Bitola holds many secrets from the past. Discover them! Follow The Golden Line and visit the Top Destinations in Bitola. You will remember Bitola for long time and come back.
Archaeological Site – Heraclea Lyncestis
As soon as you make the first step trough the narrow streets of Heraclea the history and the past will unfold under your feet. The name of Heraclea Lincestis inevitably brings each of us century’s back, in the period of the 4th century B.C., when this city was founded by Fillip II. Situated on one of the most important crossroads in that time, Via Egnacia (via Egnatia), Heraclea became the most important station in the region.
Its status inevitably influenced its fast development which is completely obvious not only from the historic sources, but also by the material remaining of the present site.
Each stone, each of the postaments covered with its own mysticism, brings the burden of the past. Its layers above itself the Hellenistic as well as the roman period. It braids them and creates the unique truth about this city where one after the other you can see the buildings from one or other time, place filled with columns and spread with mosaics.
The Portic of the Court (the end of the 3rd century) where the statues of the first priest of Heraclea – Tit Flavius Orest, the statue of the Goddess of justice and destiny – Nemesis have been placed, is actually the first building that will welcome you on your walk through Heraclea. The aqueduct (beginning of the 4th century) that apeares during each step down the street leads us to the Terma with its three rooms (beginning of the 4th century). They will speak up about some other, everyday dimension of the humans life and about the quality of life and care for the own health and hygiene.
But the citizens of this city were not worried only about this earthly life, because however, they were more spiritual beings. Their believe in God, in Christ, comes to attention especially during the founding of the Heracleian Episcopacy and during the building of the Christian temples. The Small Basilica with its modest dimensions is only one of the Christian temples which opens your soul, and leads you to the Great Basilica, near the Baptisterium, but also to the other rooms of this imposing building.
The floor mosaics presented in these basilicas looks like a continuance of those from the Episcopal Residence. Filled with a thousands small stones placed in a perfect harmony they waves the mosaic story of the Christianity and represents one of a kind expression of the inner spiritual life of the population. The presentations of the underground world as well as the heavenly world opposed to the bloodthirst of the earthly life, looks like they are truing to reveal the secret of life. Life and death, good and evil as eternal opponents, can be deeply felt in the Theatre complex. Following the configuration of the terrain its architects fully managed to incorporate the twelve rows of seats, the the seats for the honourable people (the VIP seats), the scene (scaenae) and the orchestra, and to bring this building to a degree of perfection.
The admiration of the Theatre shows is changed by the terror of the venatours fights, the battle between a man and a beast, that happened right here, in the same arena. That agitates the souls of the visitors and causes chills.
The brutality of the war, the bloodthirst of the beast and the rivers of blood, spilled during these fights, could not been cleaned and washed away, not even by the waters from the city fountain that is nearby the Theatre. The fountain with its constant murmuring could only tell this story again and again, and again…
Museum – Bitola
Each of us, even though we endlessly love the future, wants to look into the past and to feel its scent and to hear its sounds.
Every stone in the courtyard of this object, every door that opens in front of us preserves the sounds of the past and those of the future. In its bosom it protects the centuries and the stories about the long existence. It knows all of the stories and unselfishly gives them to anyone that wants to hear them.
Today the National Institution “Institute and Museum” – Bitola, is located in one of the most important cultural and historical monuments of Bitola, in the building of the Old Army barracks. The importance and the significance of this object is not only the result of its monumentality, but to the historical past, events and individuals that stayed here.
This place was built in 1848, when Bitola had its biggest development, was built as a Military High School – Idadie. In 1900, this High School became a Military Academy – Harabie, and as such it worked until 1909.
Museum – Bitola
The most important period of the existence of this Military Academy is connected to the period when the cadet Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – the father of Modern Turkey, was educated there.
The adaptation of this building into a Museum started in 1983. It represents a real treasure where the most valuable cultural and historical treasures from the region are kept, preserved and presented. Thousands of exponents from which only a part are exposed, keep the civilization values of different epochs, that way creating the cultural and historical map of the region.
