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Montag, 26. Februar 2018

Berovo: from an anonymous town to a tourist hotspot

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

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