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As the fabled birthplace of Alexander the Great – a leader whose extraordinary military skill earned him an empire that reached from Southern Europe to the Himalayas – Macedonia will always have a special place in world history. Ancient and rugged, its landscapes evoke the mystery and drama of another age: ancient Greek ruins quietly crumble on desolate mountain-tops; Byzantine churches overlook serene highland lakes; and daunting fortifications stand guard over historic towns and cities, witnesses to centuries of warfare and imperial pomp.
Today, despite boasting over 5000 years of uninterrupted civilisation, Macedonia remains an obscure post-Soviet Republic, little over 20 years old, and a destination yet to be discovered by the crowds. Its urban spaces represent a fusion of architectural styles and influences, chronicling diverse international trade and various phases of military occupation. The Romans, Byzantines, Bulgars, and Serbs have all left their mark on the country, but few were as influential as the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Macedonia for the best part of three centuries. Today, Islam continues to be practised by a third of the population with fine mosques, hamams, bazaars, and other Turkish-built structures contrasting with the country’s predominantly Orthodox Christian features.Read more
The scars of the 20th century, too, are evident throughout Macedonia’s towns and cities. Soviet suburbs – constructed in stark social realist style – are a striking addition to the capital, ravaged by incidents of warfare and natural disasters. Today, more than two decades have elapsed since the fall of communism and Macedonia continues to make democratic headway. Nonetheless, it is one of the most economically impoverished countries in Europe.
Geographically, land-locked Macedonia is dominated by a large plateau filled with pine-swathed hills and deep green rolling valleys. It is completely surrounded by mountains, including the harsh, misty peaks of the Dinaric Alps, which proceed through the country on its western flank and provide isolated habitats for rare flora and fauna, including lynxes and wolves. Hiking through the Macedonian countryside you’ll encounter a shifting and weathered panorama of crashing waterfalls, vertiginous gorges, lively rivers, and darkened subterranean caves.
Macedonia’s convoluted topography has encouraged the preservation of unique cultures and customs too – throughout the highlands you’ll find ancient settlements steeped in rich folkloric traditions, including vibrant forms of song and dance. Elsewhere, Macedonia’s famous lakes – including Ohrid, Prespa and Doiran – are peaceful, mystical places that feature heavily in the national psyche as centres of early Christian activity and pilgrimage.
Places of interest in Macedonia
A land of rolling mists and bracing mountain air, Mavrovo national park is home to the highest peaks in Macedonia -...
Perched between darkened mountains and the ethereal waters of a three million year old lake, there is a mystical...
Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, has endured several incidents of destruction, but like a steadfast warrior, it has...
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