The continuous period of existence of different cultures, their symbiosis, continuing prosperity and their diversity enables the presence of such diversity that could rarely be found somewhere else, and in such a small region. The richness of exponents (archaeological, ethnological, historical and others) are only one part through which we become witnesses of our own past
Memorial room of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
The constant archaeological exhibits where we can trace different historic periods of the region, the City Room, Memorial Room of Khemal Ataturk, as well as the numerous temporary exhibits on various themes, gives the visitors an opportunity to feel the spirit of the past and at least for a moment to steal a piece of the history, that was created by the past generations. But even this moment in the next moment will become history, so this is why it constantly becomes a part of this gathered history, of our gathered existence.
Church St. Dimitrija
The sound of the bells resounds through the air and flutters the soul. It rejoices to the new lives and mourns about those that passed by. It rejoices and cries. It echoes as a century-old vein of the city. Partly dug in the ground this church is a witness of the wit and cleverness of our masters.
If we could only look back through history, and if we could unravel the secrets of the past we will come to a lot of surprises.
The bells dominating in that vast courtyard with its sounds calls us to enter. Walking slowly, stepping into that vast yard that is revealed in front of our eyes, we will see a massive, but simple, stone building.
The year 1830, when this church was built, is not only a chronological sign but a part of the eternity. It is not only an empty content, because not even a single human moment, day or year can never be empty. They are filled with joy and happiness, with pain and suffering, with life and death. Entering through one of the entrances of the glass porch we will smell the incense and candles lightened by the trembling hands of the believers.
Praying for the health and happiness or honouring the deceased, they stop only for a moment, and enter some other world. Only in this temple, in this manner you can feel the God’s peace. Built on the place of a former “Paraklis” that burned down, with special approval according to the Sultan’s documents, it was rebuilt again. But no matter all the desires to build a tall and magnificent building, according to the Turkish law it wasn’t supposed to be taller than the previous one. So, to dig the church into the ground was the best way to respect the law, and to achieve their goal at the same time. Built, in only four months with donations from the Christians of Bitola, no matter what their ethnic belonging, this temple rises from the ashes and became a place where all the believers could freely address the God.
church st Dimitrija
Numerous craftsmen: tailors, shop owners, tavern owners, slipper makers, goldsmiths and others, each of them according to their own possibilities, but unselfishly, helped in the building of this holy temple. Its internal richness will unfold in front of us as soon as we step down the stairs, descending about 1m dug in, tree arched basilica. Then before our eyes a huge room is revealed where you can hear the God’s Word.
Two rows of massive pillars, six on each side, separate the church into three parts. The central part is the biggest one. The central part is arched, and its endings rest on the two rows of pillars. The floor galleries and all the church mobiliar give a special beauty to this temple. Thinking about the luxury and sensing the incense, in front of us we can see three altars, tall and magnificent.
The central altar is dedicated to St. Demetrius, the southern one to the Annunciation and the northern one to St. Nicolas. The whole iconostasis is made in gold plate, carved by the skilful hands of the, for now unknown, woodcarving group of craftsmen, that surely consisted of Macedonian masters. How many grape ivies and leaves are plaited to create this magic? It embraces the numerous icons that tell the story of Christianity. The lions, keepers of the temple, are following the ancient semantics, and looking from the magnificent iconostasis in each of us, they pour in appreciation before this beauty.
Clock Tower in Bitola
Every building has its own story that is passed from one generation to the other. Its truthfulness is never checked because the stories are supposed to be narrated. The only unsolved story about this Clock Tower is the story about the 60.000 eggs that the Turkish administration collected from the population, so they could be used for its building, so it could be firmer and stronger.
The sounds of the bells, the music, are spread through the air, through the small park filled with beauty. New loves, new sympathies are woven into its base, because it is the only one who knows how the secrets are supposed to be kept.
A wonderful but simple story isn’t it?
