Eight kilometers north of Prilep in south central Macedonia there exists one of the most spectacular monasteries I have ever had the fortune of visiting and in one of the most spectacular of ways.
Treskavec Monastery. By motorcycle.
More specifically, a fluorescent green Ninja motorcycle that would probably have made my mom cry, but with unobstructed views like these and that feeling of fresh wind in my face, I have to say it was well worth all risks involved. If I was going to go out, this would have definitely been one hell of a way.
Treskavec itself is spectacular not so much in its size or aesthetics, but rather its surroundings and the journey you take to get there. Once one of the most inaccessible monasteries in the country, there is now a well-paved road that will bring you all the way from Prilep. Before the only way was by 4-wheel vehicle or hiking it as thousands upon thousands of religious pilgrims have done for centuries. Sixteen, to be exact.
There are traces of an early Christian church on this spot dating from the 5th and 6th Century, but most of what you see now was built in the 12th and 13th Century. Sadly a major fire in February 2013 destroyed the surrounding living quarters where visitors used to be able to stay overnight, though miraculously its heart survived – Church of the Holy Mother of God – and is beating stronger than ever.
The interior of the church is insanely cool with frescoes from the 15th Century onwards and a stoned Turk. Like a Turk that was turned into stone for trying to mess with the monks back in the day…or something of that nature (this was according to my local friend). Unfortunately I missed meeting the man, the myth, the legend – Father Kalist, the one and only monk who now runs the Treskavec show. Next time I visit you can be sure I will get all the facts straight from the guy that knows best, but until then, hope you will settle for this extremely abridged version and more photos.
After we lit some candles and made some wishes, we did a little wandering outside the monastery walls. Treskavec is situated on the highest peak in the region, Zlatovrv aka Golden Peak, so no doubt it offers some pretty insane views of the Pelagonia plain below. For the rugged tourists and/or outdoor enthusiasts out there – the trail from Prilep just may be one of the best hikes in the country given its historical significance, unique surroundings (funky karst rock formations for days), and the mystical monastical reward you get at the end, so put it on your list.
The next time I visit Treskavec, because that’s going to happen, I think I might attempt that hike. Going Fast and the Furious style was way cool, but for such a sacred site, I think walking a few hours to get there surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature would make for a really special experience. Plans are in the works to restore the damaged parts so hopefully it won’t be long before guests will be able to stay overnight again, but not going to hold my breath. Incidentally, if you’d like to donate to restoration efforts, you can visit the monastery’s website where you will find their bank information.
Believe me when I say this is one sight in Macedonia that is not to be missed and luckily it’s much easier to visit than I had originally thought. Prilep is the fourth largest city in the country and there are frequent connections from Skopje that take a little over 2 hours. In the event that you find yourself there without a car or buddy with a motorcycle and don’t feel like hiking it to Treskavec, there are plenty of cabs you can catch from the bus station and it shouldn’t cost more than 800 denar depending on how long you want to spend there.
Special thanks to my friend Nikolce from Prilep for being such a great guide and getting me to and from Treskavec in one piece – was an awesome day!