Macedonia: This Magnificent Country Will Surprise You

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Kate at Sveti Naum

Sometimes the best countries are the most surprising ones. Macedonia certainly falls into that category.

I fell into Macedonia on a whim — I needed somewhere to go for two weeks in between Istanbul and Dubai. Skopje popped up as a cheap flight from Istanbul, and I booked that flight in no time at all.

Macedonia — known also as FYROM, or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia — is snugly tucked in between Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. (Many Greeks refuse to call it Macedonia, only using FYROM, because they have a region of their own called Macedonia.)

Other than that, there isn’t a lot of information on Macedonia out there as a travel destination, especially when compared to the other Balkans. That said, I found it to be an absolutely fascinating country — and one that deserves to be visited more.

Skopje

Why I Love Macedonia

Let’s start with the bombshell: Macedonia is the cheapest country I’ve been to in Europe. Many guides say that Bulgaria is the cheapest, but I found Macedonia to be even cheaper than Bulgaria!

Typical costs? The cheapest hostels start at around $7; nicer hostels were around $10; you can get private rooms from $15-25. A multi-course dinner with wine never exceeded $10; most of my meals were $3-5.

It’s also incredibly beautiful. Ohrid is the nation’s pride and joy, but Macedonia is also a land of mountains, and the views from the countryside are spectacular.

Delicious, cheap wine. I’m nowhere near a wine expert, but I found Macedonia’s red wines to be some of the best I’ve enjoyed in a long time. I usually paid around $2-3 for a single-serving bottle that came out to about a glass and a half.

Yummy and healthy food. The food didn’t push any boundaries, but I found it to be delicious and heavy on the veggies (which is unusual for Eastern Europe). I ate a lot of stuffed peppers, a huge variety of salads, and the occasional veggie pizza. And because the food is so cheap, you can sit down in a restaurant without even looking at the prices.

I also discovered chocolate and strawberry popcorn. It’s actually not that bad.

Chocolate and Strawberry Popcorn

Efficient, no-nonsense people. I didn’t find Macedonians to be overly warm and fuzzy, but they got stuff done — like the hostel worker who reamed out a cab company over the phone on my behalf when my driver never showed up. Most people spoke good English as well.

Easy travel connections within the region. I flew to Skopje from Istanbul on discount airline Pegasus Airlines. While there are a few trains within the country, it’s cheaper and easier to travel by bus to Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, or even Turkey.

Quirks. From money-changing booths that looked like fortune-telling booths to the fact that 90s music was played nonstop just about everywhere I went, I found Macedonia as interesting as it was beautiful.

Macedonian Money Changer

Get In While It’s Still Unknown

Macedonia is not nearly as well known as it should be, and it’s in a position to grow immensely — so much that it could even become the new hotspot of the Balkans. It’s prime for development for tourists outside Eastern Europe.

Still, make sure you keep your expectations in check. Macedonia isn’t as well-groomed as Croatia, Slovenia, or the Montenegrin coast. In many ways, Macedonia reminds me of Bosnia. There’s trash in the streets. Buildings are crumbling. Taxi drivers parked at train stations can and will rip you off. The internet, though good in places, could overall stand to be improved.

That said, if you’re not picky, you’ll enjoy this country immensely.

Sveti Jovan, Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid

My first stop was Macedonia’s most celebrated spot: Ohrid, a pretty town located on the shores of Lake Ohrid. Lake Ohrid is snugly tucked in between Macedonia and Albania, but the Macedonian side is the more developed of the two. The region is also a UNESCO site.

Being the premiere resort of the country, there’s something for everyone here. You’ll find clubs that rock all night long, tons of family activities, and lodging options from camping to five-star luxury resorts. Even the president has a vacation home on the shores of Lake Ohrid.

But no matter what you like to do while traveling, it’s all about the beauty of this lake.

Lake Ohrid

Ohrid is a lake unlike any I’ve ever seen — it seems to meld perfectly into the sky. Taking a boat across it felt like I was gliding across an endless aqua cloud. Back on shore, the lake turned turquoise. It was like a shimmering mood ring, its affections changing with the wind.

Grandmother and child in Ohrid

The town of Ohrid itself is positively charming, filled with cobbled streets, unforgettable views, and all of the other cliches that you’d expect to find in perfectly adorable little towns around the European continent.

