Introduction to Macedonia
MACEDONIA, the land of myths and legends, lakes, valleys and mountains, sunshine and grapes, wine, dance and song, is situated in the central part of the Balkan peninsula. The territory of The Republic of Macedonia is 25.713 square kilometers wide with population of over 2 million people.
Although small, Macedonia has had a long and eventful history. Alexander the Great and his conquests introduced its name into world history. The first Slav educators, Cyril and Methodius, were born and started their work here: their disciple, Clement, founded the first Slav school of high learning in Ohrid. He compiled the alphabet and created the Cyrillic, actually used by many Slav nations.
The many centuries of Macedonia’s eventful history have left their precious and impressive vestiges throughout the republic. The architecture, frescoes and woodcarvings of the monasteries of Sv. Pantelejmon in the village of Nerezi near Skopje, Sv. Jovan Bigorski in the valley of the river Radika, Lesnovo on the western slopes of Mount Osogovo, and of the churches of Sv. Sofija, Sv. Jovan Kaneo and Sv. Kliment on Lake Ohrid, of the Holy Savior in Skopje and many others, enrapture their numerous visitors.
Towns as whole, such as Ohrid, Krusevo, Kratovo, Veles and others, represent matchless urban units of great cultural and historical value. Archaeological excavations in Macedonia have unearthed numerous tombs and fortifications from the period of Roman rule, as well as entire settlements and towns such as Scupi, Stobi, Heraclea and others, destroyed a long time ago by natural disasters, earthquakes in particular.
The variety and richness of cultural and historical monuments make Macedonia a very interesting and attractive tourist destination. The growth of socio-economic activities has included the rapid development of tourism, based on Macedonia’s numerous tourist resources. Macedonia’s environmental and cultural treasures attract visitors all the year round. Its greatest attraction are the lakes: there are about fifty of them and Macedonia has rightly been called “the land of lakes”. The best conditions for summer tourism are available along the large natural lakes – Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran – and man-made Lake Mavrovo.
Lake Ohrid is also known as a “museum of living fossils” because it preserves relic fauna dating as far back as the Tertiary; they also call it “the Macedonian sea” because of its area, 348.8 sq.km. In recent years due advantage has also been taken of the extraordinary conditions for winter tourism development. In a relatively small area there are 14 ranges higher then 2000 meters, distinguished mountain climate, a long-lasting snow cover and beautiful skiing slopes. The construction of access roads, skiing trails, cableways and ski-lifts has brought about the development of several well-known winter sport centers: Popova Sapka (Sar Planina), Mavrovo (Mount Bistra), Kopanki (Mount Pelister), Krusevo (Buseva Planina), etc. The beauty and attractiveness of these landscapes is really impressive; some areas – mounts Mavrovo, Pelister and Galicica – enjoy natural park status, while Mount Karadzica is a natural reserve. These and the other mountainous parts of Macedonia abound in game, while the numerous lakes and mountain streams are an angler’s paradise.
Macedonia has about 40 thermal springs, and eight spas for the treatment of many diseases. The spas Katlanovska, Debarska and Stumicka (Bansko) Banja are completely modern facilities, while the spas Stipska, Kumanovska and Negorska are rapidly being modernized into important therapeutic centres.
The population of the Macedonian villages still cherish their extremely attractive folk costumes, embroidered and decorated so skillfully as to represent a true work of art. The folk dances and songs, developed through centuries in original settings ( a rather strange rhythms such as 5/8, 7/8, 9/8, 11/8 or even 13/8 or higher) or under Oriental influences, also arouse the tourists’ interest. The rich folklore can be admired on feast-days in the country, on market-days in the towns, and at the numerous special and traditional events, e.g., the Ohrid Summer Festival, Struga Poetry Evenings, Mavrovo Festival, Balkan Festival in Ohrid, Ilinden Festival in Bitola, Tikves Vintage Festival at Kavadarci, etc.
The Republic of Macedonia’s transport-wise exceptionally favorable area is crossed by many important arterials. The most important of these is the well-known E-5 arterial highway, which follows the Morava and Vardar valleys and leads on to the Aegean and the Near East. The same route is followed by the international railway line. The road network in Macedonia has been and constantly is modernized in order to satisfied the large need of traffic. Especially, all the tourist resources are connected by modern roads. Filling stations, open round the clock and equidistant are available along these roads and at the frontier crossings.
Recently, the construction of very important so called “East-West Road” starting from Istanbul (Turkey), going through Bulgaria and Macedonia and finishing in Albania is under development. This road, together with going along railway line will enable better and faster connection between Europe and Asia Minor.
Three frontier crossings are available when traveling from Bulgaria: Deve Bair, on the Sofia-Skopje route, between Kustendil and Kriva Palanka (13 km from the latter), Obel, on the Blagoevgrad-Stip route, 10km from Delcevo; Novo Selo, on the route Petric-Strumica-Stip (in the valley of the river Strumica), 32 km from Strumica. The official frontier crossings connecting Albania and Macedonia are Cafa San, on the Tirana-Struga-Ohrid route, 13 km from Struga, and Sv. Naum, on the Pogradec-Ohrid route, 29 km from Ohrid, latter one recently only for goods transportation.
Three frontier crossings are available when traveling from Greece; Medzitlija (region of Pelagonija), 14 km from Bitola, Bogorodica, 4 km from Gevgelija in the valley of the river Vardar, and Dojran next to the Lake Dojran. The first two are used for road and railway traffic.
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