Bukovo Monastery – Holy Transfiguration of Christ (Буковски Манастир) is located in a beautiful mountain area near the villages Bukovo and Krstoar in Bitola region.
The monastery history is very scant, but there are some data that suggest that it was built on the foundations of an older church.
The monastery church was built in 1837, in 1845 the monastery had two monks and in 1865 there was only one abbot.
Today the monastery is maintained by the local population.
In the middle of the monastery is located the church and from the old monastic enclosure walls and the main gate, only small portion was preserved. The old monastery lodgings were built southwest of the church, and they were recently renovated.
Due to the proximity of city of Bitola, the clean air and water and the picturesque mountain scenery, the monastery today is one of the most visited sites for picnic near Bitola.
The monastery was one of the favorite locations of the diplomatic corps in Bitola during Ottoman Empire, particularly the Russian Consul Alexander Arkadievich Rostkovski, who was killed by a Turkish soldier in 1903, when he was returning from the monastery in his residence in Bitola.
How to get to Bukovo Monastery
Up to the monastery leads an asphalt road through the village Krstoar and “Krstoar Monastery” in length approximately 6 km (3.7 miles) from Bitola. Much of this road (4km) is paved and is in relatively good condition, up to Krstoar Monastery. The rest of the road with a length of 2 km is a dirt road, which is in relatively good condition.
Also the monastery can be reached by foot (~ 20 min) through Bukovo village up to which also leads an asphalt road.
Magaza cultural center in Bitola is gallery exhibition space in which many temporary exhibitions or various events are held throughout the year.
During Turkish time, the “Magaza” (Storehouse) represented true haven for traders who brought their wares in Bitola.
Through these gates passed, were stored, exhibited and sold a variety of goods intended not only for the local but also for the major European markets.
This object is one of the many “Magazas” that existed in Bitola in the middle of the nineteenth century. Here were stored, negotiated and consulted the prices of products.
This object several years ago was reconstructed by the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Macedonia and was adapted as Art gallery, in which are placed numerous exhibitions of various kinds and character, are held poetry readings, chamber concerts and other cultural events.
The Clock Tower with imposing height of 32 meters, is the most recognizable landmark of Bitola.
According to some historical records, a clock tower in Bitola is mentioned as early as 1664, but we can not reliably determine whether it is the same Clock Tower that exists today. According to some researchers, today’s Clock Tower was built at the same time as the nearby church of St. Demetrius, in 1830.
Edward Lear, Monastir, 1848 – Bitola (Monastir) with Dragor River and Clock Tower
Clock Tower in Bitola – E.Therond, Monastir 1875
„There is a legend that the Turkish government collected 60,000 eggs from the local population, which were used in the mortar for the Clock Tower, as it would be stronger and more resilient.“
Until 1912 the Clock Tower in Bitola measured the time according to “alla turca” and afterwards the modern measurement of time “alla franga” was introduced.
Set on a square base with sides of 5.8 meters, the Clock Tower is entered through a door on the north side, and stone spiral staircase leads to the upper end of the tower, which houses the clock mechanism.
Clock Tower in Bitola on postcard from 1908
Pekmez Bazaar in Bitola with the Clock Tower in 1915
„Around the Clock Tower until 1947 the “Pekmez market” was located as one of many markets that were in Bitola during the Turkish rule. “Pekmez Pazar” was the place where many oriental desserts could be found (baclava, kadaif, pekmez, and many other Turkish delights) and here also were housed the most beautiful inns, tea and pastry shops in Bitola.“
Clock Tower Bitola in 1917
The first dial and clock mechanism was made by the German company “Konfage” and was placed on the Clock Tower in 1927. The belfries were replaced with “sajdzhii” responsible for the clock mechanism; the dials were white with black numbers and hands.
In 1936. in gratitude for the construction of a German cemetery, as a gift from Germany, the clock mechanism was again replaced and also 15 bells, heavy 900 kg were placed. This mechanism was restored in 1962 and in 1970 a keyboard was set for performing the new compositions. Bitola Clock Tower is one of the 180 towers in the world which has such a mechanism.
With the beautifully arranged park in its environment, the Clock Tower is one of the most visited locations in Bitola for locals and also for the large number of tourists.
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.
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.
The peak Pelister with the slopes of Baba Mountain, in 1948 are proclaimed as a National park, mainly due to the relict of the tertiary flora – Molika (Pinus Peuce Griseb) and the morphological and glacial relief in the alpine part of the mountain. Molika is five-needled pine tree that beside Pelister, can be seen only in few parts on Balkan Peninsula.
National Park Pelister is characterized by lush, well-watered forests and unique geological formations, which include layers of Paleozoic and Mesozoic magma rocks and layers of quartz. The core of the mountain is made of granite rocks, some even 465 million years old.
The mountain has several peaks higher than 2000 meters (6,500 feet): Pelister (2601 m), Veternica (2420 m), Muza (2351 m), Rzana (2334 m) and Griva (2198 m).
Pelister is also rich in rivers, springs and streams, but especially interesting are the mountain lakes located at an altitude of 2.218 meters (Big Lake) and 2.180 m (Small Lake), locally known as the Mountain’s Eyes or Pelister’s Eyes.