Lake Ohrid

I think that Ohrid would make a smashing place to spend the summer as a digital nomad. You could rent an apartment for just a few hundred dollars a month and enjoy the beautiful lake, the parties, and the amenities of the town, all without breaking the bank.

Who knows — maybe I’ll end up there one summer myself!

Find hotels in Ohrid here.

Bitola

Bitola

For my second stop, I hit up Bitola, not knowing anything beyond the fact that it was one of the nicer, prettier and more livable cities in Macedonia. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love!

For me, the biggest highlight was Sirok Sokak — a long street filled with endless cafes and banners celebrating the latest festival, which happened to be the Shakespeare Festival. Sirok Sokak is THE place to see and be seen in Bitola, no matter the time of day. All of the chairs face the street for this reason.

At night, the cafes convert into bars, and you’ll see the girls go from t-shirts, ponytails and skinny jeans to short dresses, complicated updos, sky-high stilettos, and crazy nail art.

Bride and groom in Bitola, Macedonia

I also saw more weddings in one weekend than I’ve seen in the past five years. Wedding parade after wedding parade drove through the city, each car covered with white ribbons and honking incessantly. Every couple came to pose on Sirok Sokak.

Bitola

Another cool thing about Bitola is its outdoor bazaar. I’ve never seen one quite like this before. Rather than being enclosed in a building, like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, the stores are out in the open, pressed close together, and filled with eager shoppers looking for deals.

Bitola Bazaar

I found Bitola a wonderful little place to spend a few days, and I easily could have stayed for longer. It makes me wonder how many towns like Bitola are scattered throughout Europe and the world — towns that I would just adore, had I ever heard of them. There must be thousands.

Find Bitola hotels here.

And then…there was Skopje.

Skopje at Night

Skopje

Oh my God, Skopje. Skopje made me walk around slack-jawed, my eyes the size of flying saucers. I cannot remember the last time a destination shocked me as much as this place.

I had arrived expecting an unremarkable Eastern European capital. Instead, I found a city covered in multiple dancing fountains, some of them actually simulating flames!

Skopje Fire Fountains

Skopje has been under a lot of construction over the past few years, and rather than building upon the traditional architecture, they’ve been going for a more Vegas-like look. The architecture is a combination of classical and Renaissance influences; lots of statues of famous Macedonians decorate bridges. Nothing is built on a small scale — everything here is immense.

After all, what city square doesn’t need a statue of a man on horseback ten times what would be its actual size, surrounded by water jets taller than most humans?

Skopje Monuments

I wish there were an accurate way to convey to you just how much Skopje blew my mind. I was literally walking around with my eyes wide, occasionally shaking my head and muttering “…the f*ck is this place?” to myself like a crazy person.

By the end of the night, I was calling the city Skop Vegas. My cab driver loved it.

Find Skopje hotels here.

Lagoon Near Ohrid

Beyond These Destinations

There is so much more to Macedonia than what I got to see in my week here. I especially wish I had gone to see the national parks (which I skipped because I don’t put myself in isolating situations while traveling solo). Mavrovo National Park is famous for being an excellent cheap ski destination; Pelister National Park is right near Bitola and looks beautiful as well.

There’s the Tiknes wine region, where you can sample the delightful Macedonian wines in the field.

Prilep looks like a fun city and they have an annual beer festival, which I just missed.

And if Ohrid isn’t enough lake action for you, Lake Prespa is close by and looks lovely, too.

Sveti Naum

Don’t Wait on Macedonia — Come Soon

Will Macedonia turn out to be an “it destination” in the future? With the help of a smart marketing campaign, it absolutely could. Macedonia a destination that sells itself brilliantly to its visitors; the only problem is getting people to actually come there in the first place.

And for that reason, I promise you that you will enjoy Macedonia. Come here and take a boat across Lake Ohrid, or stroll through Bitola’s bazaar, or take ten thousand pictures of wacky Skopje. Come enjoy it while the prices are this good. This is a very special place.

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188 thoughts on “Macedonia: This Magnificent Country Will Surprise You”

  1. That’s amazingly cheap! If I find myself living in Europe long-term again, I think I’ll head there on a short break. I like to see places that are a bit different, and it definitely helps if they’re not to pricey either!

