Guide to SKOPJE

GARI –Beauty Rediscovered

A pearl in the Mijak region, intact nature that leaves you wondering which season is the most beautiful. At the foot of Stogovo Mountain a cluster of buildings forms the Mijak village of Gari.

It is smaller now than ever, but still radiates history.

Old style houses stand beside modern ones, empty in the winter and full of life just as soon as snow melts.

The only way to get there is to take the road to Debar, western Macedonia. Take a turn at Boskov Most, drive straight ahead and after 9-10 kilometres you enter the village.

A fountain that flows in abundance is a greeting from Garska river to all visitors, a powerful and loud river one can hear from anywhere in the village.

In the centre of the village there is a beautiful small church dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos. It is about 4 centuries old and has an iconostasis wood-carved by Petre Filipovski Garkata, a skilled woodcarver from Gari. He is one of the most famous people from Gari, renowned for the intricate iconostasis he created in St. John the Baptist – Bigorski monastery and St. Spas church inSkopje. He also wood carved many other churches and monasteries in the Balkans.

Among the old icons in the dome there is the Freemasons all-seeing eye. How did this rarity get into the church? Was Petre Filipovski Garkata a free mason? Was there more than one of them?  There are no details about the story but we believe it must have been so, because Gari people are extremely intelligent.

There is something else in the church. Relics from a saint which have helped many people, at least they say so. The bones are washed in water and the person in need uses the water, but it is also used by healthy people. Nobody knows to whom these bones belong, yet, everybody knows numerous cases when these miraculous relics helped people.

In the centre of the village there is a little store and above it, a few rooms for travelers who wish to spend a few days there. An apartment hotel was opened recently, to mark the beginning and development of alternative tourism. It is not unusual for a local to offer you accommodation for the night and then you get a complete picture of life in Gari. You must try their most famous product – sheep cheese. Gari is surrounded by sheep pens where cheese is prepared the old fashioned way. If you go walking and reach any of the pens, the shepherds are sure to offer some homemade bread, cheese and sour milk. A word of advice: don’t eat too much. It’s really fatty and your stomach might have something to say afterwards.

When you reach the upper end of the village you have a full view of a small mountain lined with trees and meadows. On the right bank of Garska river there is a huge rock standing tall, as if guarding the village.

There are so many things to say about Gari but no words can describe the nature surrounding it. You have to see it in order to feel and know the Mijak region. People are warm, hospitable and talkative. They tell you tales from the village history, stories about their adventures and about Dimko Shanghai, a villager who has travelled the farthest – all the way to China. Still, the most important thing is that Gari is an excellent destination if you want to relax and get far from the city noise.

Mile A. Risteski