Guide to SKOPJE

14 interesting features of a non-touristy village

Military secrets revealed

Panorama_balkon3_resize

Stracin is a village known by many in Republic of Macedonia simply because it is located on the main road leading to Bulgaria. More precisely, it is situated on the crossroad where roads branch towards the little picturesque town of Kratovo and the natural monument of Kuklica to the south, and towards the town of Kriva Palanka, the monastery of St. Joachim of Osogovo and Bulgaria to the east (it’s a point that locals call a “slingshot” because the crossroad reminds them of that).

The old road passes through the village and up until 1989 travelers regularly drove through it. At that time the village was much more lively than now, and many of them used to stop for a short break from the tiring journey. The new road bypasses the village by only 200 meters but now almost no one makes a stop there. It is visited mainly by people who originate from there.

Stracin cannot be found on the Macedonian tourist map, unlike Galicnik, Vevcani, Brajcino, Kolesino and others, although it is a lot easier to reach than any of these popular villages. Does it really have too little to offer? In just a few hours walk, you can many interesting things in Stracin. This is a dispersed settlement, with houses scattered on the hills in remote neighborhoods, so the sights are not grouped in one place but lie in the diameter of about five kilometers over hills and ravines. And there are 14 of them. Thus, Stracin shows that it’s not only popular destinations that can enthuse tourists.

  1. Houses made of rectangular stone blocks

001 - kukja_balkon3_resize_resize

Stone is a basic building material everywhere in the world. But here it was handycrafted in proper geometric shapes which were then easily put together to build a house. The front sides of the stones were often decorated with ornaments. And it was not only the houses, as this method and manner of building was also used for the stables, barns and pens. So the livestock also enjoyed living in top rural architecture. Unfortunately, most of these beautiful old houses are abandoned now and the remaining fifty or so villagers live in new houses in the center of Stracin.

  1. The old village shop

002 - prodavnica_balkon3_resize_resize

The shop is made of reddish rectangular stone blocks and it looks as if time has stopped there. Maybe the range of products is not so wide, but it is a pleasure to go shopping there rather than in the sterile atmosphere of urban supermarkets.

  1. 19th century church

003 - crkva_balkon3_resize_resize

The old church dedicated to St. Demetrius has been standing there since 1847 according to the inscription on one of the walls. It has a simple rectangular shape which is typical for that region of Macedonia (the Northeast) although it is unusual for many other parts of the Orthodox Christian world.

  1. A cemetery out of a horror film

004 - grobista_balkon3_resize

Top-skilled stone masons used their skills to honor their dead, as well. The abandoned and overgrown tombstones today would impress fans of Gothic aesthetics and those who enjoy watching horror movies.

  1. A strange stone altar

005 - oltar_balkon3_resize

It is located in a place where there is no cemetery or a church, in a meadow where people used to gather to celebrate the village feast days. It looks like a sacrificial altar, but no one knows exactly what it is.

  1. Stone table

006 - trpeza_balkon3_resize_resize

Although it resembles a tomb, this is a place where people used to sit and dine on feast days. It is located on the hill above the church and consists of three rows of stone blocks about twenty meters long, two of which are for sitting and the one in the middle for serving food, with a cross at the front seat. It has not been used for a long time now and trees have started growing through it.

  1. Trenches and bunkers from World War II

007 - bunker_balkon3_resize_resize

Stracin is a place where heavy battles took place between Macedonian partisans and the occupation forces during World War II. Traces of warfare can be seen everywhere and the bunkers are so well constructed that they could even be used today. You only need to clear the entrance, though it would be much better if we never needed them again.

  1. Memorial Fountain

008 - cesma_balkon3_resize_resize

The fountain in the center of the village is dedicated to the 33 partisan fighters who lost their lives in World War II. They came from Stracin and the surrounding villages.

  1. Anti-tank barriers

009 - barikada_balkon3_resize_resize

Stracin has always been a strategic place, so during Yugoslav times barriers were placed here to prevent tank invasion from the East. The invasion never happened and with the current political situation in the region there is no longer any threat of that. Still, the massive steel triangles still stand lined up in the field and the only thing they prevent is the cattle moving from one to another side of the pastures.

10. Abandoned underground military base

010 - bunker_balkon3_resize_resize

This was the best kept secret of Stracin during Yugoslavia. The network of tunnels runs under two hills and it was used as storage for military equipment and machinery. The locals were denied access to it, of course. Now it is abandoned, the entrances are masked and can only be seen through small openings.

11. Water springs

011 - izvorce_balkon3_resize_resize

This one is right by a country road and some are hidden deep into the woods. Villagers have regulated the flow of all the springs that they have found. For hundreds of years they have served to quench the thirst of those who wandered through the hills.

12. Lonely old trees

012 - drvo_balkon3_resize_resize

In Rep. of Macedonia there are about fifty plane trees that are hundreds of years old and are protected as a natural heritage. This oak tree in Stracin is not on that list, but according to how similar it is to those trees it probably has several centuries under its bark.

13. Enchanted forest

013 - suma_balkon3_resize_resize

Children’s stories often mention forests where no one can enter, and those who try will never come out again. An old village fountain in a deserted neighborhood is now so overgrown with thorns and vegetation, and the ground is flooded, which makes it impossible to pass through. We could not verify whether fairies gather to dance around it.

14. Natural reserve

014 - rezervat_balkon3_resize_resize

An area called Ploci (Plates) is a flat plateau composed of large stone blocks on top of a hill. It is known for its natural stone puddles. Through the ages holes have been carved into the rocks which are filled with water after rain. A unique wildlife of endemic microorganisms has developed inside them so it has been protected as a natural reserve. Not that microorganisms have any potential for tourism, but the place itself is incredibly beautiful. Hundreds of miniature lakes, canyons and gorges will trigger your imagination and take you back to childhood when you imagined a tiny, pocket-sized magical world. The smallest puddles are the size of a palm and the biggest are streched to barely one square meter. Some are filled with water, others with grass, moss and flowers. If you visit it in spring or autumn after a rainy period you will have the chance to enjoy its beauty to the fullest.

Goce Trpkovski

Comments