According to the legends, even though the existence of the Clock Tower was mentioned before in the 17th century, present Clock Tower was built in the 1830’s, in the same period when nearby, the Orthodox Church of St. Demetrious was built.
It was built with massive stone blocks. The main, and in the same time the most decorative part of the Clock Tower, is the part where the clock itself is placed, one on each of the four sides.
The entrance into the Clock Tower is on the north side of the tower, and it is encircled by big marble blocks. Approximately a hundred stairs leads to the clock, to its peak about 32meters high. On each of the stairs new information, new transformation begins. Those stairs lead to the top from where in the past the big metal bells sounded, indicating the precise time. In 1927, a new numbers and the first clock mechanism made by the German Company “Konfage” were placed, and some additional changes were made. The individuals in charge to ring the bells were replaced with “sajzii” which were in charge to take care of the clock and the clock mechanism. The first clock face was white with black numbers and hands, and it was smaller than the present one. This clock mechanism was changed in 1936, when 15 new bells, about 900 heavy ones, were placed there. They were a sign of gratitude for the building of the Memorial Cemetery of the German soldiers who died during the First World War.
In 1962, the mechanism was renewed, and in 1970 for the performance of new compositions, the piano was placed inside the tower. This Clock Tower is one of the 180 towers in the world which has built on this kind of mechanism. The music compositions make it even more unusual. Every six hours one of six compositions is played: “Bitola Babam Bitola”, “Biljana platno belese” etc.
This Clock Tower is not only a symbol of the time that passes by unstopping but it is a symbol of the magnificence of Bitola and her survival. The hands are moving as a sign of the past but the present time too.
Bezisten (Covered Bazaar)
In the morning, in the centre of the city near the banks of the River Dragor, four big metal doors open to the world of beauty. A luxury calls out from every store.
Silk, gold thread and other precious fabrics wrap around the body, shrouding the body.
In the evening the doors close down, keeping and hiding in its bosom the beauties, the richness…
And so on day after day, till today….
Listening to the sound of the river, feeling the wind in the face, it stands alone. Separated from its core, separated from the Bazaar it becomes a silent witness of the time that passed by.
Situated near the city centre, the Bezisten is one of the most impressive and oldest buildings in Bitola from the Turkish period. With its numerous cupolas that look like a fortress, with its tree-branch-like inner streets and four big metal doors it is one of the biggest covered markets in the region.
It was built in the 15th century by the Rumelian Beglerbey, the Grand Vizier and the famous donor Kara Daut Pasha Uzuncarsili. Although this object looks very secure, many times during its existence it was robbed and set on fire, but it managed to endure. The Bezisten, from the 15th until the 19th century, was rebuilt and many stores, often changing over time, were located there. Most of them were selling textile and other luxurious fabrics. In the same time the Bezisten was a treasury, where in specially made small rooms the money from the whole Rumelian Vilaet was kept, before it was transferred in the royal treasury. In the Bezisten in the 19th century there were a total of 84 stores. Today most of them are contemporary and they sell different types of products, but no matter what the internal transformations, the outer appearance stayed unchanged.
Only a few decades ago if you walked from the Wood Market (Drven Pazar) to the Horse Market (At Pazar), the narrow stone paved streets would lead you through 30 markets. Each of them echoed with a special sound. The coldness of the stone clanged with the warm voices of the masters – jokers and their helpers – witty. The older and younger, advices and instructions.
Every stone of those stone-paved streets, thousands of times a day feels the foreign steps, hurrying to steal a bigger part of the day. The horses trot, the camels and the wooden carts, loaded with the most beautiful products from Vienna, Paris, Istanbul, the Far East, with their cracking cuts through the air, so pleasant…
As one of the most important manufacturing centres in Macedonia, and in the larger region too, during the 19th century, over 140 types of crafts and professions existed and flourished in Bitola. All of them were located in 30 different markets, different alleys, grouped in different craftsmen associations, with their own administrative bodies. At Pazar (Horse Market), Ovci Pazar (Sheep Market), Zitni Pazar (Grain Market), Mas Pazar (Cream Market), Pekmez Pazar (Jam Market), Drven Pazar (Wood Market) and many more will welcome you with a wide open arms. You will be called by the tavern and restaurant owners, to get some rest and to get some food. The boza – vendors and the salep – vendors will sweeten you, and you will be welcomed by the markets and tradesmen.
