North Macedonia, just like a fairy tale
North Macedonia is a landlocked country in the heart of the Balkan peninsula. It is enclosed between Serbia in the north-east, Kosovo in the north-west, Albania in the west, Greece in the south and Bulgaria in the east. It has no coastline, but many lakes and rivers, of which Ohrid Lake is the largest and Vardar the longest (lake and river respectively). The Lord of the Rings vibes? Well, the mountainous landscape with many mountain tops over 2000 m, deep gorges, brown bears, wolves and jackals are also reminiscent of the land of elves, nymphs and walking trees. A fairy tale of a country.
Facts from North Macedonia
Just over 2 million Macedonians live in the republic of North Macedonia. They usually speak Macedonian and pay in denars. Macedonian is a Slavic language, very similar to Bulgarian, and is written with a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet. The country’s capital and largest city is Skopje, with a population of around 595 000. Stevo Pendarovski has been president of the country since 12 May 2019, Zoran Zaev is on his side as prime minister.
A Macedonian history
The Macedonian language, the dishes and the customs show the experienced traveller different cultural influences. The country fell under Ottoman rule for centuries, became part of the Serbian empire after the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913, was ruled by Bulgaria during the First and Second World Wars and was a state of communist Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1991. In 1991 the state declared its independence under the name Macedonia. In 1993, North Macedonia became a member of the United Nations. The new country suffered little or no impact from the wars that divided the rest of former Yugoslavia. But most fairy tales have grim sides, as does this history.
In 1998, an extreme nationalist orthodox government came to power under Prime Minister Georgievski and war broke out in neighbouring country Kosovo. Many ethnic Albanian Kosovars fled to North Macedonia. The guerrilla movement UÇK-M or the Macedonian National Liberation Army was formed and strove for independence. It led to an armed conflict which, although short-lived, was not free of war crimes.
The sun is, too, a star in North-Macedonia
Noord-Macedonië wordt volgens sommigen ook wel het land van de rode aarde en de zon genoemd. Google kon ons niet vertellen hoe dat zo kwam, maar wij nemen aan dat het iets met de Noord-Macedonische vlag te maken heeft – een stralende, goudgele zon op een blinkend rode achtergrond.
According to some, North Macedonia is called the land of the red earth and the sun. Google could not tell us why, but we assume it has something to do with the North Macedonian flag – a shining golden sun on a shiny red background. “The Sun, too, is a Star” was the slogan of the campaign for the European integration of Macedonia launched by the Social Democratic Party (SDSM) in the early 2000s. North Macedonia has been an official candidate for joining to the European Union since 2005. The reasons why North Macedonia is still a candidate and not an official member may be a little too complex to fully explain here. However, an old dispute with Greece over the country’s name has something to do with it. Both countries claimed the historical legacy of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia. For years, Greece (which has a province called Macedonia) blocked the accession of North Macedonia (then called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) to the European Union and NATO. The Macedonian name conflict even kicked it into its own wikipedia page. In 2019, North Macedonia officially became North Macedonia. A compromise that paid off – North Macedonia is a member of NATO since 27 March 2020.
The Македонска cuisine
As you know, local cuisine is a particularly important part of Ryce travels. Yes, we go out to shred and grab powdered snow, but a person needs to eat, and eat well of course. Rumour has it, that North Macedonia (just like the rest of the Balkans) is known for its cuisine. The dish par excellence is tavče gravče – a bean dish that tastes much more exciting than it sounds. In addition, we treat ourselves to gjomleze, makalo, bread richly sprinkled with ajvar, spicy sausages, savoury cheeses and local wines.
Would you like to try these new dishes out at home, but don’t know how? Surf to ajvar.nl,, a dutch website that bundles dishes from all over the Balkans (and beyond) in a clear tone, peppered with facts and stories. It will catapult you right back on your journey.