We showed up early in Monospitovo, planning to spend the day at the only swamp in Macedonia. Although unclear about its exact location, we were confident about finding it. Monospitovo is, after all, a one-street village. Not much space for a swamp to hide. But it turns out that we were dealing with a very sneaky swamp.
Hello there, Monospitovo! What have you got? A general store, a few houses. Is that a church I see? Yes, it is, good for you. Now, is that all? You’re sure you don’t have anything else? You’re positive? Because we’ve heard that you have the only wetlands in Macedonia. In fact, we’ve heard that you received a bunch of money from the European Union to protect these wetlands and even develop them as a tourist attraction.
Still nothing? That doesn’t sound familiar? Well, look at this picture I found on the internet! These are your wetlands, now tell me where you’re hiding them. I’m losing my patience. Oh, no-speaky-english? You’re going to play that card? Fine. We’ll be back.
We looked everywhere for the swamp! We drove down every conceivable road leading out of Monospitovo (all two of them) searching for a sign, a clue, anything. We tried driving down a dirt track into a field, thinking it might be worth a shot, and almost got stuck in the mud. We returned to town and asked everyone we could find, receiving only blank stares in response. We showed them the pictures! We were at our wits’ end.
In a final, desperate gambit, we drove to the Hotel Tsar Samoil in nearby Bansko, where we knew there to be a friendly staff. Indeed, at the hotel we met a half-Macedonian, half-German guy who offered to join us in the search. Secret Macedonian-speaking weapon in tow, we returned to Monospitovo.
This time, we got some answers. “Oh, those wetlands!” Turns out, following a dirt track into the field was the right idea, but we had chosen the wrong dirt track. There’s another, just before a bridge, and driving along it for four kilometers will bring you to a parking space and the entrance to the wetlands.
A single sign, Monospitovo. Just a single sign would have been helpful.
Filled with reeds and water and birds, it’s surreal to see such a large swamp in land-locked Macedonia. There’s a long wooden boardwalk built over the marsh, with various huts and and a tower to assist in bird watching. Some of the planks are rotting, so care is required. It’s fun, but the novelty of walking through reeds wears off rather quickly, and after ascending the tower for a view, we returned to the car. It was a half-hour visit to a place which had taken us all morning to find, but we were satisfied — it would have been frustrating to leave Monospitovo without having seen its swamp.