Bitola: A stunning Balkan town only a breath away from the Greek border


Almost a breath away from Florina and very close to the border of the two countries, Bitola is, without a doubt, the definition of a Balkan city. Picturesque old architecture, Ottoman alleyways and communist-style blocks jutting out into the skyline characterise the style of the city just 14 kilometres from the Greek border.

As Travel notes, an evolution of the once glorious Monastir, a small Thessaloniki in the heart of the Balkans that hosted consulates of almost all major European states, today's Bitola is now North Macedonia's second largest city and is quite a well known quick destination for northern Greeks to receive cheap dental procedures and cheap shopping.


Home of the delicious hot red pepper paste with ground eggplant and tomato, Bitola is located at a flavour crossroads in the centre of the Balkans, combining flavours from North-South and East-West.

Here, you can find countless jars of your favourite paste that you can spread perfectly on bread and a piece of delicious feta, enjoying a nutritious and incredibly tasty snack that suits every moment of the day.

Of course, there is no mention of the sliced ​​stuffed small red peppers which are without a doubt the perfect accompaniment to almost any meal, from salads to meats.


Of course, it goes without saying that along with gastronomy, a walk on the once lively street of Consuls, also known as Shirok Sokak, is the city's number one and most basic activity. Cafes, shops, hotels, and a Catholic church, along with everything else you can imagine are located on this large pedestrian street.

On the same street, a century and a bit earlier, the Maniakoi brothers, originally from Grevena, founded a studio to establish photography and cinema in the Balkans, leading to the establishment of the first cinema in the Balkans.

Of course, the city's cosmopolitan past is later reflected in the luxurious facades of the buildings in Shirok Sokak. Ottoman eclecticism, Western baroque and neoclassicism are everywhere in the ornate metopes and balconies of buildings that once belonged to wealthy merchants who held the daily life of the Balkan city in their hands.

But also, in the narrow streets around the main pedestrian street - the artery of Bitola, there are scattered various mansions that, unlike today, were once bustling with life and people.


In fact, some of them have been linked to unfulfilled fatal loves that have been engraved as legends in the common collective and still attract touristic and folkloric interest.

It is said that once, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish merchant fell madly in love with a Turkish officer of the Ottoman army, who went every night secretly to the balcony to meet his beloved. One day, however, the girl's father discovered the officer and killed him, and his daughter, unable to bear the death of her lover, committed suicide.

Stories like this have literally watered the streets and alleys around Shirok Sokak, always remaining a living link between the city's past and present.

Of course, however, there is no mention of the old town - Charsi as it is called - which remains the city's commercial centre to this day. Unlike many Balkan cities, where the old Ottoman centre slowly faded away and gave way to Soviet-style blocks and large avenues, in Bitola, the old Ottoman lot has not only been saved but is still functioning, as it used to be.

Small shops selling cheap clothes, stationery, and tailoring alongside small period cafes serving traditional coffee in Turkish cups continue to be the link between Monastir's bygone Balkan past and Bitola's introverted present.


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