Many people around the world may not have even heard about Macedonia before, so it’s time to finally change that! For those of you who don’t know anything about Macedonia – it is a tiny country in Europe, located in the Balkan peninsula, on the border with Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania, and Greece.
It has a current population of around 2 million citizens. Although nowadays Macedonia is a super small country that one can barely spot on the map – in the ancient times it was actually the greatest empire that the World had ever known.
Sounds incredible, right?! Well, let’s find out some other interesting facts about this tiny country with a monumental history!
1. One of the most powerful world leaders in history, if not the most powerful, was actually Macedonian! You may not have heard about Macedonia today, but you have certainly heard about Alexander the Great and his huge empire that stretched all the way from Europe to Asia – well, that was actually the kingdom of Macedonia!
2. Macedonia was also one of the 6 countries that comprised one of the most powerful communist countries of the 20th century – Yugoslavia. What’s even more interesting about that fact, is that Macedonia was actually the only country in Yugoslavia that gained its independence peacefully, in 1991.
3. The biggest touristic attraction in Macedonia is undoubtedly the town of Ohrid and its gorgeous lake. What makes this town so original is the fact that the Ohrid Lake is the oldest (estimated to be 4 million years old) and is one of the deepest (estimated depth is 288 meters) lakes in Europe.
The Lake has around 200 different species of fish, which cannot be found in any other places in the world. And that’s also one of the reasons why Ohrid and the Ohrid Lake were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
On the other hand, the town itself is a place where the famous scholars St. Clement and St. Naum founded the first university in Europe. Furthermore, Ohrid is also home to the throne of King Samuil who was the creator of the first medieval Macedonian empire, and to some other famous people, objects and events – making it “The Kingdom of archeologists”. In addition, Ohrid is sometimes known as “The Jerusalem of the Balcans” because it’s believed that there are actually 365 churches and monasteries in and around this town. The locals can celebrate each new day by honoring it with a different saint!
4. Did you know that the Slavic literacy actually started in Macedonia? The two Macedonian brothers, St. Cyril and St. Methodius founded the Glagolitic alphabet from which their students, the above mentioned scholars St. Clement and St. Naum, established the Cyrillic alphabet, which has quickly spread and adapted, and is now widely used by numerous Slavic nations (like Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria – just to name a few).
5. The famous Catholic missionary, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, was actually born in the capital of Macedonia – Skopje. Today you can find a house museum dedicated solely to her, in Skopje.
6. Macedonia is particularly a must-visit country for all of the Lord of the Rings fans! According to the New York Times, the cave Pesha located in Makedonski Brod, looks exactly like the Helm’s Deep cave from the Lord of the Rings. Besides this picturesque cave, Macedonia is also home to the Cave Vrelo, which is the world’s deepest underwater cave, with a depth of 77 meters.
7. Macedonia is also known as a Biblical country, since it was mentioned in the Bible’s New Testament. But besides that, it is widely believed that some parts of the cross on which Jesus was crucified can be found in the foundations of the several Macedonian monasteries – St. Jovan Bigorski and St. Georgij Pobedonosec in Debar, as well as St. Bogorodica Prechista in Kichevo. Oh and the first Christian in the Balkans was also a Macedonian woman, Lidija!
In addition, Macedonia is also famous for another cross, which is the Millennium Cross located on top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje. It is considered to be the tallest cross in the world, with a total length of 66 meters. The Millennium Cross was constructed in the honor of the 2000 year anniversary of Christianity in Macedonia, and in the World.
8. When it comes to nature – Macedonia has the highest number of mountains and the mountain peaks in the entire world. Surprisingly, most of these peaks have never been visited or scaled by people!
9. Macedonia is also home to the fourth oldest astronomic observatory in the world according to NASA. Kokino observatory is located around 30km from the town of Kumanovo.
10. Macedonia made a historic move in the era of the internet, when it became the first country in the world to have a full access to a wireless broadband connection, in 2005!
11. One of the greatest singers in the Balkan region was a Macedonian multi-genre vocalist Toshe Proeski, once proclaimed by BBC as the “Elvis Presley of the Balkans”, and the “Prince of hearts” by the people. Besides, his immense musical talent and an incredible voice, Proeski was also known as a great humanitarian. It was the reason why in 2004 he was named as one of the UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors. Later he recorded a famous song called “This world”, which became the UNICEF’s anthem.
Unfortunately, Toshe Proeski lost his life at the mere age of 26, in a tragic car accident on the Zagreb-Lipovac highway, in Croatia on October 16, 2007. His body was then transported to his hometown Krushevo, by a Macedonian Army’s helicopter. The next day – October 17, 2007, was declared a national day of mourning in Macedonia.
Thousands of grieving citizens, fans, people from the music industry, as well as from the rest of the world, came to pay their last respects to the greatest music icon in the history of Balkans. The Embassy of the United States of America, the USAID, and the diplomatic mission of the European Union, also issued official statements on the tragic death of this incredible singer.
Later on, Toshe was also given a posthumous title of the “honorable citizen of Macedonia”, by the national government. To this day people from around the world come to feel Toshe’s spirit and to visit his grave as well as the memorial museum in his hometown, Krushevo.
12. Krushevo is not only famous for having the greatest Macedonian singer ever, but also for one of the most historic monuments, that looks like a spaceship. It was erected in honor of all those who fought against the Ottoman’s five-centuries-long rule and who once established a short-lived Republic of Krushevo.
13. If you are a poet – you can’t miss one of the world’s largest annual gathering of poets, that takes place in the Macedonian town of Struga, which is also lying on the shores of the beautiful Ohrid Lake!
14. Macedonia is known as the only place in Europe where you can find ruby gemstones (near the town of Prilep), while the Macedonian opium is known as the best one in the world, with 14 morphine units!
15. And finally, Macedonia has another country that lies within its borders! Yes, you read that right! The small village of Vevchani, which is located around the hills in the north of the Ohrid Lake, has declared itself the Independent Republic of Vevchani and it even has its own passports and currency. The village has a current population of 2,500 citizens, but if you drink enough Vevchani wine then you can also become an honorary citizen of the Republic of Vevchani!