Shielded from anybody’s view, Macedonia is not a typical tourist destination. Small enough to miss on the map, it’s only traceable as Greece’s northern neighbor. And though many magazines fail to cover what is virtually an unexplored paradise, I’m writing this article hoping to give Macedonia the extended treatment it deserves.
From scenic landscape to Mediterranean climate, Macedonia is a Kaleidoscope run wild. The terrain invites nature enthusiasts, the cultural heritage webs a story so rich and captivating, and the cost of living takes anyone by surprise.
Not before long, visitors are swept off their feet, readily paying lip service, pledging to come back year after year. But although much of their awe can be traced back to rich scenery, the food is what truly commands attention.
Macedonian food, you see, dwarfs everything else in significance. Borrowed from one culture and then another, it was influenced by different historical eras. So let me walk you through the menu.
Macedonian food – a rich cultural footprint
It takes an acquired taste to notice how cultural influence played a role, but only an empty stomach to appreciate it. Organic produce all around, each dish is spectacular in its own way.
Centuries of Ottoman influence have left a mark, and you’ll find many dishes typical for the orient. Adjusted to Mediterranean and Slavic culture, they feel rather unique. You have Musaka – which is very similar to that of Greece; Burek – perhaps one of the best carbohydrate takeaway pies you’ll ever taste; and Baklava – a desert so delicious you’ll be asking for the recipe left and right. If you want to taste the Ottoman influence, and with it a garden variety of delicious meals, visit the Old Bazar in Skopje (the capitol city).
On the other hand, Serbian and Balkan influence, dating from Yugoslav ties, is also noticeable. You can taste lots of Serbian grill, sausages, pork steaks, and one of the most popular Balkan inventions – the Chevapi.
Traditional Macedonian food
Characteristic to Slavic culture, Macedonian food is utilizing lots of organic produce. Vegetables play an important role, and you’ll taste some of the best organic and traditional salads. Do make sure to order “Shopska Salad”!
Pies are also popular in Macedonian cuisine, and ethno villages center most of their tourism activities on preparing and baking them the traditional way.
Macedonian cheese is considered a specialty, and vegetable dishes like Turlitava, Gravce Tavce, and Stuffed Peppers are close enough to a status of national heritage.
The most popular dish, however, is the Ajvar. Regarded as the caviar of the Balkans, the Ajvar perfectly reflects Macedonian ties to the land and organic produce. A side dish, often used as dressing, Macedonian Ajvar is the most delicious red pepper mash you’ll ever try in your life. Leaving the country without having a taste is both sacrilege and insult to the local cuisine.
Macedonian wine and other beverages
Producing some of the most delicious wine in the region, it is known that Macedonian wineries are often shipping their product to Italy to be repackaged and sold in the west. If you happen to be a wine aficionado, this is definitely your dream holiday. The prices are unmatched, and the quality is surprisingly high.
You also have Rakija, which is the traditional Balkan alcoholic beverage. Take a sip, but be careful not to do so on an empty stomach.
The beer is strong and ridiculously cheap, and you should try traditional coffee as well. Prepared the Turkish way, it is the strongest and most delicious coffee you’ll ever taste.
Enjoying food through rich and versatile experiences
Discovering Macedonia through food, takes you on a number of unforgettable experiences. If you are the adventurous type, 300 sunny days within a year provide for a lot of adventure opportunities.
The gastronomic experience is enhanced by traditional Macedonian music, which played live, is a usual décor in restaurants called Kafanas. And these are all over the place.
You can also book a horseback riding tour taking you from the village of Mavrovo, through the most scenic region of Macedonia, to the village of Galicnik. There is lots of cheese to taste along the way, directly from rural production facilities.
A tour operator can also take you through the unforgettable scenery of Macedonian vineyards, where you can sample some of their finest product.
A raft ride can transform into a dinner for two, where you can taste some of the best Macedonian fish, on the Ohrid Lake, where nature meets tradition and culture.
The Matka Canyon, a breathtaking wonder of nature, will allow adventurous visitors to hike the rocky trail, or take a kayak through the canyon, only to rest for a lunch at the panoramic-view restaurant.
Also notable are the small places like Berovo, Mavrovo and Krushevo, where traditional food is prepared and served with attention to detail.
If you are a foodie looking for adventure opportunities, discovering Macedonia can be an experience of a lifetime. There are dozens of places to visit, and the welcoming climate along with pleasant people will make you question your accommodation plans, ultimately stretching them for at least one week. The prices are ridiculously affordable, so this is definitely an option once you fall in love with the sensory overload and surprising lack of noise.
Folding up this letter, allow me to give you a friendly advice – go and visit Macedonia, and you’ll find out that this article was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There is much more to discover, and much more to enjoy.
Slavko Desik is a lifestyle blogger and co-founder of numerous online startups. He writes for Lifestyle Updated, and enjoys traveling with his wife. If you want to read more about this beautiful country he is currently living in, do visit the project Discovering Macedonia. You’ll fall in love and book your trip. That’s a promise!