Mavrovo National Park

The Mavrovo National Park is the largest protected area in the country making the largest National Park of Macedonia close to the Macedonian border with Albania and Kosovo in Serbia. Mavrovo National Park covers 73800 hectares, encompassing the most beautiful parts of western Macedonia – the mountains of Bistra, Korab, South Šar Massifs, Dešat, Radika River, Mavrovo Lake and picturesque tiny villages of Mavrovi Anovi, Mavrovo, Leunovo, Nikiforovo, Galičnik, Rostuše, Gari, Janče, Tresonče, Bituše and Lazaropole, with total area of 73,088 hectares. Mavrovo was declared the National Park in 1949 to be enlarged in 1952 to 73100 hectares of which some 27000 hectares are forested. Relief of Mavrovo National Park is spectacularly diversified and encompasses 52 mountain peaks over 2000 meters ! Golem Korab Mountain which is 2764 meters high is the highest mountain peak of Macedonia and provides true hiking challenge, tourist attractions and stunning panorama and other options of recreation. Another mountainous range of the Mavrovo Municipality is Bistra Mountain with its most popular Medeniza peak (2.163 meters). The seat of the Mavrovo National Park lies in the village of Mavrovi Anovi on the very shore of Mavrovo Lake. From that point up to the peak of Korab Mountain and the very heart of the intact wilderness you need minimum 5 hours of rush walk along fragrant meadows full of flowers and from where beneficial smell of mint and other medicinal herbs spread all around.

The Mavrovo Ski Center named Zare Lazareski is an interesting and highly enjoyable and most popular ski resort of Macedonia. Its three chairlifts start from the doorstep of the area’s hotels at an elevation of 1255 meters above sea level. Eleven more drag lifts bring the resorts capacity to a respectable 10.000 skiers an hour. The highest T-bar lift tops at 1860 meters. Large parts of the Mavrovo Ski resort are well protected from high winds and sheltered by the high hills of Korab Mountain, with the ski resort staying closed due to weather conditions only twice during the 2006 winter. Summer months in Mavrovo National Park are convenient for walking and mountaineering. The wide-spread pastures and clean spring water of the Mavrovo National Park are attractive for trekking trips, bivouacking, mountain biking and other kinds of recreation. It is presumed that Mavrovo National Park includes more than 1000 types of higher plant forms, of which about 100 are extremely rare and of Balkan endemic plants. Mavrovo National Park provides a sanctuary for bears, wolves, golden eagles and critically endangered species such as the balkan lynx, less than 50 of which are still thought to be alive. The main attraction is the chance to see and photograph wild Dinaric Pindus Brown Bear and potentially Lynx, Wolf, Boar, Deer and Goat species. Visitors and guests also take part in vital conservation work, including scientific surveys, tracking and the setting of camera traps.

The largest artificial lake in Macedonia is part of Mavrovo National Park. The Mavrovo Lake is 12 kilometers long and 3 kilometers wide and covers an area of 13,3 square km. On the southern side the Mavrovo Lake is surrounded with forested Vlainica Mountain, while in the north it borders with the Sarr Mountain. The coast of Mavrovo Lake is 24 kilometers long. The deepest measured spot of the Mavrovo Lake is 48 meters. Rich in famous lake trout, Mavrovo Lake is often visited by fishermen. Due to its elevation (1,220 meters), this mountainous lake sometimes freezes over in winter. Mavrovo Lake also makes an excellent swimming and boating spot in the summer months. An additional point of interest of Mavrovo Lake is the half-submerged Saint Nicolas church in the middle of it, built in 1850. The Saint Nicholas Church was built by builders from the Reka region from marble and granite. The Saint Nicholas church i Mavrovo had marble iconostasis built by master zograph Dimitar Dičo Krstević. Locals of the Mavrovo area were telling that in construction of the Saint Nicholas church the most precious stone and special equipment was used. The Saint Nicholas church in Mavrovo Lake is one nave church with five sided apse, a bell towe and iconostasis. Icons were painted in 1855 by reputed icon painter Dičo Krstević, while later it was the icon painter Meletij Bojinov from Debar area who worked on the icons. The Serb benefactor Lady Bosiljka Janić erected the belfry in 1925 which is testified by the plaque dedicated to her husband Golub Janic, whose origins were from Mavrovo region. In law water level of the Mavrovo Lake, in the back part of the church one can see the tomb with monument to the priest Jovan Milošević and his son Arsenije, erected in 1930.

One of the most impressive parts of the Mavrovo National Park is the stunning Radika River Gorge. On the heights of mountain slopes within and around the Mavrovo National Park there are 17 glacial lakes, which make true mountainous landmarks of the site and excite their visitors.

