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.
We were surprised by the amount of activity going on here. This wasn’t the quiet place of reflection we had expected, but more like a massive construction zone. The church had been heavily damaged during an electrical fire a few years back, and apparently the time to make repairs was right now. Everywhere you looked, construction crews were at work, assisted by a squadron of long-bearded, black-robed priests climbing ladders, wielding paint brushes, and hauling timber.
A lot of work has already been done, and the Bigorski is in wonderful condition. We joined dozens of other visitors in touring the complex, and admiring the views of the forested valley. You can arrange to stay in this monastery, and though we didn’t do so ourselves, I imagine it would be a memorable experience.