of which celebrates the great man and his legacy.
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.
Strumica is a nice city, but not one with a huge range of touristic sights. We spent our first day scouring the streets for things to do, but everything was closed. Everything except for one lonely church hidden in Strumica’s Turkish quarter: the Sveti Petnaeset Tiveriopolski Sveštenomačnici, or Church of the Fifteen Holy Martyrs.
The Skopje City Museum relates the history of Macedonia’s capital, from ancient times up to the modern day. There are some interesting archaelogical exhibits, but the museum’s single most compelling piece is the building in which it’s housed: Skopje’s former train station, which was closed after it was heavily damaged during the 1963 earthquake.
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.
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.