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New Website, New Blog, but the Old Blog Archive remains: September 28, 2023

After many years of wanting a real website, this month I finally have a website designed by the very knowledgeable Rey Rey Rodriguez ( TheMindOfReyRey ). My old blog,  Vacation-Travel-Adventure  continues with the same address but it is located in the "Archives" tab on my new website . The new blog which is a continuation but with much better resolution for 4K screens, it is now at .

Weekend in Bitola and Prilep: October 4-7, 2012

We found ourselves in Bitola for the weekend because Dan was teaching a class of Macedonian lawyers. Bitola is lovely with many structures from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th-centuries.  Some say that if not for the massive earthquake in 1963, Skopje would look like this.  Anyway, the buildings along the pedestrian street are well preserved and give Bitola a quality and charm that is missing elsewhere in Macedonia.  

Bitola, like most cities in Macedonia, has an old Turkish town and bazaar dating back to the time when Macedonia was part of the larger Ottoman Macedonia.  

Pre-Balkan wars and WWII, Bitola was a flourishing city accommodating many religions within the small area of the present-day pedestrian street.  Then there were several mosques and a synagogue in the older, Turkish area and a catholic church, an orthodox church across the River Dragor in the 18th-century city. Today, the synagogue is gone as are the Jews.  A decade ago the Ottoman-era clock tower was topped with a cross.  In former times, Muslim imams looked to the time on the clock tower to guide their calls to prayer. Today, most of the mosques are non-functioning, remnants of history.

Interior of the Catholic Church 

A corner in the Old Turkish Bazaar (little Montmartre) area of Bitola

Strangely, even though the residents of Bitola, and indeed all of Macedonia chaffed under the yoke of Ottoman rule, half of the Bitola museum is a shrine to Ataturk.  Mustafa Kemel spent some of his military school years in Bitola and present-day Bitola honors that brief stay with a room dedicated to all things Ataturk.

After exhausting Bitola's offerings, I visited the nearby city of Prilep to see the tobacco harvest.  Twenty-two percent of the value of agricultural exports from Macedonia is from tobacco, and almost one third of the Macedonian state budget is financed by tobacco work.  Macedonia is ranked 30th in world tobacco production.  Prilep produces several small-leaf oriental tobaccos  It is the spice or seasoning when mixed with Virginia broadleaf tobacco.  Prilep tobacco is found in most of the world's top selling brands.

August, September, and October are the months that the leaves are handpicked from the tobacco plants.  As the leaves mature, they are stripped by hand from the plants.  Once the mature leaves are gathered, they are strung onto a 2-meter string and hung on wooded frames.  Drying racks are in front of houses and on empty lots.  During the harvest season, they are everywhere there is space.

There are large empty lots that are covered with tented drying racks.  Each tented structure has a family name written on it.  As the leaves dry and become golden, those strings are removed and new strings of green leaves are strung in their places.  

As cigarette makers move toward lighter, lower nicotine-type cigarettes, demand for Macedonia's oriental tobacco is declining. The World Health Organization (WHO) is pushing for regulations that will decrease cigarette consumption and smoking.  Tobacco growers all over the Balkans are opposed to these regulations.  Tobacco has been grown in Macedonia for over 100 years and a decline in this industry will cause thousands of small farmers to lose their only source of income.