Prilep is a city in the Western Macedonia, nicknamed "The city under Marko’s towers" (referring to the fortress). The city is the Macedonian tobacco capital. The population is 76,769 (Prilep municipality). The city was the capital of the medieval kingdom of Kings Volkasin and Marko which explains the large number of churches and monasteries in and around the city.
What is most striking about Prilep is the strange bare scenery with huge rocks scattered around. The city is nestled below a bare hill. On the top of the hill, ruins of a medieval fortress stand. All around the city are tobacco fields, and if one visits the city in late summer or fall, one will see tobacco drying everywhere he turns. What is unique about Prilep is the strange sense of humor its inhabitants have and the way they preserved their traditional way of life. Near Prilep is Mariovo Region, one of the most untouched regions of Macedonia, with small half deserted villages scattered in untouched nature.
Even though the city has been in existence since ancient times, its peak was in the middle ages. In 1018 it was here that emperor Samuil died of a heart attack when he saw his army of 14,000 blinded by the Byzantine Emperor Vasilij. Prilep was the capital of the medieval kingdom of King Volkasin (r 1350-1375) and his son King Marko (r 1375-1395). They both tried to stop the progress of the Turkish expansion, they are remembered as mythical heroes in the folk tales and songs. After the death of King Marko, Prilep was conquered by the Turks. On 11th of October 1941 in Prilep, the rebellion of the Macedonian people against the fascist occupation began.
In Prilep the whitest marble in the world is found. The marble is called "Sivec". The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is made of Sivec, and the marble has also been used in building the White House and other buildings in Washington, D.C.
Prilep and the village of Varosh are attached to each other. In the middle ages Varosh was actually the city and Prilep was a suburb attached to the city.
The center is small and it is easiest to get around on foot. The bus station is in the center. To get to Varosh village, you can get a taxi (around 50 denars, ask to be dropped at the monastery and then walk down to visit the churches), or walk for about 20 to 30 minutes.
– Prilep has small, pleasant and well maintained bazaar with orthogonal streets. Of interest are the Clock tower (the most beautiful one in Macedonia) built in 1858 and Carshi Mosque built in 1475, the only one in Europe with two balconies on its minaret (awaiting restoration).
Sv.Blagoveshtenie Church – excellent example of revival period architecture. Built in 1838, it is three nave basilica with galleries, and lavish woodcarving (furniture and 17m long iconscreen)
Markovi Kuli Fortress – a 30min hike from Varosh village will take you to the ruins of the medieval fortress known as Markovi kuli. The hike is through a strange bare landscape with huge rocks in different shapes. On the beginning is the Stone elephant work of nature. The remains of the fortress look as if they are growing from the huge rocks and there are striking views over Prilep and the surrounding plain. The remains that can be seen are from the 10th to the 14th c. The fortress can also be reached by much more scenic, but much more rough path from Holy Archangels Monastery. If you are visiting the fortress in summer do it before noon and bring water along since the path has no shades.
Holy Archangels Monastery – with its church built in the 12th and dormitories on both sides it looks as if the monastery has grown out of the rocks. There are few compositions of frescoes left inside. Ask the nuns to point you to entrance of the crypt below the church (entered from outside). On the columns of the porch of the church look for the second oldest inscription in Cyrillic letters dated 996. Walk around the monastery to admire the scenic landscape and scattered ancient and early byzantine ruins.
St. Nikola Church – one of the loveliest churches in Macedonia is this small and slim church built in 1299 in Varosh village. The facades are elaborately and carefully decorated. The frescoes inside are excellent, with very vivid colours and well preserved. Look for the outstanding Mocking of Christ and Juda’s kiss frescoes. In the altar look for the frescoes of an earlier church painted in the 12th century. The church is open on weekends in the morning but if you ask around someone will come and open the church for you. In the past the key was in the house next door but I think it is not there any more (ask anyway and you’ll be pointed in the right direction, or ask in one of the stores so you won’t have to walk back and forth). Leave a small donation.
St. Dimitrie Church – built in the late 13th century, it is the biggest church in Varosh village. The builders had a problem with managing the uneven terrain and they did a mistake visible in the uneven roof on the different sides of the dome. The inside is in a decay and has a special middle age atmosphere. Ask for the key in the house next door.
St. Atanasie Church – built in the 14th century, stands in ruins before Holy Archangels Monastery.
St. Peter Church and St. Bogorodica Precista Church – two small churches in Varosh village, the first from the 14th and the other from the 15th century Ask for the key next door.
There is a selection of cafes, bars and clubs in Prilep, most of the them in and around the old bazaar and in the shopping mall that stands on the main square. Here are some of the popular destinations:
Cafe Cavalli: the best downtown cafe bar and nightclub, with free Wi-Fi. Located in the heart of downtwon, on the main boulevard Goce Delcev, close to the Alexander the Great statue. Call +389-71-208-210 for reservations.
In the center of the town there are at least twenty cafe bars offering a variety of fun and you can have a nice time enjoying some very modern or rustique views of architecture.
Astra Rent-a-Car Tel: +389-71-214-071. Affordable and fully insured car rental in the center of the city, with signing contract available in English. You can travel everywhere in the country and also outside of Macedonia. Specially organized trips to Treskavec Monastery with off-road jeep and a tour guide are available. Company is part of Pension Breza hotel.
Treskavec Monastery – built in the 14th c, set in the beautiful bare scenery, the monastery is renowned as the place with the most beautiful sunset in Macedonia. The frescoes inside are good and from different periods 14th, 15th, 16th and 19th c. Check out the interesting woodcarving of the door and other furniture in the church. The monks that live here are quiet and keep to themselves. It is possible to spend the night in the monastery for free. The hike to the monastery takes at least 2 hours, but it is through fascinating scenery. Take a taxi (50 denars) to the graveyard and start the hike from there (just tell the taxi driver to take you to the beginning of the path, and he’ll know). If you go in summer start early, if you want to take the hike in winter, early spring or late fall, ask around before to make sure the path is passable.
Zrze Monastery – personal favourite, the monastery has two churches joined under one roof, the older one is built in the middle of 14th c., and the other one right next to it, is built 17th c. Excellent frescoes are the ones painted on the main facade of the church under a charming porch. The monastery stands on a plateau with breathtaking view over Pelagonija plain and the surrounding mountains. The monks are very friendly and they’ll prepare tee and coffee for you. They will also tell you the history of the monastery and show you the surroundings. Look for the water spring behind the monastery for the most tasty water I have ever tried. The monastery is 34km north-west of Prilep on the road towards Brod, and it includes some effort to be reached. To the village of Zrze there is 5km dirt road, and from there 30min. pleasant hike. Possibilities: arrange a taxi from Prilep (he’ll probably refuse to drive the dirt road); take a bus going to Brod, ask to be dropped at the village Ropotovo and from there take a taxi or hitchhike to the beginning of the dirt road, walk the rest. Because of the lack of premises for visitors, the monastery is open for everyone only for one-day visits.
Mariovo region - one of the least developed regions of Macedonia with small half deserted villages scattered in untouched nature. Milco Mancevski films his movies here.