What’s in a name? A lot apparently, since officially Macedonia is not allowed to be called Macedonia!? Something to do with the Greeks being afraid of territorial claims on their very own region of Macedonia. However, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a mouthful, so sticking to Macedonia in despite of possible Greek anger seems the sensible thing to do.
As the long and laborious name at which Macedonia goes internationally suggests, this is another part of the now defunct Yugoslav Republic. Luckily, unlike many of the other former states, their separation was relatively pain free.
Seen by tourist mostly as a transit country, poor Macedonia is often overlooked by them. This is a pity as there is plenty to see and do. From splendid Lake Ohrid on the border with Albania, to Bitola’s ancient ruins, to the capital Skopje with its hodge-podge of Ottoman, Orthodox, communist and contemporary architecture. Add to that a plethora of out-door activity you can choose out of, from hiking, to rafting, to skiing or para-gliding, and a hospitable and culturally diverse population and you have got a winner.
So don’t be like the rest and whisk by this country, but stop and explore, you won’t be disappointed!
Highlights from Macedonia
- Starting in Skopje (aka Скопје, or Shkupi), the capital, you can walk up to the Byzantine era Tvrdina Kale Fortress via old Ottoman district of Čaršija, before going to the Museum of Contemporary Art and kneeling at the Sveti Spas Church
- Visit the Tikveš Wine Region (aka Тиквеш), where there is more to do than only tasting wine
- Go skiing or hiking in Mavrovo National Park (aka Маврово)
- Feast your eyes on stunning Lake Ohrid (aka Охридско Езеро, and Liqeni i Ohrit)while strolling around the many beautiful monasteries in the town with the same name
- Learn about Macedonia’s long history at the archeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis outside Bitola (aka Битола)
- Visit Zrze Monastery, if only for the name
- Go to Albanian majority Tetovo (aka Тетово, Tetovë, and Kalkandelen), with its Ottoman houses, the Painted Mosque and Bal Tepe Fortress
- Stroll around traditional Kruševo (aka Крушево), a historic village nestled in sublime surroundings which are good for hiking, or in winter, skiing
- Climb Mount Pelister in the south of Macedonia
- Get of-the-beaten track in Štip (aka Штип) and environs
Hints and Tips for Macedonia
- English isn’t widely spoken, so a phrasebook might come in handy. Older generations might speak some German too.
- There is still some simmering tension between the minority Albanian and majority Macedonian communities, though as a tourist you are unlikely to notice.