An undiscovered little country in Europe, the Republic of Macedonia is bordered by Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. It is a country unchanged of the western world, but with all the modern amenities. A look back in time, Macedonia has idyllic villages amongst ruins from the past. They have a culture from a combination of Mediterranean, Albanian, and Turkish cultures. The Kale Fortress is a favorite spot for tourists as well as a symbol of the city’s long history. Churches, heritage sites and the statue of Alexander the Great are also just some of the places that need to be seen in this fascinating country.
Important and Interesting Facts about Macedonia
- It’s a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe.
- A landlocked country, the Republic of Macedonia is bordered by Kosovo[a] to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west.
- It constitutes approximately the northwestern third of the larger geographical region of Macedonia, which also comprises the neighbouring parts of northern Greece and a smaller portion in Bulgaria.
- It is a transit way for shipment of goods from Greece, through the Balkans, towards Eastern, Western and Central Europe and through Bulgaria to the east.
- Three large lakes — Lake Ohrid, Lake Prespa and Dojran Lake — lie on the southern borders, bisected by the frontiers with Albania and Greece. Ohrid is considered to be one of the oldest lakes and biotopes in the world.
- For the last several years the city centre has seen a major transformation and now one can spend an entire day and still not manage to see everything. From the Triumphal Gate (pictured) to the giant statue of Alexander the Great, the numerous museums surrounding the area and the old stone bridge, the cultural offering is simply immense.
- Most of the monuments are located in the old part of the town, near Samouil’s fortress. Located on the highest place in Ohrid, Samouil’s fortress is the most dominating structure even today. Dating from the III century B.C., when Ohrid was a typical antique town with city gates, the fortress got its monumental and urbane framework in the IX-th century, when the city was the stronghold of King Samouil’s empire.
- The old bazaar has been a centre for trade and merchants as early as the 12th century and nowadays it represents an iconic heritage site for the city. It is a vivid representation of the country’s past and its inheritance from the Ottoman empire. Still having authentic shops for jewelry and handcrafted products it can be a paradise for collectors of original arts and products . Its coffee and tea shops perfectly fit in the timeless surroundings and offer an original experience for every traveler.
- One of the oldest and the richest monasteries in Macedonia is St. Naum’s monastery, and is located 29 km away from Ohrid. Built on an elevated plain on the southern coast of the Ohrid Lake, near the springs of the Drim river, and dedicated to St. Archangel Michail and St. Archangel Gabriel. Its creator St. Naum of Ohrid, contemporary and associate of St. Climent of Ohrid and scholar of Cyril and Methodius brothers, had established this monastery towards the end of his life (900-905).
- In the western part of Macedonia, above the valley of Radika river, hidden in the beautiful slopes of Mount Bistra and surrounded by an exuberant forest, the monastery St. John the Baptist – Bigorski is ensconced. The monastery affords a magnificent view of the mountain Korab with its two peaks Small and Big Krchin, and of four picturesque villages. The monastery chronicles tell us that it was established in 1021 AD, but the actual buildings that can be seen today originate from the 18th and beginning of the 19th century.
- At 1,350m above sea level Krushevo is the highest settlement classified as a city in the Balkans. An integral part of the Baba Mountain this small city that today counts only 9,684 citizens, has a special part in Macedonian culture and history, and at one point in history it was its own Republic.
- National Park Mavrovo is located in the westernmost part of the country on the slopes of the highest peak, Mt. Korab. Mavrovo National Park stretches on a surface of more than 72,000ha and has a vertical rise from 600m altitude to more than 2,700 meters. It has a diverse flora and fauna and it is home to the Zare Lazarevski Ski Centre, the Mavrovo Lake and several idyllic villages such as Galichnik and Janche as well as the Monastery of St. Jovan Bigorski
Cool and Funny Facts about Macedonia
- There are (supposed) parts of the cross on which Jesus was crucified in the foundations of the monasteries of St. Bogodorica Prechista in Kichevo, and St. Jovan Bigorski and St. Georgij Pobedonosec in Debar.
- According to NASA, Kokino is the fourth oldest astronomic observatory in the world; with the oldest three being Abu Simbel, Egypt; Stonehenge, Great Britain; and Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Kokino is located approximately 30 km from the town of Kumanovo, and about 6 km from the Serbian border.
- Ohrid Lake is the oldest and one of the deepest lakes in Europe (max depth 288m or 940ft). It is estimated 4 million years old and has 200 endemic species that haven’t been found at any other place in the world. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979.
- Mother Theresa of Calcutta was born in Skopje, Macedonia. Even though she was born in Skopje, she was Albanian by ethnicity at the time of her birth in 1910. Today, you can see museum house dedicated to her in the center of the capital city of Skopje.
