Poor Prespa, always playing second-fiddle to Lake Ohrid. This is Macedonia's second-biggest lake, behind Ohrid. It's not as old, nor as fascinating, nor as pretty, nor does it have water so blue. It's almost completely bypassed by tourists and locals alike and, relative to Ohrid, its shores are devoid of life. But we spent four nights here, and gave the lake our full attention. It's your time to shine, Prespa. Impress us!
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.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, a village girl was anxiously awaiting her wedding, scheduled for that same afternoon. Having prepared everything well in advance, she wasn't sure how to fill the morning hours. Having heard about another wedding in the neighboring village, she decided to walk over and see the happy couple who would be sharing her special day...
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.
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.
Before arriving in Macedonia, I might have guessed that the country would offer gorgeous nature, good food, and forgotten mountain villages. But I wasn't expecting to find multiple megalithic observatories. We had already visited Cocev Kamen near Kratovo, and now turned our attention to the "Stonehenge of Macedonia," Kokino.
In the grand scheme of things, megalithic observatories aren't really all that common. It's not like you are going to find one in every other town you come across, over there behind the Walmart. But Macedonia has been blessed with not one, but two (and not a Walmart in sight). The most well-known is at Kokino, but we first paid a visit to Cocev Kamen.
There are a lot of amazing spots in Macedonia which few tourists know anything about. And there are some spots which few Macedonians know about. Near Kratovo is an ancient village carved out of rock. Completely unmarked and almost totally overlooked, Golemo Gradište was one of the most exciting discoveries we made during our 91 days in the country.
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?