Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Ancient City of Stobi: April 13, 2019

Dan arrived in March and I joined him April 11. He agreed to a two-month volunteer assignment working with the American Bar Association here in Skopje. We will be here until May 9. 

Sitting inside our small apartment near the Bulgarian Embassy, I can hear birds chattering, the sounds of other apartment dwellers, ringing bells from the nearby Catholic Church ,and the calls to prayer from the mosques on the other side of the Vardar River.

My first weekend in North Macedonia found us retracing some of our travels from 2012. We rented a car and drove to the ancient city of Stobi to the south of Skopje. This time, it was late enough in the year that the mosaics were not covered with sand for protection. Also, technology has leapt ahead in the seven years since we last visited Stobi Archaeological Site. Now there is an downloadable app that explains in English each of the sites. We had the site to ourselves.

Mosaics and interior of the Episcopal Basilica late 4th C - 6th C
The Roman province of Macedonia which included the ancient of Stobi was established in 148 BCE. Stobi became an Episcopal seat in the 4th century AD. Stobi ceased to exist after incursions by the Huns and Goths in the 5th century, Avars and Slavs in the 6th century, and frequent earthquakes. Stobi was abandoned in the last decade of the 6th century.

The Theater building began at the end of the 1st century AD
The Baptistery - this version dates from the mid 5th C 
The mosaics in the Baptistery are original to the structure. They have been conserved but were intact upon discovery. Due to being conserved, the colors are as bright as when first laid. The inspiration for the design comes from verse one of the 41st Psalm of David, "Just as the deer longs for the water so  my soul longs for you oh God."


Mosaic floor of the Synagogue
Before getting to Stobi, we stopped in Veles to visit some of the old churches and monasteries. Our first stop was up a very narrow, steep street beyond the last house to St. Pantelimon built in 1837. Nice frescos, great view of Veles, no photos allowed, and a scary drive up. Fortunately, we didn't meet any cars on the way down.



The caretaker at the 14th century St. Dimitrij Monastery at a lower elevation was much more welcoming and helpful despite the fact that we didn't have a common language. He let us spend as much time as we wanted there and led us to nearby St. Nikolai and St. Petra Churches. He also cares for 3 kittens and a puppy.


View from St. Dimitrij looking north toward Skopje
The spring weather has been quite unsettled in North Macedonia. It has been alternately cool, cloud, sunny sometimes in the same day. The day we visited Stobi was beautiful.

To complete our fabulous outing after all the sightseeing, we stopped at Stobi Winery for a lovely, late lunch before heading back to Skopje. We shared a plate of slow-roasted lamb paired with one of their red wines.

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