Sometimes we go to these off-the-beaten track places like Ohrid and hit a home run. We loved it. Then there’s Bitola, not exactly a strike out, but kind of a lazy fly ball.
Bitola is Macedonia’s second largest city, down in the southwestern part of the country and just a little north of the border with Greece. It was founded by Philip of Macedon in the 4th century BC and for many years was a key cultural, educational, and commercial hub. From the time of the Ottomans it was known as the “City of Consuls” as so many nations had consuls here. So it sounded interesting.
More interesting than it was, it turns out. There was a lively street of outdoor cafes and that was fun but it was kind of limited. There were some ruins about a mile out of town that were worth an hour or so. Mostly the ruins were pretty run-of-the-mill stuff, but the mosaics, covered up for some 1,400 years, were pretty impressive. And I loved a bit of the history: the city was an important part of the Byzantine empire but was sacked by a rising threat to Byzantium, a guy named Theodoric. Ultimately Emperor Zeno convinced Theodoric to turn his attention to the remnants of the Western Roman Empire instead, which Theodoric proceeded to conquer in the late 5th century. As Rome in those days was something of a … how do you say it? Shit hole? … he made Ravenna his capital and developed the fantastic mosaics we fell in love with last summer.
But for those ruins, though – and even they were at best a brief visit – there wasn’t a lot to see. So I did what I liked to do when there’s not a lot to do and climbed up a big hill out of the city to look down. And that’s it. From here we move into Bulgaria, a country we visited and loved back in 2010.