Guide to SKOPJE

The historic village and the five museums

Skopje has 8 museums, Ohrid has 4, Bitola has 2, and most of our small towns have one museum. But this tiny village with 200 or 300 residents, hidden between the mountains in the central part of Macedonia, has not 1 or 2, but 5 museums. Gorno Vranovci (Upper Vranovci) is the known village-museum, with a lot more history than you could expect from such an isolated place. But just such isolation was its advantage in history and is what made this village so famous.


During WW2, this little village was in a way the country’s capital. Partisans were fighting against a much more power full nation, but they had a good strategy, they freed a lot of territory from the Germans in the mountain regions in the central and west part of the country, the whole territory as well as the war was led from this village, here was the Presidium of ASNOM, the state council, The central comity of Macedonia’s communist party, which was the government in a way, the main headquarters of NOB (National liberation war), and OZNA, the intelligence service.

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After the final liberation all of these institutions were transferred to Skopje and they functioned from there, but the houses in Gorno Vranovci are their museums today, protected and maintained they keep the memory of this struggle.

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The museums are small, they each have one or two rooms, mostly full of old documents and a few guns that the partisans used. You can see just how hard their struggle was, for example the photo of the 3 partisans, all dressed in different uniforms because it was hard for them to find uniforms of any kind, but there were some interesting moments as well, like when the cook and his big spoon were photographed together with the soldiers.

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The fifth museum is different, it’s a printing house in which was printed the first daily newspaper Nova Makedonija (New Macedonia) inside it is the printing machine that weighs a whole ton, which the partisans carried in their hands from Skopje to the village all while hiding through mountains and valleys.

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In the next room you can see how they put together the pages for printing, letter after letter, this is done in a second today via computer but then it was back braking work. “Nova Makedonija” Is not a state or partisan owned newspaper, but its still here as the oldest newspaper in Macedonia and one of the oldest in the Balkans, with 69 years behind it. Staff members of this newspaper visit this museum every October for the anniversary of the first number released on the 29th October 1944.
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The 6th museum is spectacular. But weren’t there 5? Yes, but this one is not a memorial house from WW2, this one is millions of years older. This is the nature around the village, the little river and the rocks and trees around it covered in moss.

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This is a magical place just like a “Lord of the rings” scene. Water punching its way trough the rocks, fallen tree trunks, and with each step you take your curiosity grows and you want to know what’s behind that next little waterfall. In this nature, with a bit of luck you will meet some of its residents. The little green lizards posing in front of you, but the little squirrels will be gone in a few seconds.

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We were paced trough this place by two boys who already moved out of here into another village and they say that the number of people here is decreasing every day. Although its only 30 kilometers away from Skopje, Prilep and Veles, you can get to it only trough Veles by a tight mountain road, despite it being unique and attractive it’s hard to impose it as a tourist destination, not even for the weekends, especially in the last decade, since the “Vranovci” hotel is out of business due to ownership disputes.

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Like any other hotel that sent its last guest away a long time ago, this one too looks like a scene from Stanley Kubirk’s “The Shining”.

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Old, abandoned, closed and quiet, so quiet in fact that you can hear sounds from its past, from quests in the big terrace that looks into the river or the room windows looking onto the mountain tops. But you can only hear the wind, the sound of the river and its past, because the present isn’t there.

Goce Trpkovski