Monuments are both symbols of collective memory and the cornerstones of a culture. They are reference points from which we gain insight into one part of a society, sometimes our own, sometimes another people’s, and sometimes beyond that entirely.
Everywhere you step, the Ohrid region is full of monuments. Some are more obvious than others. The unmissable Tsar Samoil Fortress is a powerful reminder that sleepy Ohrid town is strong enough to capital an empire, while little-known Krst Dzamija, the Mosque With A Cross, reveals more about the complicated history of Islam, Christianity and power-struggles in the Balkans than many history books can in a thousand pages.
At the other end of the scale, one Ohrid monument is so big that you might not even realize you’re inside it! Called the Balkan Green Belt, it marks the borderlines of the East-West divide that separated Europeans during the 20th century. Much of the area contains elite natural habitats that are now being transformed into national parks as a symbol of harmony and survival. In Macedonia, it runs along the old Yugoslav-Albanian border, yet many visitors are completely unaware of the tribute to hope and endurance they become part of when they travel to the Ohrid region.
Nature has other monuments too. Mount Galichica on Lake Ohrid’s east shows an Ice Age legacy both in its geology and its expansive collection of plants and animals. If you can spot the signs, you will see how glaciers passed through the region thousands of years ago. Elements of the plant-world give hints about what the vegetation might have looked like back then too. Some species only exist in the Arctic and high European mountains!
Meanwhile, an emerging monument is Studenchishte Marsh and visitors can even contribute to its development. Wetlands used to abound at Lake Ohrid and Macedonia, but most were drained to fight malaria or expand agricultural land. Studenchishte has not only so far survived, but is now a focal point for environmental protection in the Republic of Macedonia. It contains many rare species and even provides life-support to Lake Ohrid’s World Heritage ecosystems!
Right now, visitors cannot enter the wetland, but there is a growing movement to establish it as a recreation area with boardwalk so that people can enjoy its nature without causing damage. Take a stroll by, snap a photo under the #SaveLakeOhrid hashtag, and explain in a sentence why you went to visit, and we’ll use your work to formally establish Studenchishte as a Monument of Nature according to Macedonia’s official nature protection categories.
That’s an impressive holiday legacy…