  2. Beautiful words Kate. I just spent 10 days in this amazing place after missing a bus to Belgrade.
    Bitola is the coolest funkiest place in the world. Sirok sokak is absolutely awesome, I was told that the only other equivalent is Istiklal Ave in Istanbul, but you can’t compare the two. In Bitola the women are hot, the people are friendly, the grog is cheap and they party till sunrise. Parque Lleras in Medellin, Colombia would struggle to party like Bitola.
    One night I hooked up with these crazy Australian guys and we got blotto at an outdoor club called Positiv. Walking back through sirok sokak in the wee hours with Burek in hand we stumbled across a gypsy band going home from a gig. We negotiated the band to walk us back to the Aussie’s apartment while playing music and beating the big drum for $20.
    Walking through these alleys in what looked like a scene out of Fast and Furious 5, the music and songs were loud, very loud. The residents along the way were waking up to the noise and coming out on their balconies or sticking their heads through windows, I was blown away that NOT one complained or got agitated. Most watched and laughed while others broke out in song and dance in their PJ’s. Definitely one of my most memorable experiences. A country and people well worth visiting.
    P.S. Remove all the political rubbish, the Macedonian’s don’t care for politics. It will ruin your effort in promoting this wonderland!

    1. Thanks, Pedro. Sounds like you had a great time. I love that image of the gypsy band playing you up the street!

      BUT — I don’t remove comments because other commenters don’t like politics.

      I only remove comments that are 1) abusive to myself or others 2) promotional without paying me advertising fees.

  3. EEEEEEEEEEee 1992 koga se vrativ vo Makedonija bese zalno,mladi barame kade podobra egzistencija ,no si rekovme ne odime nikade ke si ziveeme vo makedonija so ovoj vreden narod za 10 godini i nie ke postaneme kako malata svajcarija .Se slucuvase se vo smisol rasprodavanje na narodnata imovina kako od dedo im da bese iako na mojot dedo mu go sobiraa zitoto ako ne go platese danokot na vreme,kuknite smetki gi plakaa samo poedinci na koi im bese do Malata nasa Drzavicka za da vo edni momenti si se razocaravme od nasata losaprocenka deka so ovoj narod ke odime napred.Noooooooo otkako dojdoa pravite luge da resavaat kako ke bide ponatamu so Makedonija nie veke ja vrakame nasata doverba zatoa sto Makedonija brzo odi naored i postanuva drzavicka od sonistata neli e taka MAKEDONCI – Vardarci .

  4. Wow, I have not seen anything like this in a long time. I currently live in the US, moved out of Macedonia approximately when I was 9 years old, but i go back there at least 2 times a year.

    Prilep has turned into a wonderful city and currently is one of the best in Macedonia. If you ever go back, visit, it’s very fun. Especially for Beer Fest.

  5. Hi Kate, I just want to thank you for the informative review about my country, truly appreciated! It is a gem that needs more attention with posts like this! Thank you 🙂

  6. Kate,

    this was a wonderful piece on the many beautiful sights in Macedonia. Your writing was so “alive” that for a moment there my mind took me to Bitola and I could see the crowds, hear the music and laughter, smell the delicious food….thank you for that.

    A few moments of day dreaming made my morning 🙂

    You’ve certainly reminded some of us to go back and others to pay a visit for the first time to this wonderful place.

    Enjoy your travels

  7. very well done, bravo

    fall in love again in my country

    but pls. after this post do not bring many tourists ))))))) , we want tourists , but if you get a lot of them Macedonia will not remain same such as you shown now

  8. Macedonians Were The First Christian Converts In Europe
    The most beautiful and mysterious churches and history
    In europe
    The head of thr church was in ohrid this why
    The apostle paul build so many churches
    The head of the european chruch was in ohrid
    A must go see where over 100chruches are situated
    In ohrid all with their own stories of miracles
    And truly beauiful
    The only country mentioned in the bible
    Because it so loved by the apostles:):)some
    Exerpts from the bible

    “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” [see Paul’s Second Missionary Journey]

    “Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony.”