There are many endemic flowers in Pelister. The beauty of the area is completed with wild animals like bears, wolfs, goats, stags, boars, rabbits, a few kinds of eagles, Partridges, redbeak jackdaws and endemic Мacedonian pelagonytrout.
Visit the Park
In the north, the lower parts of the park, where the Molika pine forest dominates, there are many picnic spots that are ideal for family activities and walks.
Pelister has typical mountain climate which is characterized by long, cold winters and short and cool summers. The best time to visit Pelister is from May to October.
For walk through the Park it is advisable to wear hiking boots, as well sun and rain protection. For longer trips it is advisable to carry food and water.
The Catholic Church “Sacred Heart of Jesus” is located in Bitola city center on the main street Shirok Sokak.
In the middle of XIX century in Bitola were opened numerous consular offices and many foreign officials, merchants and members of their families, came in the city. The increased number of Catholic believers, required constant presence of priest, who would take care of the spiritual needs of the population, spiritual and school education of children and other believers.
This situation contributed in 1848 to be appointed permanent pastor whose stay in Bitola was quite short.
French Lazarists played the most important role in the establishment of the first Catholic Parish in Bitola in 1856. Founder of the Parish was Father Jean-Joseph Lepavek who after his arrival took full care of the spiritual life of the believers. He in 1857 from the “valy” of Bitola – Redzep Pasha bought the hotel Locanda, which was located on Main Street “Shirok Sokak”, and was built for the Turkish army.
Joseph Lepavek made a small chapel where on Easter 1857 he served the first Divine Liturgy, and the chapel was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Catholic mission had great support from the French Consulate which on different ways supported its work. With the strengthening of the Parish for the needs of their faithful, the Catholic Church was built, together with other facilities.
In the next period were opened within the Parish school and boarding.
In 1870 year on the present location on Main Street (Shirok Sokak) was built a new Catholic church. This church built in Baroque style in 1900 was burned in a fire.
The Main street Rue Hamidie Shirok Sokak Bitola with Catholic church 1907
The Main street Shirok Sokak, Bitola 1908
On its place in 1909 today’s Catholic Church was built in the Gothic French style.
Architectural plan for the construction of the Catholic Church was designed by French architect, but realized by the Macedonian masters.
The interior of the church consists of three altars, a large number of icons and statues of different sizes, baptistery and benches for worshipers.
Shirok Sokak Bitola with Catholic church in 1916
The main altar of wood in Gothic German style was made in Munich, Germany. The other two smaller altars are made in French Gothic style. The new altar and the wellspring made the walnut in 1975, and it was made by one of the most famous Macedonian engravers George Karadzov (Ѓорѓи Караџов).
The most dominant of all the statues is the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is located in the center of the altar.
The church tower was built between 1938 – 1940, and was a gift from Slovenian believers.
Today the Catholic Church, continues to serve the believers in the Bitola region, proudly standing also as one of the main city tourist attractions in Bitola.
Yeni Mosque in Bitola is located in the city center on the right side of the River Dragor near the Clock Tower. It was built by Kadi Mahmud Effendi in 1558-59, and in Bitola is known as Yeni (Turkish for – New) Mosque.
The base of the mosque is square, covered with a dome. Next to the mosque is a minaret, which reaches a height of over 40 m.
Yeni Mosque with Clock Tower and Pekmez Bazaar during the First World War
Until recently the premises of the mosque were used as art gallery, and later started archaeological research that showed that the mosque was built on the foundations of the old church of St. George, which existed at that place.
Today the archaeological surveys are completed, and Yeni Mosque is expected to be adapted again into an art gallery, but this time with a glass floor, through which could be seen the remains of the church St. George.
The church St. Dimitrij in Bitola was built in 1830, replacing the former old burnt chapel from 1726.
Built with special permission of the Turkish authorities, the church supposed to be modest and nondescript building, lower than the surrounding mosques.
Therefore, it was dug into the ground and is was built in just four months with donations from Bitola Christians.
The interior of the church is richly played with fascinating galleries in the second floor, Carved throne, carved iconostasis and pulpit.
The Iconostasis originates from the middle of the XIX century and was made in shallow carving, later cast and gilded. The belfry originates from 1936 and was the work of Alexander Deroko (Александар Дероко).
Today the church St. Dimitrij is the central church in Bitola, and it hosts the largest number of weddings, christenings and is the central place for all major Christian holidays.
Isak Mosque is largest and main mosque in Bitola, situated along the north bank of the Dragor River.
Built in 1506, the whole mosque complex was ideally situated between the government buildings, covered bazaar Bezisten and the Big Bridge to the other side of the river connecting it with the main street Sirok Sokak.
Isak Mosque – Bitola 1848 – Painting by Edward Lear
Popularly known as Ishakkiye, this monumental mosque was named after its founder, Judge Ishak Çelebi ibn Isa, son of Isa Fakıh.
After being a judge in Salonica for many years, Ishak Çelebi was appointed to the Kadi’s bench in Manastır (Bitola) where he moved with his family.
Today Isak mosque is a monument of culture of first category in Republic of Macedonia, which with its spectacular size and 50 meter high minaret dominates the area and can be seen from many sides of the city.
The complete mosque was recently restored by the Turkish International Agency for Cooperation and Development – TIKA.