Kruševo, a magical little mountaintop town in western Macedonia, is a place that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves. At 1,350 meters above sea level, it’s the highest town in the country which can make it seem a bit removed compared to other popular destinations in Macedonia, but that is indeed what makes it so special and more than worth going out of the way for.
From Skopje (168km away), there is one direct mini bus in the morning and two in the afternoon, from Bitola (55km away) there is one in the morning and one in the afternoon, or just take any bus to Prilep (35km away) and from there you have about six or seven that leave throughout the day. Whichever route you choose, your approach to the town will take your breath away as you make your way up Busava mountain with the rolling Pelagonia plain slowly shrinking behind you when suddenly…KRUŠEVO.
Kruševo is one of the most historically significant spots in Macedonia and became my home away from home on a whim a couple of years ago while I was aggressively traveling around the Balkans for seven months straight and decided mid-way I really needed to find a place that could serve as a temporary base to just chill for a bit. Not only 1,350 meters above sea level, but 1,350 meters above the Balkan hustle of the region’s capital cities which I was mostly traveling between, Kruševo was like a paradise of peace for me and the perfect place to detoxify my vital organs, catch up on writing, and reflect on the vagabond life. For this Kruševo will always hold a very special place in my heart and here are few of my favorite things I suggest you check if you decide to make the trip.
Wander around Kruševo town
Kruševo is one of those living museum towns where things may be slightly in disrepair, but more or less where time has stood still for a couple of centuries. It’s easy to spot the homes which were built by ballers with their beautiful facades while in the same moment you might be stepping over cows as you meander down the cobblestoned roads which all lead to the center.
Be warned, the streets are ridiculously steep. Like it was blowing my mind how most of Kruševo is populated by senior citizens considering the effort it took for me to get up and down from the center of town to Montana Palace – must be something in the water here? But this is the mysterious attraction of Kruševo.
Montana Palace Hotel
Montana Palace is the only proper hotel in Kruševo and ultimately became my place of residence while I was there because of its awesome location and the even more awesome staff who became more or less like my Macedonian family by the time I left.
The rest of the accommodation you will find in Kruševo is mostly guest houses or self-service apartment rentals, but what I loved most about the Montana Palace was its location overlooking the town, that it was close to a few really lovely walking trails, and the fact that there were interesting visitors constantly passing through. Admittedly there is absolutely nothing to do in Kruševo in the way of nightlife, or even much life during the weekdays as it’s one of those towns where most of the youth have left for better work opportunities elsewhere and therefore extremely quiet, so to be in a place that was getting a constant influx of people and had a full-time staff I could always chat with kept me stimulated just the right amount.
Makedonium (Ilinden Monument)
One of the most striking objects in Kruševo you won’t fail to notice is the large, white spomenik that resembles a galactic dog toy which sits at the top of Gumenja Hill. It’s one of my favorite monuments in the Balkans and is dedicated to all those who fought for freedom and an independent Macedonia – most notably during the Ilinden Uprising of 1903 and the Macedonian National Liberation Struggle during World War II.
The whole thing is spread out over 12 acres and also includes a technicolor amphitheater and a sculpture installation called “Breaking the Chains”. You can enter the spikey sphere which is with a fitted with a few beautiful stained windows and visit the tomb of Nikola Karev who was the president of the short-lived Kruševo Republic. Also inside is a bust of Toše Proeski, Macedonia’s most famous pop singer from Kruševo who died tragically in a car accident in 2007.
Museum of the Ilinden Uprising
Though I actually never made it to this museum, it’s an important one if you find yourself in town when it happens to be open. As mentioned before, Kruševo is an extremely sacred town when it comes to Macedonian history as it is here where the most successful attempt to drive out the Ottomans and establish an independent Macedonian republic took place in the beginning of the 20th century.
On the eve of August 2, 1903, rebels who were part of the Ilinden Uprising successfully captured the town and by August 4, 1903 the Republic of Kruševo was created. Though the republic only lasted for 10 days before the Ottomans regained control, it is seen as the first big movement in history towards a sovereign Macedonian state. In the museum which is set up in the house where the Republic was declared, you can find weapons, photos and documents bringing this story to life.
Toše Proeski Memorial House and Grave
Like Justin Bieber for Canadians if Canadians respected Justin Bieber, Toše Proeski is perhaps the most famous contemporary musician to ever come out of Macedonia. With multiple number one hits not only within the country, but also throughout the Balkans, Proeski was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and even represented his country in the 2004 Eurovision song contest. Nicknamed the “Elvis Presley of the Balkans”, his life was tragically cut short by a car accident in 2007 while traveling through Croatia. He was only 26.
As a born and raised Kruševo boy, a gorgeous museum dedicated to his life and work was built up near Makedonium and it’s where you can also find his grave.
There are a lot of legends that live in the hills of Kruševo, but Mečkin Kamen just might be the epicenter of it all. Only a couple of kilometers from Kruševo, this is the site of one of the most notable battles in Macedonian history against the Ottomans lead by Pitu Guli and commemorated by a large sculpture of a man hurling a boulder.
History and legends aside, this place is also an amazing place to hike up to if you want to see an excellent view of the surrounding countryside and if you are into paragliding as this is hands down one of the best spots in the Balkans.
Removed, “off the path”, and semi-cemented in time, Kruševo is a hidden secret of Macedonia which takes a bit more effort to get to but is more than worth it if you want to get a real tangible sense of Macedonian history.