    “We remained in this city some days; and on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. And when she was baptized [see Baptism], with her household, she besought us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” (Acts 16:9-15 RSV)

    The Macedonian Christians

    “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us what a welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols [see Images and Idols], to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son [see The Logos and Jesus Christ] from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus Who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 RSV)

    “For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem; they were pleased to do it, and indeed they are in debt to them, for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” (Romans 15:26-27 RSV)

    “We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2 RSV)

    Fact Finder: What were the names of two of the Macedonians who occasionally accompanied Paul on his travels?

  9. I’ve always been interested in Macedonia because I’m currently studying Alexander the Great, and I will definitely make the effort to go when I visit Europe next year! 🙂

  10. Hey Kate, you’ve warmed my heart, girl! I am so glad you enjoyed the beauty (and food) of my country. I haven’t been back since 2002 and you made me so homesick. Wonderful write up and remarkable photography. Wonderful comments from others as well. Yeah… definitely homesick.

  11. Macedonia is truly amazing country, very easy to explore, great food and really CHEAP 🙂
    Try some grill/BBQ food in the restaurants accompanied with ”rakija” and if you don’t mind fat rich breakfast, try ”burek” with yogurt.
    Big funny carnival in Strumica in March and wonderful waterfalls in the surounding of the town, also great night life there, every drink 1euro 🙂
    Check ”wizzair.com” for flights from multiple destinations. There are lots of hotels online, all decent and friendly.
    Taxi is usually cheap and best if you can arrange one taxi driver for every journey, just ask them for a mobile no.

    P.S. This is a tourist blog, not some political-historical panel board so I suggest some of the comments need to be checked and deleted.

    Enjoy your time in Macedonia

    1. I don’t delete comments because the other commenters don’t like them, Taki. I delete abuse (and have deleted abusive comments on this thread) as well as unsolicited promotional posts. That’s it.

      Thanks for the suggestions.

  12. I was reminded here some of the quirky national stories of our trip. If I remember well there are people who want to be Albanian and independent from the Republic of Macedonia and there are people who want to be Macedonians. But the Macedonians are divided between those who are Greeks and Macedonians who do not want to be Greek.
    In Ohrid we were told that Macedonians are descendants of Alexander the Great who spoke Macedonian and that the Macedonian language is the root of all Slavic languages like Russian and Polish. Meanwhile in the home of Alexander in Pella we were shown ancient stones that all Macedonians spoke Greek.
    None of all this was a big deal anywhere and some of the history we heard in Ohrid sounded so strange that it reminded me of our trip to Ireland where old people in pubs also tell you the strangest stories and that is what make travelling so great.
    Our next trip will be to Poland and the Baltic coast and after being reminded here of Alexander we will enjoy local Polish beer and I will remember to ask them if anyone understands the language of Alexander the Great.

  13. Don´t miss out Pelister and Molika next time you´ll visit Macedonia. Take the hikingboots on and the view will take your breath away. And if you´ll have the chance, visit Krusevo and the famous singer Tose Proeski´s grave. That city blew my mind with its beauty. Locaded on a mountainside 1600 m over sea. =)

    And like you, I love Bitola. I spend my summers there every year, and Im so happy that I have relatives there, they don´t know how blessed they are to live in such a beatuiful city as Bitola.. (first called Heraclea) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclea_Lyncestis

    And what a beatutiful picture of Meri and Dean (the wedding couple) =)

    Sorry for taking so much place but i wanted to thank you for writing about Macedonia.. and i felt the need to let the people know more! 😉

  14. I am currently in Lake Ohrid and mirror your words exactly. It is beautiful, we have booked 5 nights here but could easily stay longer

  15. WOW. The rooms are that cheap? New Zealand…private dorms were like $75nzd. And what stellar architecture as well, seems like an overall beautiful place to visit. Adding it to my list of places now =P

  16. I still can`t understand a lot of people who comment about history. This was a lovely experience from one traveler who visit one country. Respect that and give comments about travelling and his view of that. Whenever someone start to write about politic and borders just to remind him that HISTORY IS WRITTEN BY WINNERS AND CONQUERORS so that is behind US. Enjoy in your life and live for future where it will not be borders and nationalism.
    I am from Macedonia but I was married also with Greek woman and 4 years I live in Greece what is very beautiful country like all countries also.
    people need more education and free mind to enjoy all life what is around them

  17. Hi Kate,

    Thank you for sharing your experience in Macedonia 🙂

    I have been going to this wonderful country for the past 5 years in a row & believe it or not I am not sick of it!
    There is always something new to see & do. It’s about time people knew a bit more about the country. If you ever go to Europe make sure Macedonia is on your list, you won’t regret it!

