Found a couple hours to the south of Skopje, Kruševo was the destination of our first extended road trip in Macedonia. The highest town in the Balkans, Kruševo boasts an impressive natural setting, and was the scene of one of Macedonia’s most fascinating historical moments.
Once a volatile hotbed of revolutionary temperament, today’s Kruševo is a small mountain village of around 5000 inhabitants. But by no means could it be described as “sleepy.” During our two-day stay, we were impressed by the town’s vibrant energy. The cafes were full, the parks were packed with teenagers playing soccer, and the workshops of the bazaar were ringing with the sounds of hardworking craftsmen.
In Macedonia, Kruševo is known for its history and for being the birthplace of Toše Proeski, but it also has an international reputation as an outstanding place for paragliding. We found the town packed with Russian and Hungarian paragliders, who had arrived to participate in an annual competition. For amateurs, Kruševo is an ideal place to give the sport a try. A few companies offer tandem trips which cost less than half of what you might pay in the US.
Considering its size, there are a surprising number attractions hidden in the hilly streets of Kruševo… if you can find them. We had a terrible time hunting down the Museum of the Ilinden Uprising, even after enlisting half the town to assist us. The baker had never heard of it. The guard at the bank was certain we meant the Makedonium, the hilltop memorial we had already visited. We even went to the tourist office, where the friendly but clueless attendant stumbled and mumbled until we decided to give up and leave the poor guy in peace. Eventually, we met an amiable old woman who spoke decent English and was able to point it out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the effort, containing only a few poorly-lit exhibits with information only in Macedonian. But the building does enjoy a commanding location atop a hill, with the best view in town, so it wasn’t a total wash.
We had better luck at the Gallery of Nikola Martinoski. Considered the father of modern Macedonian art, Martinoski was a 20th-century painter who studied in both Skopje and Paris. The gallery is filled with paintings, including his most famous work, “Mother with Child,” which portrays a defiant-looking Roma woman breastfeeding her baby. Besides the art, this stately house features a few rooms outfitted in the traditional style of Kruševan families.
Historic and unique… Kruševo was a great choice for our first extended trip away from Skopje. But man, was it cold. And this was July! Accustomed to the stifling heat of the Skopje summer, we hadn’t even considered the possibility of chilly weather, and had packed only light clothing. A real mistake, and we suffered for it. Regardless of the time of year, sweaters and coats are an absolute must in Kruševo.