It’s so interesting to visit a country that has so much history, yet it is so new to the eyes of our modern world. Macedonia still has an air of mystery that makes this mountainous, off the beaten path country an intriguing destination of real discovery.
Here are a few facts that you might not yet know about Macedonia, but that speak part of the interesting and mysterious character of this country.
1 – There are (supposed) parts of the cross on which Jesus was crucified in the foundations of the monasteries of St. Bogodorica Prechista in Kichevo, and St. Jovan Bigorski and St. Georgij Pobedonosec in Debar.
2 – According to NASA, Kokino is the fourth oldest astronomic observatory in the world; with the oldest three being Abu Simbel, Egypt; Stonehenge, Great Britain; and Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Kokino is located approximately 30 km from the town of Kumanovo, and about 6 km from the Serbian border.
3 – Ohrid Lake is the oldest and one of the deepest lakes in Europe (max depth 288m or 940ft). It is estimated 4 million years old and has 200 endemic species that haven’t been found at any other place in the world. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979.
4 – Mother Theresa of Calcutta was born in Skopje, Macedonia. Even though she was born in Skopje, she was Albanian by ethnicity at the time of her birth in 1910. Today, you can see museum house dedicated to her in the center of the capital city of Skopje.
5 – Macedonia is the only country that got independence from Yugoslavia without shedding a single drop of blood. It remained entirely at peace at the heat of Yugoslav wars in early 1990s and got independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
6 – Another interesting feature about this country is that it has more number of mountains and mountain peaks than any other country in the world. The country has as many as 34 mountain peaks, each with a height of more than 2,000 meters above the sea-level; with Mount Golem Karb being the highest at 2,753 meters above sea-level. Most peaks in Macedonia have never been visited by people.
7 – The Cyrillic alphabet, official in Macedonia, is based on the alphabet developed in the 9th century by two Macedonian (Region) brothers – St Cyril (thus – Cyrillic) and St Methodius. It was taught by their disciples at a monastery in Ohrid, from whence it spread across the eastern Slavic world.
8 – The official name of Macedonia in the United Nations is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. This is due to a long dispute the country has with Greece regarding their history as the former Kingdom of Macedonia. Even though they’re officially FYROM in the U.N, the government has persuaded more than 130 countries (135 at the time of publication), including the United States, to recognize it as the Republic of Macedonia.
9 – Skopje has suffered quite a few devastating earthquakes throughout history, the biggest ones in 518 and in 1963, leveling most of the city. In addition, the Austro-Hungarian General Piccolomini ordered the city burnt down in the 18th Century.
10 – Alexander the Great, who was king of the former Kingdom of Macedonia, was the first world-size conqueror who extended his empire across Greece and Persia to India and Egypt. During his time, the Kingdom of Macedonia was the most powerful state in the world; but after his death, the empire fell apart and it became the first Roman province in 146 B.C.
11 – Since becoming an independent nation in 1991, Macedonia has had two flags. Both its first flag and the current flag feature a yellow sun on a red background. The first version was based on a symbol found on ancient tombstones discovered in 1977 in the town of Vergina. However, Vergina is in Greek Macedonia and Greece decided to claim that they owned the copyright to use the symbol.in order to force Macedonia to change its flag, Greece blocked trade with the Republic of Macedonia and forced the UN headquarters in New York to take down the Macedonian flag. As a compromise, and to restart trading with their Greek neighbours, Macedonia changed its flag to its current one from 1995.
12 – The country’s name derives from the ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedonia; which was named after the ancient Macedonians. Their name, Μακεδόνες (Makedónes), derives ultimately from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός (makednós), meaning “tall, taper”. The name is originally believed to have meant either “highlanders” or “the tall ones”, possibly referring to the physical character of the ancient Macedonians and/or their mountainous land.
13 – The cave Peshna in Makedonski Brod was described by New York Times as looking “exactly like Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings”.
14 – The Millennium Cross is a 66 metre-high cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje, and it is the biggest cross in the world. It was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world.
Know of other little known facts?
Lastly, if you’re visiting Macedonia soon, Viator offers dedicated tours of the best locations in the country at very affordable prices. Not to be missed!