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Montag, 26. Februar 2018

Berovo: from an anonymous town to a tourist hotspot

On Februar 26, 2018

Nestled in the Maleshevo valley in the East of Macedonia, Berovo does not seem, at first glance, all that different from any other little Macedonian town. But when you meet the townspeople, when you see the beautiful Berovo Lake and the beech, oak and pine forests stretching across Malesh mountain, and when you learn about its cultural heritage, you will understand why this little town attracts thousands of visitors every year.

There are two legends about how Berovo got its name. The first one says it was named after a farmer called Bero. An argument for this is the existence of a field known as Bero’s field between the villages of Machevo and Robovo.

The second story goes that people gathered (in the Berovo dialect: se berele) in that spot, coming from the old villages of Turtela, Selca, Ribnica, Razdolo, Klepalo, Dobri Laki and other small towns in the Maleshevo region.

In recent years, Berovo has become an alternative tourism hotspot, even though only a decade ago few thought it possible.

Tourism has become a priority

Tourism has become the town’s strategic priority because of its potential for sustainable development of the community. Berovo’s mayor Zvonko Pekevski says the municipality has been working hard on projects important both for citizens and for visitors.

“One of our major projects,” Pekevski says, “is the repair and upgrade of Berovo’s sewer system, which will solve the problem of wastewater, including surface runoff. So far, we have reconstructed eight streets and put down completely new asphalt.

“We are currently building a water treatment plant and a water supply system for the Berovo Lake tourist area, financed by the EU and the city of Sandanski, Bulgaria.”

The project includes developing an interactive smartphone app and a website listing local tourist attractions, information about various local events and places to visit.

“We are also planning to build a walkway around the lake with rest areas, gazebos, benches, wastebaskets, notice boards, and signposts,” Pekevski says.

Any investment in tourism generates income for the municipality in one way or another. This includes building tourist objects and paying property taxes, as well as charging tourist tax.

“Tourism helps citizens supplement their budget, and it also helps producers of food and souvenirs. For some, it is their only source of income; it is their family business. I am glad to hear plans for building several large objects and expanding existing hotels, which should offer further employment opportunities,” Pekevski says.

Capacities are categorized

Berovo is one of the first towns to categorize its tourist capacities. This helps promote the town, ensure visitor satisfaction, and standardize tourist options. 

“Also important is the fact that we keep track of the number of overnight stays and follow strict accommodation standards. We regularly collect tourist tax, as well,” Pekevski says. 

“At the moment,” Pekevski adds, “there are 45 objects with a total of approximately 500 beds, not including hotel capacities outside of our competences. I am pleased that citizens have started offering improved accommodation conditions, some of which rival the standards of some developed European countries.”

Pekevski assures us that the municipality will continue to support all citizens who decide to provide visitor accommodation. They want to ensure high standards and include more citizens in the promotion of Berovo as a tourist hotspot. 

Cultural events attract visitors

In addition to improved infrastructure, cultural events are part of Berovo’s strategy to attract more visitors. 

“The Maleshevo region,” Pekevski says, “apart from its beautiful nature and clean air, the abundance of wild fruit and medicinal herbs, healthy food, and local delicacies, is also known for its traditions, which we keep alive by organizing events to attract tourists.

“The Ratevski bamburci carnival has grown from a local tradition older than 2000 years into a regional carnival and a tourist attraction.

“The local custom of selecting the hardest egg, the kachor, has become an organized competition during the Easter holidays when most natives are back in town and many tourists come to Berovo to enjoy their spring vacations or long weekends. 

"During the summer, there are several major events as part of the Berovo Summer Culture Tour program, such as the Vladimirski ilindenski sredbi (“Vladimirovo village Ilinden meetings”), the Maleshevsko dzvonche (“Malesh bell”) children’s music festival, the Etno ploshtad (“Ethno Square”) festival that takes place in August and brings many concert performances to Berovo, as well as the Maleshevijata na dlanka (“Malesh at your fingertips”) fair of homemade food and crafts.”

Better infrastructure creates a better image

Berovo will focus its energy on improving its infrastructure in the near future, as well, to build a better image of Berovo as a tourist town.

“We will continue,” Pekevski says, “to improve the conditions, such as the Berovo Lake tourist area water supply and sewer systems. We will also work on pedestrian and bicycle lanes, and traffic signal equipment. We plan to create a pedestrian zone along the Bregalnica river and to improve street lighting by using energy-efficient technology. Also important is the reconstruction of the highway to the Klepalo border crossing between Macedonia and Bulgaria, and we hope the central government will see to its opening soon.”

In collaboration with the municipalities of Pehcevo and Delchevo, Berovo will reopen its tourist bureau.

“Our goal,” Pekevski says, “is to promote the region by providing an integrated approach and building a network of local participants. The bureau will bring us closer to the employees in the tourism sector and, more importantly, tourists themselves. It will offer promotional materials and information on natural resources, hiking trails, local souvenirs, healthy food and local products. Berovo has great potential as a tourist destination and it has not reached its zenith yet.”

