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Macedonia: outside Skopje

I rented a car (more on that in a separate post) for my trip around Macedonia and Albania. I stopped at a bakery for some burek and continued to Matka Canyon just outside of town. A man-made lake from a dam is now a getaway from the hot temps in the city (90F / 32C in mid September!) They have kayaks you can rent for 200 MKD ($4) per hour, or a boat tour you can do. They go to a cave about 4km (2.5mi) away.

The dam that turned the river into a lake


There is also a hiking trail along the canyon, which I opted for. The views were stunning, but when I got to the end, I realized that I was on the opposite side of the river from the cave. Whoops. Another trail would take you straight up to a monastery that was higher up in the canyon. In the interest of time I didn't do this, and I wasn't able to see any monasteries from the bottom except for the one at the beginning of the trail.

Hiking trail (right) along Matka Canyon



After leaving the canyon I continued west towards Mavrovo National Park. A beautiful park, I could have spent more time here but I was planning quite a bit of hiking in Albania. I did see a cute monastery at the top of a hill where you can ring a bell, pray, and get fresh water. Nobody was there when I passed through but it was a calm setting. The highlight was the Monastery of Saint Jovan Bigorski. (Macedonia has Orthodox monasteries littered across the country. Even their money has religious icons on them!) There were monks leading a service while I was there, and although I went inside the sanctuary briefly, there were many people in there, most not wearing masks. Mindful of COVID-19, I opted to explore the grounds and avoid the people instead.








The small Monastery of Vrben in the park that you can hike or drive to.







Inside the one-room Vrben Monastery




















They even have a bell that you can ring!







The beautiful Monastery of St. Jovan Bigorski. Look in the distance in the upper left and you'll see a town with a mosque. Eastern Orthodox and Muslim religions coexist peacefully here.




For dinner I stopped in the charming hilltop town of Vevčani to eat at a restaurant with an incredible view! Unfortunately the roads in Vevčani are steep and narrow and navigating the streets with my standard-sized vehicle was a challenge!



Beautiful Vevčani with the edge of Lake Ohrid just visible behind the hilltop. Beware driving with a full-sized car!





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