Macedonia is more likely to be associated today with the Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s. Few remember its part in the World War I Salonica Front, also known as the Macedonia Front, and even at the time better known as the ‘forgotten front’.
‘Muckydonia’ as it was known in a soldier’s book of the period, was too small for the headline news, yet troops on the Salonika front suffered the fog of war as much as troops in Flanders, the Somme, or Verdun. Casualties were borne from poor communications, malaria was endemic and life behind the lines (unlike in France and Belgium) was woefully unexciting.
The Salonica Front stretched from the Gulf of Orfano to Strumica, traversing Ohrid, Krusevo, Prilep, Gevgelia and Doiran, and even touching Skopje. The bulk of the British Doiran offensive in September 1918 was carried out by the forces of the 22nd Division. This division was made up of men from all over Great Britain but largely from Wales and the North of England. After tragic losses, 22nd Division survivors erected a memorial to their fallen comrades shortly after the war at the strong point and observation position they fought so hard to attain, which was known then as The Devil’s Eye on top of Kale Tepe, or the Grand Couronne.
The original memorial was rediscovered among thick undergrowth and vegetation in 2007. To mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the British Embassy in Skopje, in conjunction with the Municipality of Doiran, decided to place a replica memorial, inspired by the original, on the site. Informative panel boards depicting the battle at Doiran have been erected, and the original memorial can still be seen, with the new memorial above it. The bunker complex at the memorial site served a supply and command system of trenches and defenses. It was known to the Bulgarians as the Ferdinand and was so named to commemorate the Bulgarian victory there of 1915. Dugouts and other strong points can also be seen.
Thanks to Simon, and Reuben (resident archaeologist) for all their tips and info.
Take a bus direct from Skopje to Star Dojran, or take the train to Gevgelia and a taxi from there. Stay at the Hotel Istatov in Nov Dojran Tel: ++ 389 (0) 34 227 556
Tel/Fax: ++ 389 (0) 34 227 555
Mob: ++ 389 (0) 75 421 848
Ohrid is such a surprise. I arrived there from Albania expecting a quiet historic town. That’s only the half of it. Ohrid is no doubt historic: it was here that the Cyrillic alphabet was developed and the wooden buildings of the old town are beautifully intact. However, what surprised me about Ohrid was the party atmosphere. During the summer, there is a mass exodus from Skopje to the countryside and it seems as if most people come here. The pubs and clubs are packed. The atmosphere is wonderful and very friendly. But this party atmosphere in no way detracts from Ohrid’s other virtues.
Another huge plus about Ohrid is the lake of the same name. This huge freshwater lake is in pristine condition due to the lack of industry on its shores. We saw water snakes right by the banks of the town, and beautiful old monasteries are dotted around its shores.
Ohrid: spend the night partying and the day taking a swim and exploring the beautiful old town.
Just across the border from Albania, Ohrid is easily accessible from Skopje with a frequent bus service, but transport is tricky from Albania. If there is a group travelling you can split the price of a minibus between you from Pogradec. This will take you to the border. From here there are usually taxis to take you to the town of Ohrid. This is okay in a group but can work out pricey if you’re on your own. Apart from that there’s always hitching. Get talking to someone at the border and you shouldn’t have too much trouble. The locals on both sides are always eager to help someone out.
A remote valley containing weird standing stone figures in the shape of people or dolls, magically changing shape and expressions as the sunlight and shadows shift during the day.
North-west of Kratovo, on a dirt turnoff on the western side of the main north-south road that meets the highway near Stracin
The 11th-century Byzantine Monastery of the Theotokos Eleusa, set above the village of Veljusa, is a sublime retreat amidst gardens and sloping lawns, decorated with centuries-old frescoes.
Follow the road leading up through Veljusa village, only a few minutes by car from Strumica.
Four leading wineries in Macedonia, where you can sample quality wines
The first two are found in Kavadarci, the latter in Negotino. The latter town is on the Skopje-Gevgelija train line, the latter not too far away by road.
The Loven Dom (Hunters Lodge) is a new and well placed hotel located 2km north of Berovo. Rooms are relatively inexpensive (25 euros for a double), and the woodland setting is wonderful. The lodge has a traditional restaurant and even tennis. There are also nice, if a little old-fashioned hotels further on, just above the wooded shores of Lake Berovo.
A hidden jewel of a waterfall in the forests of Belasica Mountain, Smolare is not like a thundering Niagara but is a tranquil hiking destination with pure ice-cold waters.
Above the village of Smolare, located just beyond Novo Selo, a 40-minute drive from Strumica.
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