Prilep - Saint Arhangel Mihail Monastery

From Skopje Airport I drove with my tiny Volkswagen Up to Veles and was treated with surprisingly nice views a long the way. It was only a half an hour drive but enough for me to get adjusted again to the new environment: Macedonia and leave behind my flat homecountry of The Netherlands. Veles turned out to be an adventure in itself. After I rephotographed Kurt Hielscher's photo there, a thunderstorm chased me away from Veles and at the time I arrived at the Pletvar pass, the weather conditions improved, but the archeological site of Stobi, only a few kilometers away from the main road, I had already missed by then. 

Saint Arhangel Monastery near Prilep, Macedonia, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Saint Arhangel Monastery near Prilep, Macedonia, 15th of June 2018. Photo: Casper Molenaar

Arriving in Prilep, the fourth city in Macedonia with over 66.000 inhabitants, I bought a good burek and had a nice walk through the city center before I headed towards Saint Arhangel Monastery, which is only 2,5 kilometers from the city center. The Monastery dates back to the late 12th century AD and is situated on an altitude of nearly 800 meters. Latest extensive restoration works were executed until 1861, but as we can see th echurch tower has also been changed radically in between 1926 and now.

No way I was allowed to make a photo inside the monastery, somebody warned me in advance. When I entered, and I was the only one visiting at the time, a nun was awaiting for visitors. She made sure that I saw her the moment I entered the gate. I decided to walk straight to her and ask her if I could make one photo. I told her about my project, and showed the old photo from Kurt Hielscher. Four telephonecalls and fifteen minutes later I was allowed to take only one photo. So I took this one, and immediately afterwards I realised I was not on the exact right spot. I should have taken more distance, a little more to the left, uphill, so actually from the garden. Well, that was not going to happen. Ofcourse I thanked her for being cooperative and besides that I felt she was really interested in my project, the other places I was going to visit and the photos from Kurt Hielscher. But it was her job to stick to the rules, and I respected that. I don't think I had much of a choice anyway. 

View to the west from the Monastery with grazing horses. Prilepsko Polje, the Plain from Prilep, is known for its tobacco.

Scaffolding at the entrance of the Monastery. Behind this door is taking photographs not allowed.

The Monastery is surrounded by characteristic rock formations with moss, that I had not seen before in my life, nowhere in the Balkans nor in the French Alps nor Pyrenees. Though it had been a rainy day, the colors were catching. At the other side of the mountain, as the crow flies but not visible only 300 meters, you can find the famous Markovi Kuli, the remnants of the fortress towers, one of the main touristic attractions in Prilep and surroundings. Nearby there's a really huge rock formation that looks like an elephant. I did not visit the Markovi Kuli nor did I saw the elephant, because of my tight time schedule I continued my trip back to the northeast to Štip and Kratovo. I hope to come back one day and take more time for a visit to Prilep and surroundings, like Prilepsko Ezero, the marble lake and that other Monastery: Treskavec.

Saint Arhangel Monastery near Prilep, Macedonia, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Saint Arhangel Monastery near Prilep, Macedonia, 15th of June 2018. Photo: Casper Molenaar

On my way to Prilep I passed the Pletvar pass. Well, actually I saw the pass on my way to Prilep coming from Veles, but it was raining on my way there and I did not get out of the car passing the pass. Also, I didn't bring a copy of the photo of Kurt Hielscher. I had done some research through Google Earth and based on that, I didn't expect to be able to find the pass with the same view as it was before. I was wrong. Anyway, in the late afternoon on my way back from Prilep to Štip I decided to make a stop, go for a pee and just made some photos not knowing it was the same place, but I did feel something. Now I know it was that feeling when I go into the footsteps of Kurt Hielscher.

Pletvar Pass, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher

Pletvar Pass, 15th of June 2018. Photo: Casper Molenaar.

Below: view on the Monastery with my white Volkswagen Up parked in front of it.

In the footsteps of  Kurt Hielscher