Galičnik Wedding Festival is a feast celebrated by local Mijak population in the tiny and picturesque village of Galičnik, within the Mavrovo National Park and winter and summer resort, at the altitude of 1350 meters, for the eyes and bliss for the soul, rich experience of many original and unforgettable wedding customs and rituals. Galičnik village is famous for its authentic countryside scenery and wonderful natural and unique architectural environment as it features well preserved traditional architecture, including an amphitheater in the village square. Saint Peter’s Day is for centuries celebrated on the 12th July in the Galicnik village and it is the day of splendid traditional costumes, magnificent ceremonies and rituals of the unique Galičnik wedding whose wider significance comes to its crown by entering the treasury of spiritual values of humanity under UNESCO protection. Galichnik wedding comprises the most colorful wedding customs that represent a blend of Christian and pagan traditions which are performed with great attention to every detail, marking the three key moments in human life in all civilizations: birth, marriage, and death. Young men and women of Macedonia, born in Galičnik, ancient village in northwest Macedonia, have something that makes them very proud – an opportunity to wed in a traditional way, the way it was done in the past times in their village. The mother-in-law ties an apron (“skutaca” or “futa”) around the bride’s waist and puts a white scarf on her head in order for the daughter-in-law to be a good housewife. Coins, wheat and candies are thrown from a sieve over the gathered guests; one bundle made of coins, wheat and candies is thrown on the roof tiles by the bride in order to be sweet, rich and happy. Two loaves of bread are put under the bride’s armpits so everything would be a whole. The father-in-law puts a long woven cloth around the newly-wed couple and brings them over the doorstep into the house. Galičnik Wedding is an annual ritual, full of dancing and music of the “zurla” and “tapani” and numerous rituals – buying the bride, shaving the bridegroom or rifle shooting… The Galičnik Wedding used to last for five days with its peak on the Saint Peter’s Day, the 12th of July, the time of the year when couples would wed. Galičnik wedding in our time is part of the “Galičnik Summer”, a two-day event taking place during the weekend closest to Saint Peter’s Day.

Each year the Galichnik wedding “candidates” participate in a competition resulting in one couple that gets the honor of having their wedding held in this small Macedonian village. The celebration starts off on Saturday and begins with the wedding, parade and dance, and lasts long into the night. The next day is reserved for traditional dances accompanied by hypnotic sounds of the tamburitza and the flute. Everyone is eager to see the men doing the dance called “teskoto oro” (the hard one). The Teskoto Oro dance symbolizes the overcoming of life’s difficulties. Tesko oro folk dance is very demanding because of the rhythm that continually accelerates while most of the dance is performed on one foot only. Waiting for the drums, the folk dance – “Svekrvino oro” (Mother-in law’s dance) is performed followed with taking the bride to the fountain, setting the wedding flag, inviting the dead, shaving the groom, taking the bride, kneading the bread, marriage ceremony in the church of SS Peter and Paul. A suggestive scenario, the Galichnik town architecture and its square make a perfect setting for men and women dressed in their traditional costumes; women in red, white, and black clothes. Men in linen trousers, waistcoats, ribbons, and hats that they exchange during the dance. The most important moment of Galičnik Wedding is the arrival of the bride and groom. Groom leads the white horse on whose back sits the bride. They come by the main road while girls walk in front of them throwing flowers and candy into the crowd. After that the girls join the other dancers of Galičnik Wedding and they dance until the late hours…. This is the memorable Galicnik Wedding !

Mijaci – pl. Miyaks are the Serb tribe which settles the area of western part of the present North Macedonia – in the course of the Radika River, the right tributary of Crni Drim River – Black Drim River, that is known as the Reka region. Locals of the Reka region are known in other parts as Rekanci, but also Debarci for the fact that the nearest settlement is Debar, which they administratively belonged to during the Turkish rule. The term of Galičanci is also used after the once largest Miyak village of Galicnik. The Serbian tribe of Mijaks – Miyaks in present north-western Macedonia in the Mala Dolna Reka – known as ‘Mijacija’ – is the Serb ethnic group which belongs to the old Balkan population, that for long time resisted Bulgarization and communist movement of Macedonization. Mijaks are organized in tribal communities similar to tribes in Herzegovina, Littoral, Old Crna Gora – Old Montenegro, Brda – Hills, Metohija and Raska areas. Mijaks are also very similar to the Serbs on the other side of the Sar Mountain, in the Sirinic Zhupa of Metohija area, around Strpce and Brezovica settlements in Kosovo and Metohija. The largest Macedonian settlements populated by Miyaks are Lazaropolje, Galicnik, Gari, Bituse, Selce, Osoj and Susica. However, today among Miyaks only minority declares themselves as Serbs, while majority declares them the Macedonians, and those who would consider themselves as Bulgarians almost do not exist.

The Army of Kingdom of Serbia liberated the Galičnik village on the Saint Archangels day in 1912 when it was cheerfully welcomed by population in the most famous Miyak center of the western part of the Vardar Serbia. Besides the other personalities, Galicnik provided the glorified chetnik duke and teacher Doksim Mihailovic who heroically died in the Kumanovo Battle, quick before the liberation of his birthplace.

It must be acknowledged that Galička svadba – the Galičnik Wedding is an unique tourist attraction of Macedonia and the Balkans. However, unlike many other events, this one managed to preserve the atmosphere of an ancient and beautiful folk customs. The Galičnik wedding is the joy of the local people and visitors, worth experiencing along with amazing colors, dances, smells, flavors, rhythms, and the wonderful sun of the Macedonian summer.