The story of the Maleshevo region is known far and wide. It attracts visitors from all over the world, mostly from the Netherlands, Israel, Bulgaria, the UK, and the US. They all want to experience the unique beauty of this area. And, during the past ten years, Berovo’s local government has been busy not only promoting the town but also fulfilling its duties: to visitors by providing high-quality services, and to investors by providing incentives to further develop Berovo’s tourism.

Daniela Takeva, Translation by Magdalena Reed

Samstag, 2. Dezember 2017

World's Best Archaeology site Kokino | Macedonia

On Dezember 02, 2017

Kokino (Macedonian: Кокино) is a Bronze Age archaeological site in the Republic of Macedonia, approximately 30 km from the town of Kumanovo, and about 6 km from the Serbian border, in the Staro Nagoričane municipality. It is situated between about 1010 and 1030 m above sea level on the Tatićev Kamen summit and covers an area of about 90 by 50 meters, overlooking the eponymous hamlet of Kokino.

It was discovered by archeologist Jovica Stankovski, director of the national museum in Kumanovo, in 2001. In 2002, Stankovski together with Gorje Cenev (who is the head of a planetarium at a Youth Cultural Center in Skopje) published the claim that the site contains a "megalithic observatory and sacred site".

The oldest archaeological finds date from about the 19th century BC, corresponding to the early European Bronze Age. It shows signs of occupation for the period from the 19th to the 7th centuries BC. Finds from the Middle Bronze Age (c. 16th to 14th centuries BC) are the most numerous (mainly ceramic vessels, stone-mills and a few molds). An agglomeration from the Iron Age was discovered in 2009.

The Kokino "megalithic observatory" should be distinguished from the wider Kokino archaeological site. While the observatory consists of two platforms of a combined area of about 5000 square meters, the site covers about 30 hectares. From this area, an abundant amount of fragments of ceramic vessels, dated to between the 19th and the 11th centuries BC. Also found was a mould for casting bronze axes, and a pendant. The remains of vessels filled with offerings were found deposited in cracks in the rocks, which gave rise to the interpretation of the site as a "holy mountain".

The claimed archaeo-astronomical site itself consists of two platforms with an elevation difference of 19 m. The claim of the site representing an astronomical observatory was made by Stankovski and by Gjore Cenev in 2002. According to this interpretation, the site includes special stone markers used to track the movement of the Sun and Moon on the eastern horizon. The observatory used the method of stationary observation, marking positions of the Sun at the winter and summer solstice, as well as the equinox. Four stone seats or "thrones" are placed in a row on the lower platform. According to Cenev, A stone block with a marking on the upper platform marks the direction of sunrise on summer solstice when viewed from one of the seats.

Kokino was mentioned in a poster made by NASA's "Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum" in 2005.

The Cultural Heritage Protection Office of Macedonia's Ministry of Culture declared the site a "property under temporary protection" on 13 November 2008 (Decision nr. 08-1935/6). In 2009, Minister of Culture Elizabeta Kancheska-Milevska declared Kokino "one of the priorities of the Ministry of Culture’s 2009 programme".In 2009, the Republic of Macedonia also suggested the site be inscribed on the World Heritage Site.

Mittwoch, 1. November 2017

The Macedonian Stone Puppets - Kuklica

On November 01, 2017

Grouped together in a tiny area of just 74 acres, 120 massive stone pillars stand at attention and have stood there for 100,000 years. Or, depending on your beliefs, since a local woman cursed her wedding party when her husband chose a different bride.

According to local lore, a man was struggling to choose between two women. Not able to make up his mind, he figured he would marry both on the same day and not tell the other. Unluckily for him, during his morning wedding the second wife came to check out the scene and was horrified watching her husband’s double-crossing nuptials. In a rage, she cursed the whole wedding party and they turned to stone where they stood and created Kuklica.

Whether you believe the legend or not, the area has a been described as having a somewhat mystic aura, and the stone formations, that were actually created by volcanic rocks and uneven erosion, have managed to draw in visitors for decades.

Getting to Kuklica is not an easy task and there are few signs marking the way. The easiest way to find the field of pillars is by asking a local or hiring a tour guide to lead you to the petrified wedding party.

Mittwoch, 25. Oktober 2017

The Kruševo Makedonium

On Oktober 25, 2017

In 1903, a group of brave Macedonians charged into battle against the Ottoman Empire, sparking a movement that led to the creation of a free Macedonia. In honor of the uprising, a bizarre space-age monument and memorial complex was constructed 70 years later. If the artist and surrounding memorial park didn’t state explicitly that the building was in honor of the Ilinden Uprising, it stands to reason that no one would ever make the connection.

The Makedonium almost looks like a heart valve, except it’s white and has around 10 massive stained-glass skylights poking out from its circular base. In Macedonia, it has become a symbol of statehood, even making it onto the national currency on the 10,000 Denari bill. It overlooks the town of Kruševo from over 4,000 feet, which makes it fairly prominent, but that’s where the symbolism ends.

There are no statues of soldiers holding a flag or grand statements of statehood. There is only a weird African-cucumber shaped modernist expression of freedom. Maybe that’s the point of the monument, it is looking toward the future, where free expression meets innovation without the stifling influence of a crumbling Turkish empire. There are probably no right answers, but a trip to the Makedonium will at the very least allow visitors to overlook a beautiful and well-preserved medieval town while they scratch their heads in confusion.

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