  18. I just read the comments, and yes Macedonia is a beautiful and unspoilt part of the world. Lets keep it our secret.
    But what pee’s me off is when someone mentions Macedonia, so called Greeks come out all histericle and s**t. Get over it so called Greeks, we all the truth about Macedonia and so do you. And by the way Macedonia is a beautiful country with beautiful people, and the country is pronounced MA_CE_DO_NIA……….get over it mate.

  19. Yay for this post! I’m actually going to be in Macedonia for a few days in October and, from reading the comments, there’s so much for me to explore there! Finally getting around to exploring more of the Balkans. Skopje and Lake Ohrid look like my kind of places!

  20. Hello Kate: on behalf of Macedonians, I’d like to thank you for visiting our country, and for your kind words. Extending our appreciation with proclaiming you an Honorary Macedonian. Cheers, Mike.

  21. I went to Macedonia for a week, two years ago and I found ohrid to be the most surprisingly amazing place. I usually only look up the really necessary information about the destinations I am visiting so that I can be surprised and never influenced by what I had read or heard about. However, even though I enjoyed Ohrid’s natural beauty so much, Skopje was a fail in my opinion. I found it to be super unorganised, very much on the poor side of things, dirty and on top of it all, it looked like that city had been forgotten by the rest of the world. That is why I didn’t enjoy it that much. However, I am happy that one made up for the other, cause even now I wouldn’t think twice when deciding t go back to Ohrid!

    Thanks for sharing your lovely experiences!

    x

  22. Hi Kate , I found your blog after someone looked at my blog from Macedonia so I googled Macedonia and found you.
    Very well done and informative. As a wedding photographer I can see why people chose the street for their shots.
    For your interest there is an amazing blog of a wonderful lady I know who is travelling the world with her young son.
    Look up Exploramum and explorason.
    Ruth and her son are on an amazing open ended journey.
    I will come back and explore your blog a bit more later.
    chheers

    Geoff Thompson, Adelaide, South Australia.

  23. Greeko’s malako’s and maso’s get over it who cares, life is but once learn to live it, as opposed to flooding sites with this crap.. 100% guaranteed your all a mixed breed between yourselves of the 6-8 surrounding countries anyway. May I point out the obvious that Macedonians, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, Croatians, Montenegrins, and Slovenians bloody all look the same??!!! And have the same or very similar cultures?!!

    Seriously who cares, it’s boring, stop flooding sites!! This is coming from a Aussie Maso btw!! Ha

  24. Im 16 and i went to macedonia 2 yrs ago as my grandparents on my dads side is from bitola and its an amazing place to go i hiked up pelester and wow the view was great and it just took my breath away, alot of cheap stuff, nice people and i had blast there, but where i stayed was my dads cousins house and he is veey rich over there so where i slept may be different. 🙂

  25. Was born there and grew up there, now living in usa . So nice to hear this Kate, my wife is irish and i brought her there it was big mistake she did not want to come back she was amazed with everything.
    Everything Kate wrote is true

  26. FYRoM is a very beautiful country but it is not Macedonia. The ancient-Kingdom of Macedon is located further south in Greece. FYRoM sits on ancient-Paeonian land, Dardanian north from Skopje.

    Nobody from academia, politics or the diplomatic world confuses Paeonia for Macedonia, or mistakes Yugoslavians for Macedonians…anymore!

  27. It is an older post, but i must say that i have never seen someone that describes a place like you have described my country. Amazing job, and i am glad you liked it. Wish you years of safe and happy traveling :).

  28. Macedonia:Understanding Haemus-Peninsula People-Dynamics

    FYRoM is free to follow ages-old natural path that facilitates discarding old cultural-linguistic baggage for new replacement ones. People-Dynamics tell us that people are just people…wandering free spirits. So people take journey’s. People wander into and out of, cultural-linguistic spaces, by force, by choice or by chance. If that place is hospitable enough, civilized enough, and rich enough to accommodate their needs, some people would find those things attractive enough to settle there. So in this regard, we can only talk about people like wandering free spirits, carrying with them some cultural baggage inherited from the previous cultural-linguistic area they decided to vacate.

