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Entries in Macedonia (5)


Through the eyes of a baby

Just back from our great trip through the Balkans, I can only imagine those few moments that captured the imagination of Hayden:

Splashing everyone outside the mosque in Mostar

Eating chocolate ice-cream with daddy in Belgrade

Going for a good splash in Lake Ohrid

Playing with his new dinosaur toys in Pristina

Going around the merry-go-round six times in a row in Skopje




The most stupid international dispute?

While travelling around Macedonia it was impossible not to be reminded that Macedonians are victims of what must be the most stupid international feud still running. Since the ascension of the new Republic of Macedonia to the United Nations in 1993, they have been blocking from using their constitutional name. Instead, on the insistence of Greece and against their will, they are called the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.). Greece also claims that Macedonians should not be allowed to call their citizens or their language "Macedonian"

What provoked this petty act by Greece?

First, according to Greece, "Macedonia" is a term that is only allowed to be used for Greeks in the northern greek province of Macedonia. Both Macedonias are named after the 2000 year-old kingdom of Macedon, a kingdom which varied in size but did include the modern Greek province of Macedonia as well as small parts of Bulgaria and a sizeable part of the Republic of Macedonia. However according to the Greeks, it is only people who are directly descended from people living in Macedon who are allowed to call themselves Macedonian. By this rationale, any Greek family that moved to Macedonia only 1500 years ago should not be allowed to called themselves Macedonian, what must be a record for anti-immigrant policy.

Second, Greece claims that the use of the word Macedonia is tantamount to a territorial claim on Greek land (it is not, just as Ohio is not claiming Greek territory simply by naming a city "Athens" - either that, or Greece is happy to bully a small country, but doesn't dare to bully a large one). The idea that a name can refer to multiple places seems beyond them. Somehow they have seemed to miss the fact that Belgium has no problem recognising Luxembourg, even though Belgium has a province called Luxembourg which neighbours the homonymous state. Likewise the US recognising the countries of Georgia and Columbia, despite having a state and a district with the same name.  

Third, Greece claims that people will think that Alexander the Great (also known as Alexander of Macedon) actually came from the Republic of Macedonia, rather than from the province of Macedonia. Actually, 10 years into the dispute, several Macedonia politicians have started to taunt Greece with this, but so what? Anyone who knows enough history to know that Alexander the Great was born in Macedon would also know that he founded the Greek Empire. And so what if a few people are confused? All of the "founding fathers of America" were born in the British Empire. Australia lays claim as "Australian" to any starlet that spent more than two weeks in the country. 

The other perplexing part of the naming dispute is that anyone bothers to listen to Greece. If Greece insists on acting spiteful, just let them. Why on earth should Greece have a say? Did anyone ask the people of the other 34 countries in the Americas if the USA should be recognised by the UN as the United States of America? My suggestion is that we call Greece "the former Ottoman province of Greece" until they grow up. And next time Greece wants something from the international community (such as a financial aid package), a non-negotiable condition should be dropping the naming dispute. And in case anyone thinks this is just at a political level, 95% of the Greek population support their government on this issue. 


The Independent Republic of Vevčani

In 1993 the village of Vevčani had a major protest in response to the Yugoslavian government's plans to divert the course of the town's stream. This "Vevčani Emergency" escalated to the point where the residents of Vevčani declared their independence and became the Republic of Vevčani. Even today, they are considered to have a contrarian streak in Macedonia, hosting a major festival every year mocking Macedonian culture and politics, and still issuing their own passports and money. Of course, we could not resist the chance for Hayden to get dual citizenship, so he is now officially an honourary citizen of Vevčani.

Apart from the micronation status, Vevčani boasts the only running water-mill in Macedonia and a mountain spring.




Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

We are currently staying in Ohrid, on the shore of the lovely Lake Ohrid. It is a charming city, with a gorgeous old town full of meandering paths and old stone buildings and a new town planned around parks splendid to stroll through.

We spent yesterday in the city, and Hayden especially enjoyed our after-lunch paddle in the lake. 

Today we went out boating on the lake, with water so crystal clear it rippled like a satin sheet.

We visited one of the old monasteries that line the shore and walked along a natural spring river. 

Finally, we had a long swim in the lake at a secluded cove that can only be reached by boat. So nice to swim in warm water without all the bothers of an ocean beach (salt, sand, poisoness jellyfish and all the rest). Hayden must be turning into a water baby, he loved his splashing around so much.

One of our best days on holiday.