November 7, 2013
I’m an international student from Macedonia. My country is located in the central Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. It was part of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991. With a population of two million, Macedonia has an astonishing cultural heritage for such a small country. Many people know about the historical significance of the European countries, but few have heard of the treasures found in Macedonia. Macedonia has been a homeland to many historically important people, such as Alexander the Great and Mother Teresa. In my opinion, what makes the country special is its long historical and cultural significance; thus it’s known as the “land of nature, cradle of culture.”
When you mention cultural tourism to Macedonians, we immediately think of the town Ohrid. It is the most important tourist location in the country, not only because of its natural beauty but also its cultural importance. That is why the Lake of Ohrid and the town are under UNESCO’s protection.
There is a legend that says that there are 365 churches in Ohrid, which means one can go to a different church every day of the year. Characterized by unique frescoes and icons, churches and other monuments built between the 11th and 12th centuries are famous throughout the world. Several churches, like St. Pantelejmon-Plaosnik, existed from the times of the educator Saint Clement, who lived in the 9th century. On this territory, the educators Sts. Cyril and Methodius invented the Slav alphabet; with the help of Clement and Naum they started spreading the Slavonic literacy.
The capital, Skopje, also has many cultural attractions. The territory has been inhabited since at least 4000 BCE; remains of Neolithic period have been found within the Kale Fortress. The city once known as “Scupi” was under the occupation of many different rulers: it was under Byzantine rule, then under the Bulgarians, then the Serbs, and conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1392, under which it stayed for over 500 years. The 20th century was marked by the two World Wars that occurred in this territory. After the Second World War, the city started recovering; unfortunately, an earthquake occurred in 1963 and did extreme damage. Today, Skopje is a modern capital city in Europe, and its history makes it unique. Many historical structures have remained, thus contributing to its cultural and historical importance.
One of my favorite destinations near Skopje is the Canyon Matka. In its wonderful scenery, around the lake and mountains, a number of medieval monasteries are situated. The most famous monastery is St. Andrew’s Monastery, which was built in 1389. Inside, there are breathtaking frescoes painted by Jovan the Metropolitan.
The contemporary culture and nature in Macedonia are very significant, too. When one goes to national restaurants, he or she can hear the traditional Macedonian music. This is folk music and is recognizable throughout Europe. Except for its cultural importance, my country is also known for its beautiful landscape. Macedonia is a mountainous, land-locked country with three natural lakes. One of the national parks-Pelister is five kilometers away from my birth town. Its richness with flora and fauna makes it one of my favorite places. The rare Molika pine makes it unique because it’s 200 years old.
The Macedonian culture today is a result of many different cultures that existed there. I was always astonished with the fact that my country retains a heritage from many different vanished civilizations, combining the modern with the historical. It is a place with a rich culture which attracts many tourists. I would be very happy if these few words have intrigued your interest to visit my country, Macedonia.
“From Where I Sit” is a column dedicated to the international voices of Hamilton’s campus. If you are an international student and are interested in contributing a column, contact Barbara Britt-Hysell (email@example.com).