    People have been uprooting themselves from since time immemorial, by their own free-choice or not, the point here is to illustrate the fact that biological make-up, blood and Dna, are not important factors on voyage towards development of new ethnicity. People with history, with previous ethnicity, with previous cultural-linguistic affiliations, are free to place those things on-hold during acculturation, the transitional period that leads to proper assimilation. History and the laws of People-Dynamics tell us that within 200 years or 8 generations, people can replace ethnicity with new one, replace language with new one, replace culture with new one. I shall not cite examples – that is for the reader to investigate and research.

    Long time ago, recorded in history, Slavic tribes uprooted themselves from steppe primordial homeland, a journey which led them to wander into new Greco-Roman cultural-linguistic area. The settlement of the Slavs into the Byzantine Empire is well documented. FYRoM’s immediate ancestors were the Draguvites, Sagudates and Berzetes. So FYRoM is Slavic in this regard. People-Dynamics ensured that within 200 years or 8 generations, the previous pre-Slavic Greco-Roman population there Slavicized, by force, or by fee-will. On this basis, FYRoM has been Slavic place from since the 6th Century AD, a cultural-linguistic area that can boast continuum >1400 years of Slavic history, where the Slavic-language, culture, and tradition has been practiced there for the same. FYRoM now though, appears to be in transition, on a journey towards development of new ethnicity, incorporating with it new identity-factors which do not follow the laws People-Dynamics taught us. The peoples there appear to be on voyage towards discarding their Slavic inheritance, shedding their Slavic cultural-linguistic identity for a Macedonian Hellenic one.

    FYRoM, without following the rules and laws People-Dynamics taught us, where (i) peoples are
    free to wander into, and outof, the cultural-linguistic spaces of others,(ii) people are free to settle, if they consider the place hospitable enough, civilized enough and rich enough to accommodate their needs,(iii) people are free to put on hold, their previous ethnicity during acculturation period,(iv) people are free to assimilate on acceptance by the host community,(v) people are free to absorb the language culture and traditions of host community,(vi) people are free to develop same ethnic-feelings, same collective-memories, same national pride of the host nation. FYRoM did none of these things. FYRoM did not follow the rules and laws of People-Dynamics, instead, FYRoM follows unnatural path of usurping them.

  29. This year FYRoM is 24 years old and still trying to resolve a name-dispute who’s vintage is of same age. FYRoM is 24 year-old statelet that is still having problems persuading the UN, EU, USA, NATO and the International Academic Community to accept a recently-established minor Slavic country like ‘Republic of Macedonia’. FYRoM is 24 year-old newly-emergent entity somewhere between statelet and nation. National cohesion there has not quite ripened to maturity, enough to call it nation. Nation building there attempts to unify population-dynamic who’s demographic constitutes >3 different ethnic people-groups boasting >3 different but corresponding heritages. Majority Yugoslavs from Serbian and Bulgarian heritages attempt to build nation with Albanian, Turk, Vlach and other compatriots. Countrymen like these, boasting different, Slavic, Turkic, Albanian, Vlach and other heritages, cannot be expected to unite behind ancient-Greek Name, with Macedonian Identity, and with History, Heritage, Legacy to match. This is where FYRoM fails…in the Nation building arena.

    Nations are recent political constructs built from the ashes of long expired defunkt empires. Nation building is attempt to construct one same common unifying identity, hence, the state needs to come into existence before the nation. The apparatus of state therefore, becomes instrumental in this process. Nation building in FYRoM utilizes the apparatus of state to construct one national identity for Yugoslavs, Albanians, Turks, Vlachs and Others to unite behind. But national cohesion comes only when the constituent population-dynamic can recollect something from collective memory in remembrance of some great event from past history, something common that was shared and is still being celebrated today, in the present. The problem in FYRoM is this: The demographic there share nothing in history, no common themes or synergies – hence, Albanians, Vlachs, Turks and Gypsis cannot be expected to feel any sense of national belonging to the bigger wider Yugoslavic population-dynamic.

