Bazaars in Bitola flourished especially during the nineteenth century, when they were spread from “Drven Pazar” (Дрвен пазар – wood market) to “At Pazar” (Ат Пазар – Horse Market), with more than 2,000 stores, many shops, mills, inns and Covered Bazaar – Bezisten.
There were over 30 functionally divided bazaars, determined according to the goods being sold: Pekmez bazaar (Пекмез пазар), Cereal bazaar (Житни пазар), Horse bazaar (Ат пазар), Wood bazaar (Дрвен пазар), “Lenski”, Covered bazaar etc.
With the migration of Vlachs in Bitola, the Vlach bazaar was formed, and some of the bazaars were named after the name of the street where the products have been sold “Рибарниците” (Fish market street), “Бунар” (Well) and others.
Bitola – Turkish neighborhood with shops, 1915
Old photos Source: Битола низ стари разгледници – автор: Димче Најдов
Jewish bazaar, Bitola, 1915
Wood Market – Bitola 1915
Bitola “Pekmez” Bazaar in 1915.
Interesting is the link of the Bazaar with other parts of the city.
Despite being located in the downtown area, without interference, through it passed the busiest streets: the north was a hill from which its direction there were more smaller streets (alleys and chikmaci); West-East direction was one of the busiest in the direction the Dragor river, and on the south side, at the Clock Tower and Yeni Mosque, the bazaar was organically linked to the main street in Bitola – Sirok Sokak (Широк Сокак – Wide Street).
The Bazaar in Bitola, repeatedly suffered from large fires.
Thus, in 1835 a fire destroyed nearly 2,000 stores; 1862 again were burned 1,800 stores; while in the 1897 Cereal-market and over 200 other buildings were destroyed.
This was the main reason why since the middle of XIX and beginning of XX century the stores were build from solid materials: brick, stone, iron, etc., with a massive metal shutters, many of which can be still seen today.
Wood Market on photo postcard from 1916 with a view to the southwest.
Wood Market with a view to the northeast – 1916
Apart from facilities that were used for economic purposes, through the bazaar there were other massive buildings: mosques, baths, shops, inns, fountains, turbo, etc., of which the centerpiece had the covered Bazaar – Bezisten.
But like everything in life, the glory and splendor of the Old Bazaar in Bitola, started to fade from the last years of XIX and beginning of XX century.
The decline of the Turkish Empire and the emergence of the modern and high-quality European goods produced by industrial means, which were not only cheaper, but also at better quality, have destroyed the manual production.
Many people, regardless of national and religious affiliation, were starting to go abroad, the consuls and many rich people have left the city.
With the start of the disorders in the weaken Turkish empire, the Ilinden upraise, the Young Turk Revolution, the Balkan wars, and the new border with Greece, found on 14 km from Bitola after the peace of Bucharest (1913) and the division of Macedonia, gave many devastating blows to the bazaar of Bitola .
The former city on the crossroads of the Balkans, was now completely closed to trade and communication with former partners from the East and West.
The beginning of the First World War (WW1) had also devastating consequences to the city of Bitola and the Old Bazaar, since during the period of two years 1917 – 18 the city was constantly bombarded, and many of its parts have been torn down. This was the hardest blow of Bitola Bazaar which never regained its previous glory and economic power.
Today, the bazaar continues to live, but at other times, beliefs and social relations.
Changed and tired of the burden of years, events and people, “dressed” in new, modern clothes, the Old Bazaar still keeps the memories of former golden times.
Bitola today remains proud of the Old Bazaar, as one of the most beautiful monuments of its rich cultural heritage.