• Bisera Vlahova

In and Out of Skopje

Updated: May 8, 2020

Last weekend, I had the chance to visit Skopska Crna Gora, a mountain found between the cities of Skopje and Kaçanik. It’s a wonderful place to visit and relax at during the spring and summer months, and you can be sure to get that fresh air which is often missing in Skopje.

Me, birdwatching on Crna Gora

The highest peak is ‘Ramno’, which is 1651m high and easily accessible from the west. It literally translates as “flat” and indeed it is. I didn’t get the chance to visit the summit though this time, since my visit had a different purpose – as a member of the Biology Students’ Research Society, I was there together with the other society members to monitor the mountain’s biodiversity. It includes wolves, wild boars, foxes and both raptor and songbirds. We explored and noted all of the species we saw, with the chance to collect material from the Banjanska River, one of the many streams and rivers on the mountain.

Two of the students collecting material

Skopska Crna Gora offers more than just beautiful scenery and a great diversity of plants and animals – it offers breathtaking churches and monasteries from the XIII and XIV century. Because of the 9 monasteries and around 20 churches, this mountain is often named as “Skopska Sveta Gora”, or “The Holy Mountain of Skopje”. Best of all, visitors can stay overnight in most of the monasteries.

The mountain is really easy to get to. Just hop on bus no. 71 from the Transport Center (Railway Station) in Skopje, which takes you to the village of Banjani. From the village there is a path taking you through the mountain and up to St. Nikita, one of the monasteries.

Inside the city, one of my favorite cultural events just took place – the 29th International Book Fair. Six days just for books at the Skopje Fair hall. Every year around 40,000 people visit this event and have the opportunity to buy books from Macedonian, Albanian, English and other foreign authors. Plus, plenty of famous authors attend the fair to sign books and meet fans. It’s indescribably wonderful to enter the hall and see so many book stands flooded with books for sale – from novels to encyclopedias and people from all ages can find something to enjoy.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of me and my father going to the fair when I was little, with me coming back home with a pile of books in my arms, struggling to prevent them from falling. If you’re ever in Skopje during the festival, please do put it on your itinerary.

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