    The majority Yugoslavic population in FYRoM seek to unite the minority demographic there under one same common Macedonian identity. They have used the apparatus of state to build a national identity based on ancient-Greek themes and synergies. They use the name of an ancient-Greek Kingdom for country-name, for sovereign state-name, for nationality, for language and for ethnicity. And base their ethnogenesis story and subsequent history on the same. Everything in FYRoM is Macedonian orientated…and this is very problematic for the NoN-Slavic compatriots there. The majority Yugoslavians in FYRoM, whether they are Serb or Bulgarian in heritage, view each other that way. The Albanians view them that way too. Turks and Gypsis do the same. Basing national identity, national history, national symbols, on ancient-Greek themes and synergies is wrong way to go about nation building. And on this, FYRoM is like a child telling grown-ups what to do and how to do it.

    FYRoM is 24 years old this year. A newly emergent country. A child in terms of state. Not ripened yet…matured enough for nation. To build a nation you have to do what Alexander the Great did – unite fractious people-dynamic with one vision, under one directive, under one leadership that campaigns for common cause and the national good. Alexander the Great did all of this. He united the fractious Greeks into one unified nation of Hellenes and then went on to export Hellenism, the Greek-language, culture and knowledge to the farthest easternmost reaches of the then known ancient-world. If FYRoM did what Alexander the Great did…Greeks would call Yugoslavians ‘Macedonians’ and view them like brother-peoples, a sister nation to Hellas.

  30. Yugoslavia when it existed, was home to all South-Slavs with exception of Bulgaria. Civil society’s common understandings of shared common heritage there, traced back to Slavic. Changes to that understanding came to FYRoM after the fall of socialism in 1991 when Yugoslavia went into self-destruct mode, expired, disintegrated, ceased to exist like contingent continuant land of the South-Slavs. From one Federal Socialist Yugoslavia, 6 new Republics came into being, with 7th one (Kosovo) pending to become one. Our focus though, is on FYRoM the 6th one. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Makedonija came to Yugoslavia August 2nd 1944, when southern Yugoslavia was under Bulgarian occupation. The name changed shortly afterwards to Peoples Republic of Macedonija in 1945. In 1946, it was formally incorporated into the Yugoslav Federation proper. In 1963, the name changed again to Socialist Republic of Macedonija. And in 1991, FYRoM declared full independence whereupon the name went through one more change to become Republic of Macedonia.

    The concept of making changes to civil society’s common understandings of shared common heritage came to FYRoM during late 1980’s with big influx of (i) western money, and (ii) Canadian diasporic ideas related to foreign policy stance. Most of the funds were used to finance literary production of pseudo-historical revisionism and most of the ideas were orientated towards humiliating Greek people, ridiculing Greece, and belittling Hellenism. Civil society’s common understandings of shared common heritage in FYRoM, changed. Slavic heritage changed to Macedonian heritage on scripture of national historical narrative which made ancient-Macedonians, proto-Slavs, and Alexander the Great, the first Czar of the Slavs. Western money and Canadian diasporic ideas set FYRoM on wrong path towards self-destruction.

    FYRoM should have stayed true to it’s Slavic heritage and scripted itself national ethnogenesis story to reflect that, rather than contest verity of Western-worlds long-established cultural-historical narrative. In that narrative Macedon is Greek Kingdom. Greeks live there >3 Millenniums. Macedonians are Hellenic on this basis. FYRoM is 24 years old this year, and still trying to figure out how to balance paternal Slavic heritage with fictitious Macedonian one. Laws governing population-dynamics dictate that people-groups can blossom more than one heritage but in the FYRoM case, it would need the tacit approval of Yugoslavian population-dynamic to split heritage into 2 parts…Pre-Slavic heritage before 6th Century AD, and Slavic heritage afterwards. To put it another way – Byzantine heritage before 6th Century AD, and Slavic heritage afterwards.

    Macedonian heritage through the Byzantine connection is argument to be had, but a very weak one. Continuity always follows path of least resistance…FYRoM claims to Macedonian heritage is a claim, but a frail tired claim, when weighted against Greece, the Hellenic Republic, the legitimate heir inheritor of Byzantine Eastern-Roman Empire. FYRoM fighting against Greece for historic rights, and heritage rights to Macedonian legacy is a fight FYRoM cannot win. The overlap between Southernmost Slavs and Northernmost Greeks, may entitle some Slavs to claim Macedonian heritage, and some Greeks to claim Slavic heritage, the delineation between the two is cultural and linguistic only, nothing more than this. Slavs live next to Macedonians, for >1300 years – Greeks know Slavs and Slavs know Macedonians. The distinction between them is not so blurry, one cannot tell who is who!

