The modern day country of Macedonia was once part of the now gone Yugoslavia, ruled behind the Iron Curtain by the Soviets in the mid to late 20th century. Today the country still experiences some of the bureaucracy of the time, but it's a small price to pay to see it.
For thousands of years people have come to Macedonia (which borders Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania), the Greeks and Romans, Byzantines and Ottoman Turks; and they've all wanted to stay. So will you.
Start at the capital city of Skopje, whose Old Town is chocked full of restaurants and shops. Try some gravce tavce, a bean skillet dish; and a burek, a pie filled with ham, spinach, cheese in a flaky crust. Or, go for something served with ajvar, a sauce made with red peppers--the sweet kind, of course.
As wonderful as eating as your way through Macedonia, it's got a historical side that begs to be seen. Just 11 miles from the Greek border are the Ottoman Ruins in the town of Bitola.
Bitola is connected to Skopje by rail, so getting here is simple enough. In fact, much of Macedonia is connected by train--making it an easy way to get around.
How else will you be able to see the Church of the Holy Saviour (16th century) in places like Kursumli? Or, the 10th century Kale Fortress and the 12th century Byzantine frescoes at St. Pantlejmon, for that matter?
Much of Macedonia's sites have to do with monasteries and mosques, in part due to its medieval and Ottoman history. But as said before, Greeks and Romans once lorded over the land. So to see what they've left behind, head to Heraclea Lyncestis, dating from the 4th century BC. It's mosaics are a stunning look at Ancient art, that's for sure.
The natural side of Macedonia is as wonderful as anything else, which you can see from the Korab, the tallest mountain in the country. The Smolare Waterfall is striking, and the with three large lakes you're bound to find one you love.
Lake Ohrid might be the clear winner, where you'll find fortress walls and the first Slavic University. After a walk around the lake, make sure you see the 11th century frescoes at the Cathedral of St. Sofia.
All that's necessary to experience the best of Macedonia is either a passport or European Union Identification Card. Only some foreign nationals need a visa, so checking with the consulate is wise.
Even if you don't speak Macedonian, you'll be fine. A myriad of languages are spoken throughout its 25,000 square kilometers--from Albanian, Turkish, English, French, and German.
So long as you can communicate with one of these, you can talk about the weather to anyone listening. Just remember, summers can get very hot (perfect for all the watersports); and winters can get very cold. No wonder skiing is a popular activity.
And with no known health concerns, Macedonia is a relatively safe place to travel. No wonder no one wanted to leave.