- Macedonia is the only country that got independence from Yugoslavia without shedding a single drop of blood. It remained entirely at peace at the heat of Yugoslav wars in early 1990s and got independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
- Another interesting feature about this country is that it has more number of mountains and mountain peaks than any other country in the world. The country has as many as 34 mountain peaks, each with a height of more than 2,000 meters above the sea-level; with Mount Golem Karb being the highest at 2,753 meters above sea-level. Most peaks in Macedonia have never been visited by people.
- Skopje has suffered quite a few devastating earthquakes throughout history, the biggest ones in 518 and in 1963, leveling most of the city. In addition, the Austro-Hungarian General Piccolomini ordered the city burnt down in the 18th Century.
- Alexander the Great, who was king of the former Kingdom of Macedonia, was the first world-size conqueror who extended his empire across Greece and Persia to India and Egypt. During his time, the Kingdom of Macedonia was the most powerful state in the world; but after his death, the empire fell apart and it became the first Roman province in 146 B.C.
- The cave Peshna in Makedonski Brod was described by New York Times as looking “exactly like Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings”.
- The Millennium Cross is a 66 metre-high cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje, and it is the biggestcross in the world. It was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world.
Historical and Cultural Facts about Macedonia
- Archaeological evidence shows that old European civilization flourished in Macedonia between 7000 and 3500 BC.The ancient Macedonians were a distinct nation, ethnically, linguistically, and culturally different from their neighbors. The origins of the Macedonians are in the ancient Brygian substratum which occupied the whole of Macedonian territory and in Indo-European superstratum, which settled here at the end of the 2nd millennium.
- The Republic of Macedonia occupies the western half of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia. Historic Macedonia was defeated by Rome and became a Roman province in 148 B.C. After the Roman Empire was divided in A.D. 395, Macedonia was intermittently ruled by the Byzantine Empire until Turkey took possession of the land in 1371.
- The Ottoman Turks dominated Macedonia for the next five centuries, until 1913. During the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a constant struggle by the Balkan powers to possess Macedonia for its economic wealth and its strategic military corridors. The Treaty of San Stefano in 1878, ending the Russo-Turkish War, gave the largest part of Macedonia to Bulgaria. Bulgaria lost much of its Macedonian territory when it was defeated by the Greeks and Serbs in the Second Balkan War of 1913. Most of Macedonia went to Serbia and the remainder was divided among Greece and Bulgaria.
- In 1918, Serbia, which included much of Macedonia, joined in union with Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which was renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. Bulgaria joined the Axis powers in World War II and occupied parts of Yugoslavia, including Macedonia, in 1941.
- During the occupation of their country, Macedonian resistance fighters fought a guerrilla war against the invading troops. The Yugoslavian federation was reestablished after the defeat of Germany in 1945, and in 1946, the government removed the Vardar territory of Macedonia from Serbian control and made it an autonomous Yugoslavian republic. Later, when President Tito recognized the Macedonian people as a separate nation, Macedonia’s distinct culture and language were able to flourish, no longer suppressed by foreign rule.
- Breakfast can consist of bread and cheese, sometimes with eggs. Other meals can begin with meze (appetizers) served with rakia (fruit brandy). Bean casserole (tavche-gravche) is the national dish, and bread is considered the most basic food. In restaurants, pizza is especially popular.
- In the traditional culture, the young show deference to the old. It is normal for male friends to shake hands and for women to kiss when meeting and saying good-bye. A person entering a room where others are seated will shake hands with each person. Physical contact among friends of the same gender is considered normal. Although staring at strangers was once common, it became relatively rare in the 1990s. It once was the norm to remove one’s shoes at the entrance of a home, but this practice is receding among urban Christians.
- The major religions are Orthodox Christianity (66 percent) and Islam (30 percent), with small groups of Roman Catholics, Protestants, and atheists. Most Jews were deported and killed by the Nazis, but a few still live in Macedonia. Belief in the evil eye is widespread, and religious practices in rural areas often reflect folk beliefs.
- Medicine is modern, but there are also the traditional folk healers, normally old women, who deal with mysterious illnesses such as warts and maladies caused by the evil eye.
- Villagers in Macedonia are known for their weaving of colorful blankets and carpets. Gold and silversmiths are plentiful in the bazaars of larger cities, and stomnari, or urn-makers, still produce glazed terra cotta utensils such as urns, pitchers, cups, and bowl
- Macedonian women wore traditional dress for all aspects of their daily village life until the middle of the 20th century. The costume included a chemise, a vest, a decorative collar, a headscarf, socks, shoes, detachable sleeves and of course an apron. For special occasions, particularly weddings, it could also include a Turkish coin belt, an array of gold jewellery, head pieces and numerous scarves.