Trippin: South-West route of North Macedonia

Coming from the north of the country and having the capital just a 20minutes ride away from home, exploring my own country was not something I was keen on doing. Not having a car was also a bit problematic, since let’s say the transport connections are not the best or sometimes not existing. Having my closest friends coming from the east of the country that was a region that I visited more than any other in the country, but now as we decided to spend some time working from the homeland, some weekends were reserved for taking the to us unknown path.

The tradition of a birthday weekend could not be skipped. Our final destination was Bitola, the second biggest city in the country, but in my eyes so isolated from all the other cities that it. never crossed my route (except 20 years ago when I was performing on a flute competition).

Going to Bitola excludes a highway for the bigger part of the trip, and since we were anyways riding bumpy and narrow roads, I asked if we can make a detour to a village with what I was thought. it would be a very old bridge. And that is how we arrived on our first stop for the weekend:

Zovich village

Zovich village is a remote stop, so remote that it is almost in the middle of nowhere, to get there you need to go through the Mariovo area, which is home of many other remote and abandoned villages, but so authentic and picturesque. No other car passed by for. the whole trip, we were joking that the we can recreate the skateboard ride of the secret life of Walter Mitty here, as no one would interrupt us, or that a whole village could be transformed into a paintball scene (but you didn’t get this idea from me).
In the last 15 kilometers the road is very narrow uphill and many wood cutters are coming on the way so watch out.


In Zovich the houses are very authentic, made out of the same white stone, and everything is so peaceful. Since the village gained on popularity in the last years there are some accommodation possibilities and a small etno house – restaurant, but nothing more than that.
And then accompanied by the village dog, we arrived to the Zovich Bridge, which actually is not that old, it dates from the 1950, and on a slope underneath there is a mill. The bridge was built because of an accident that happened to the one of the villagers, on the prior wooden bridge, but luckily he was from the people working in the mill.

If this is your only spot for the day then yes its okay, if you are planning it as a stop, maybe you should reconsider it, since it is not on any route to anywhere. Leaving Zovich, we were on our way and arrived in:

bitola

As I already said it is the second biggest city in the country, it was the city where in the past all the consulates were located, and it has one of the most beautiful and I must repeat authentic old bazaars. I really do not understand why it is so abandoned, and the city life happens on the other streets rather than here. It is also famous for its nightlife, and the long and wide cafe street called “Shirok Sokak” translated as Wide Alley, being underdressed is not an option here. The city also has very nice park, kind of all that you need city, having in mind that just 30kilometers away there is a ski center, and the city is also a starting point to some hiking routes. We stayed in Bitola for one night, but since we weren’t aware of any must try food and we tend to avoid crowded places our dinner was grilled cheese toast-sandwich at a fast food place “Kaj Bobmata” – At the Bomb’s. Some kilometers further away from the city there are nice spots for stopping as the Ciflik Winery, the Dihovo Village and the hotel Shumski Feneri, and since we were on our way to the National Park “Pelister” made our stop coffee stop in the hotel. Zero other people at 10am equals perfection, but if you want to have a lunch make sure you have a reservation.

national park “pelister”

Pelister is the first recognized natioal park in Macedonia, it has the “title” since 1948, and this is thanks to the five-needle pine, called Molika. The altitude of the park is between 927 and 2,601 m above sea level. In the winter ski sports can be done in the “Kopanki” Ski Centre, and in the warmer months there are so many hiking routes, and a mountain bike trail, so definitively it is a spot to be visited. On the top of the mountain there are the two lakes known as the Pelister’s eyes. We did two short hikes here, and we agreed to be back in the summer. Next even shorter stop:

resen

Resen is one of the smallest city in the country, and first I thought it is now or never, but then we realized that next time that we are going to take the Prespa Lake route we could make a stop, however one stroll through the city was done. There are many old houses, unfortunately abandoned, and there is the most famous building the Center of Culture, also known as a Saray, other than that you can stop here only to buy the soft jaffa cake style biscuits Ressana which were invented here. On our way to our home for the day we made one more stop:

ohrid

The most famous city in Macedonia, also a UNESCO site, I have been so many times here but the city never ceases to amaze. Even though our stop was just a lunch stop, we witnessed the most beautiful sunset while waiting for our burgers. Since it is pandemic we avoid sitting at crowded places or restaurants at all, so we had it to go. The burger from “The Burger Station” is the only real burger in this part of the country, just if it was not drowned in so much sauces it would be even better. Then we ended our day with a super short stroll to the old city Varosh.
With Ohrid we called it a day, and our first stop for the next day was:

gostivar

A city I’ve never been before, I think it is a city that people just pass buy as it is close to another mountain/ski region in the country Mavrovo. If it was not for the burek probably I wouldn’t stop here as well, however it is not a bad thing to at least visit the towns in your own country. From my time here I can say the burek was super tasty, and the area around Vardar river super clean.
And our last stop for this trip was:


tetovo

Third city mentioned here that is “home” of a ski center “Popova Shapka”, bit chaotic, but it has its own beauties as the Colorful Mosque, the City Fortress and very important burek. The views around the city are almost super scenic, if you try to ignore the houses built all over the mountain, but for the real scenic route take the regional road between Gostivar and Tetovo.

This birthday trip was unlike any other, and even though not all the cities in Macedonia are super picturesque, for me they were worth stopping buy. Some of them for the food, and some for the sights.

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