Stobi and Gradsko – the places where Aphrodite, Eros and Dionysus embrace you

29 April, 20:21
Stobi and Gradsko – the places where Aphrodite, Eros and Dionysus embrace you

Gradsko is the centre of the municipality of the same name, located along the band of River Vardar. It is less than an hour’s drive by car, hour and a half by bus and around two hours by train from Skopje. The settlement by the Skopje – Thessaloniki railroad was founded during the construction of the railroad and the station. The railroad was built from 1871 to 1873 and the station was one of the biggest and most beautiful in Macedonia. Unfortunately, it was blown up by German troops in 1941.

As Bubi Kartulkov and his wife Dragica told me, while the Germans were blowing up the beautiful railway station, German general Alexander von Leer, who was in charge of the retreat of the German troops from Greece and Albania, bombed Belgrade and was sentenced and executed in Belgrade in February 1947, stayed in the building of the hotel at the time for one night.

Travelling by car or bus is a pleasant experience as it is mostly on a highway. But for me, travelling by train is a special experience, whether it is summer or winter. As Kame Nikolov from Ulanci, a village located on the other side of River Vardar would say: “Whatever happens, the train will go. The road is not for that train exclusively, so they will eventually have to move it”. If it happens for the journey to prolong, you will get a pleasant feeling that our country is very big. I recommend travelling by train. It is a way to see wonderful places that would otherwise be impossible to see.

In the powerful waters of Axius, Erigon and Bregalnica

The first restaurants in Gradsko were opened during the railroad construction, and after WWI a new hotel, restaurants, pastry shops and bakeries were opened, as well. There are still many restaurants in Gradsko where you can eat well, and the people are very welcoming and very good cooks. If you are fortunate enough, you can have a good fish, a good homemade brandy or delicious wine. I have even tried a wild boar in Gradsko.

The houses have nicely decorated yards with a lot of flowers, a garden and a table in the yard where you will see salads from freshly picked tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or green salad with young garlic and onion. I have been a guest in many yards and I have always felt the powerful solar energy in what is one of the driest places in the Balkan. Among the powerful waters of Axius, Erigon and Bregalnica, and the glorious antiquity of Stobi, it feels as if the heart of Macedonia is beating here.

Two kilometres away is the village of Gradsko, or Old Gradsko, as locals call it. Presumably, it was founded after the catastrophic earthquake of 518 that devastated the important centre at the time, Stobi.  

Hot kisses on sunny days

The municipality of Gradsko spreads across both bands of River Vardar, before the Tikvesh valley in the middle part of Macedonia. This is where Vardar’s two biggest tributaries, Bregalnica and Crna flow into Vardar, which is everything that a fisherman could wish for.

They used to call the first morning train from Skopje “the fishermen train”. You will hear many funny fishing stories in Gradsko, such as those about the caught catfish the size of a pig, or about the fishermen that caught catfish at night with their bare hands, etc.

The “Stobi” winery is located at the entrance to Gradsko and it is open for tourist visits. As an exclusive option in the restaurant, sometimes one of the stars of handball club “Metalurg” will welcome and serve you.

“Imagine a place on earth whose magical splendour is the result of the embraces of the most beautiful and biggest rivers and the hot kisses of the many sunny days” – this is how this winery recommends the passion of its wines.

As a result of its geographical position, Gradsko has always been the traffic and trading crossroad of Macedonia. I have been to Gradsko for good and for bad; for weddings and funerals. Of course, I have also been to Stobi. You can fully experience life in Gradsko, but you have to visit the archaeological site, which is a cultural monument of first category – national interest. It is on the list of the World monument fund among 67 sites and monuments from 41 countries in the world.

Stobi was the biggest town in the northern part of the Roman province Macedonia, later the capital of the province Macedonia Secunda, and an important urban, military, administrative, trading and religious centre of two great empires: the Roman and the early Byzantine.

Set in the heart of Macedonia, on the crossroad between the Aegean world and central Balkan, it was the point where, during its entire existence, the cultural benefits of the ancient world poured in.

The remains of this famous archaeological site are easily accessible from the international highway, which makes Stobi a very popular tourist destination in Macedonia. The night illumination of the town walls and the discovered buildings emphasise its attraction and beauty even more, as people from this national institution would tell you.

The most important monument in the town is the theatre, built around 2nd and 3rd century A.D., which is still being used, with one of the events being held there the International festival of Ancient drama. So many centuries later, its characteristics still make it a perfectionist construction.

On one occasion, Mishel Pavlovski and I went to see a play of the Veles theatre in Stobi, where we managed to take front row seats, despite the presence of several thousand people. Just as the play started, the actors hit their stride and dust from the sand started to spread and move right into our direction. And when we thought that we would definitely “choke” from it, the dust hit the wall we were standing on and went upwards at around 50-60 cm above the heads of the people in the audience and disappeared. I still haven’t seen such perfection.

And another thing about its technical characteristics. On another occasion, I went to Stobi with a group of several hundred foreign tourists, mainly elderly people. When we arrived at the theatre, they all sat in the last rows, tired and exhausted. I sat among them, looking at the disbelief in their eyes and listening to their comments full of doubt.

But, when the curator and their translator started talking from the scene beneath them, the words hit them and they immediately went silent. The first thing the curator told them was that there was no point spending a lot of money and effort on a theatre so old, which was only a monument any way. He said that it worked perfectly well. They were amazed by it, as well by the information that several big churches with mosaics and frescos were built here, and the fact that there was a Jewish community in Stobi from the 3rd century, whose remains are still visible.

You can buy a beautiful souvenir in Stobi for just a few euros – a terracotta replica of some of the discovered artefacts – Aphrodite, Dionysus, Eros, etc. Come and feel the embraces of Aphrodite, Eros and Dionysus in Stobi and Gradsko.

Edited by Goce Ristovski and translated by Darko Smilevski.

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source: МИА

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