The Republic of Macedonia is situated in the southern part of Balkan Peninsula. It's a natural bridge between east and west, north and south. The majority of the population is the Macedonians, while the most numerous among the minorities are the Albanians, Turks and Serbs. The Republic of Macedonia abounds in the natural beauties and rarities. Many have named it "The Pearl of the Balkans". The numerous mountains, forests, rivers and lakes present a great tourist attraction.
The high mountains present its impressive, spectacular landscapes. Because of the great variety of plant and animal species, some areas in the mountains have been proclaimed national parks: Mavrovo, Pelister and Galitchica.
The country is reach in water resources. That is why it is often called "The Land of Lakes" because of the many tectonic, glacial and man-made lakes. There are about 50 large and small lakes, the most significant ones are the lakes of Ohrid, Prespa and Doyran.The largest river form three basins is the Vardar River. There are various climatic zones in the country, temperate Mediterranean in the south (with warm summers and mild winters), and moderately continental in the north with more marked seasonal extremes.
The main administrative centre of the country is Skopje, with a population of more than 541.000 inhabitants. It's a place where many roads and civilizations have met and mingled. Other larger towns are: Bitola, Prilep, Kumanovo, Tetovo and Ohrid. The ancient city of Ohrid, situated along the coast of the magnificent Lake Ohrid, is undoubtedly the most beautiful and most attractive Macedonian town, a pearl of old architecture and a treasury of valuable cultural and historical monuments.
The town of Ohrid is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe . Its ancient name was Lichnidos, which was used to refer to the settlement of Ohrid and the lake. Built mostly between the 7th and the 19th century, it has the most ancient Slav monastery (St. Pantelejmon) and more than 800 icons of Byzantine style, painted between the 11th and the end of the 14th century, which are considered to be, after those of the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, the most important collection in the world.
The main tourist centre
Ohrid could literally be called a city-museum - another typical mixture of the western and the oriental, a city with a special architecture, and modern, luxurious tourist facilities. One should have heard of the long tradition in making the famous Ohrid pearl, as well. It is Macedonia's main tourist centre, with first class hotels, modern tourist objects of international fame, campsites, company hotels and holiday homes, as well as many ancillary tourist, hotel and gathering facilities.
The Lake Ohrid came into existence in remote geological ages because of tectonic shifts in the earth crust (plates that moves).
Lake Ohrid rightly deserves the name "Macedonia's freshwater sea". Not only for its warm water blue colour, which gains its intensity from the heavens' blueness, but also because of its size, this lake gives an impression of being a sea.
A large bay
It covers an area of 358 square kilometres and one gets an impression of being in front of a large bay of the sea as if a part had been uprooted of the sea's breadth, and launched among high mountains 695 meters above sea level. On its northern shore, the ancient town of Ohrid, located on a double hill with highest point at Samuel's Fortress 800 m. above sea level, rises above the lake as some colossal piece of scenery.
Lake Ohrid lies in a basin surrounded on all sides by mountains with peaks of over 2,000 meters. To the east are Mount Petrino and Mount Galicica with the Tomoros peak (2,255m), which separates the Ohrid basin from that of Prespa. To the south are the hills and lower mountains of Albania. The rare clarity of the water in Lake Ohrid, whose translucency may reach down to a depth of 22 meters, is due to numerous underwater springs all along the south and the east shores.
Much of this water comes from lake Prespa, which lies at a greater altitude and is the outcome of a tectonic shift. There are more than 60 thermal springs tapped at several spas: Katlanovo Spa, Kosovrasti Spa, Bansko, Negorci, Debar and Kezovica Spa. They offer facilities for treatment, rehabilitation and recreation.
Lake Prespa is the second largest lake in the Republic of Macedonia. The Lake is located at a higher point than any other lake in the Balkans (2,798 ft/853 m), covering over 274 sq. km (106 sq. miles). Two thirds of the lake belongs to the Republic of Macedonia, while the remaining third is shared by Greece and Albania.
Prespa lake is fed by underground streams, which inevitably flow in Lake Ohrid, through subterranean channels running under the Galichica Mountain. The whole Galitchica Mountain has numerous caves, some even underwater. Some of the caves are filled with Carbonate-rock stalactites, stalagmites, "snowball ceilings" and "draperies".
The Natural beauties, clear lake water, preserved natural environment and good communications have caused the region to become a local favourite tourist destination.The temperature of the water is between 18 C degrees in June and 24 C degrees in July and August.
The beaches are sandy and the summer air temperature is comfortable.
The climate in the Prespa area is Mediterranean, with sunny springs, warm to hot summers, chilly autumns, and moderately cold and snowy winters. Interesting settlement on the shores of the lake is the tourist place Pretor, with a few camping sites and hotels. Krani is a tourist settlement on the east coast of the lake, with a beautiful wide sandy beach.
Struga is situated on the northern part of the Lake Ohrid, on the both banks of river Crni Drim. The city is located on 171 km from the capital Skopje and from the nearby city Ohrid, is just 15 away, Here, one is charmed by the source of the river Crni Drim, which flows into Lake Ohrid and runs across it, only to emerge again with its clear and greenish water, and beautify the town of Struga. This town is a famous tourist resort, and it is an eternal inspiration for poets from all over the world.
The poets on the bridge
Since 1962, each year at the second half of August, the Struga Poetry Evenings held in honour of brothers Miladinovci, have gathered poets from all the continents. The Struga Poetry Festival is one of the oldest, largest, and most renowned of its kind in the world. At the spectacular poetic event entitled "Bridges", poets read their works from the bridge under which the River Crni Drim flows out of Lake Ohrid, before an audience of some ten thousand people.
This National Park is situated on Galichica Mountain, which belongs to the Shara - Pind system of mountains. The National Park was designated, on the Macedonian part of the mountain by the Parliament of Republic of Macedonia in October 1958, because of the particularly natural beauties, landscapes and esthetical values, extraordinary rich full endemic flora and fauna. The Park is situated between two biggest Macedonian lakes, Ohrid and Prespa.
Its area is 227 square km. and the lowest point is the level of Ohrid Lake - 695 m, and Prespa Lake - 850 m, and the highest is 2265 m above the see level.
A basic geological foundation of Galichica is its major part of Palaeozoic massive metamorphic silicates covered with layers of massive limestone in the thickness of 500 - 550 m with a spongy structure and a strong porous.
Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. As largest city in the country, it is a political, economic, and cultural centre of Macedonia. It lies on the upper course of the Vardar River and is located on a major north south Balkan route between Belgrade and Athens.
The first impression of a visitor to Skopje is invariably the same: it is a new and modern city. It is a trading centre for the cotton, tobacco, grains, and livestock produced in the surrounding region. The city also has manufacturing facilities for iron and steel, electrical machinery, chemicals, textiles, carpets, and foods.
In 1963, a catastrophic earthquake struck Skopje. The clock in the preserved ruins of the old railway station remained frozen at 5:17 am, the moment that the predawn earthquake turned Skopje into landfill. So devastating was the 1963 quake that some advised moving Macedonia's capital to another site. Thanks to world solidarity, the city was quickly renewed and reconstructed and the new residential quarters bear little resemblance of old Skopje.
Today Skopje is a beautiful and modern city with population of over half-million people (1991), covering an area of 1.818 sq. km. The city was rebuilt mainly out of concrete slab, clamping it to the Vardar river floodplain almost as a modular unit, in case the earth attempts to shake it loose again.
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