The Old Bazaar, with approximately 900 stores, was the vein of the city where everything was created and everything was sold. There you could fill the life of Bitola. Numerous craftsmen and professions dictated the tempo of life, of all the population of the city, as well as of the surrounding places.
The hammer strikes, the machine sounds, the glow of gold and silver thread that shines from the shop – windows, tempts with their beauty.
The market days were noisy, filled with trade’s sophistry and buyer’s disapprovals. But anyway they all ended in a common pleasure. The wooden stores with a wooden window – shutters, burned down in fires, were rebuilt and changed with new ones, firmer, and closed with metal window-shutters. The closing of the shutters was a moment of temporary calmness and preparation for the next day.
And while the tailors, shoe-makers, goldsmiths and others manufacturers are leaving on a deserved rest, through the bazaar you could hear the sound of the musicians and the peace that slowly prevailed late in the night was disturbed by the bread – makers, tavern – owners and others, with the scent of freshly baked bread and food were awaking the new day.
And a new day, the same, but different than the previous one.
The window-shutters still exist, but they are not hiding former craft – shops, they keep the contemporary equipped stores. With their sound they bring the morning, and with their sound they announce the evening. They awake the curiosity and they look for the noise of those that remained the last.
The bell – makers, the hat-makers, the slipper – makers, the broom – makers across from the candle – makers, “locum – makers”, and others. The last ones as a symbol of the material and spiritual unbreakable connection between life and death.
Near the bridge, where people don’t just pass by each other, but stop to talk to each other, near the bridge that sometimes divides different worlds and destinies, here today and who knows for how long, the past and the present come together.
Isaac Celebi Ibn Isa mosque was built in 1506, and it is one of the oldest protected mosques in Bitola. Across from the Clock Tower and the Big Bezisten (Covered Bazaar), this mosque with its almost 50-meter-high minaret, simply dominates the area.
This Mosque used to be a part of a big “vakaf” (property) of the donor who in addition to this mosque built a “medressa”, “mectab”, 103 stores, vineyards, 20 watermills and many other objects. All this property was supposed to be maintained by the income from his stores in the Bazaar, as well as from the incomes of the other parts of his property.
This single-room under-dome mosque, surrounded with always nurtured plants, represented a real resting place for the soul of its donor, but as well as to the believers that come here to say their prayers or simply to hear God’s words. Built in a “cloisonné” technique, where the cut stones and bricks alternate, we can see the unusual but attractive appearance of this important object.
The entrance of the object actually represents an entrance within the double closed porch of the mosque, which, with its vastness only announces the big interior of the mosque. The four pillars, resting on a high stone pedestals ends with identical capitals. This pillars that dominate the room are the main decorative element in the porch. The main portal is situated on the northwest wall of the porch. Through this entrance the believers with their soundless steps, stepping slowly and calmly, enter into the prayer space. There they are welcomed by the luxurious, richly painted decorations, on which the breaking rays dance on the numerous crystal pieces of the chandeliers, dancing the eternal game of light and shadows.
Numerous decorative elements are also present on the “mihrab”, the “mimbar” but on the “kjuirs” too. The decoration of these elements is usually geometrical without disturbing the total ambience of the mosque.
The game of the colours and shapes is reflected in every single part of the mosque. The change of grey – black, blue, gold with a stronger cobalt – blue, dark – green, dark – red colours, gives a distinctive uniqueness to this mosque.
Its characteristics cannot be complete if we don’t mention the gold-plated “Levha” in the shape of disk, which was a gift from the Sultan Reshad V, and which is even today kept with great appreciation.
Original text is taken from: www.bitola.info