  31. Hi, all — I just wanted to announce that there will be no more comments allowed debating Macedonia vs. FYROM. You’ve had a year and a half to say what you want to say; the latest comments are no longer furthering the discussion. Old comments will remain, as will new comments unrelated to semantics. Thanks.

  32. Kate,

    You didn’t visit STRUMICA one of the really nice towns in whoel of Macedonia. They say is like the second capital city of Macedonia!

  33. I saw recently that based on three blended indexes Macedonia was the cheapest, friendliest, safest country in the world. However I saw Morocco as #3 and Portugal as #15 on this blended index which made me doubtful as to its validity. Started doing some research and found that this country has black widows (spider type), venomous snakes, nasty disease carrying sandflies, and lots of roaming ROMA kids begging and curt people that do not respect private space. I could overcome this as Arizona has the same critters but chances of meeting them are probably not that good. However what really worried me was that this country has ethnic clashes and lots of demonstrations especially in Skopje as well as being a corridor for human trafficking and more recently African migrants heading north to rich EU countries.

    I have to admit most of this info is based on a 2004 tourist guide and I am getting the 2015 version soon. I expect that some of these issues may have been resolved or deeply attenuated by now.

    I also confess to loving a bargain when traveling so I am not giving up here.

    So are Macedonians really that friendly? Is begging a big problem? Are accommodations reasonably clean and modern? As a woman did you feel safe? I noted that you wisely avoided remote areas.

    PLEASE do not take above as criticism I just want to know where a retired person can safely travel.
    Cheers!

    Thanks for great pics and blog

    1. Hi Yves

      I travelled to Macedonia with my friend (both aged 22). I stayed in Skopje and Bitola. Having gone through 10 countries in Europe prior to arriving in Macedonia I can honestly say I felt extremely safe…the safest I felt during our whole trip. I can speak the language so that may have been a bonus however we did walk around at night in both Skopje and Bitola and felt extremely safe. The people are very accommodating and friendly. In Skopje and other touristy areas such as Ohrid most of the people speak English quite well so asking for help or directions won’t be a problem. Taxi’s are also very cheap and most drivers can speak English.

      Happy travelling!

  34. I love all of the positive comments about Macedonia! I lived and studied there for 4 years many years ago and totally fell in love with so many things about the country, its people and its beautiful traditions. Ergo, I find it somewhat disturbing when I read biased and ignorant negativity and falsehoods. Hopefully you have managed to visit Macedonia again so that you could experience more of its beauty and learn more about its history. Happy travels!

  35. Thank you for highlighting this beautiful country! It’s not only my father’s place of birth but also one of the most beautiful European destinations I have been to. Lovely people, great food and very safe for tourists.

  36. You missed Matka one of the most beautiful places in Macedonia too. It is near Skopje. I recommended it to you.

  37. I’m glad you liked it here! Next time I strongly recommend visiting Krushevo. It’s a small town near Bitola and it’s famous for its architecture, being the highest town on the Balkans and the great history. It’s also one of the cheapest places in Macedonia and everything’s within walking distance. Check it out! 😉
    all the best

  38. Cut the crap lady – is a beautiful place to visit, but the prices are not as you say – It is cheap comparing with most of the countries in Europe but not that cheap – a meal for 3-5 $ – that means you were on sandwiches all time, and that is not a meal, and wine, I dont know your taste in wine but good wine is not cheap even in Macedonia, maybe vinegar….

    For all reader please inform before visit Macedonia – dont do like someone I know going in Macedonia with 100$ assuming is some African country ….(no offense)

    Hotels and even hostels have something online.

    PS: Food hospitality and nature are great in Macedonia. I recommended for holidays

  39. We traveled to Macedonia from Thessaloniki in September 2015. Though the Skopje 2014 makeover wasn’t finished, there are still some nice attractions to check out such as Macedonia Square, Porta Macedonia triumphal arch and the bazaar. We went on to Lake Ohrid and Bitola before leaving Macedonia for Montenegro.

    I wouldn’t say we had a fantastic trip in Macedonia but Lake Ohrid is one of the place we enjoyed much in Macedonia.

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