Matka for Skopje or Skopje for Matka
By Trifun Kostovski
Today I would like to talk about things that represent an enormous cultural heritage created by nature, and articulated by man. The man is given to preserve or eradicate the ancient values. Unfortunately, in our country we testify growing negligence in relation to the natural and cultural movable and immovable heritage, and each government is responsible for that, as well as each of us individually.
In the entire region of Skopje and the surroundings, at the foot of Skopska Crna Gora, and especially in the region of Matka, there are traces and remains that are ancient and which especially promote Christianity. And we should be aware and responsible as we are one of the key cradles of Christianity.
On another occasion I will write about the monasteries and churches at the foothills of Skopska Crna Gora, and today I would like to focus on the Matka Canyon.
I was born in Skopje in the former SFRY. We spent children’s summers swimming in the Treska River, enjoying the view along the magnificent rocks that spring from the river bed itself. As children we knew that somewhere there, above, there was a dam that produces hydroelectric energy for the needs of Skopje and its surroundings. In truth, I have to admit that at school we learned more about the beauties of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, and least about our unique treasure. In the programs of high school students from all Yugoslav republics, there was always a visit to Postojna Cave, where we learned for the first time about the existence of stalactites and stalagmites dating back to long ago.
I admit that curiosity at that age was not my characteristic. We only knew that Matka Canyon was beautiful and unique in its flora and fauna, and that there are ten small monasteries there. The mistake is mine – I realized the true meaning of Matka Canyon when I became a mayor of Skopje.
Unique in Europe for its specific flora and fauna, with two beautiful overground caves, which are almost mirrored on the cave in Postojna in Slovenia, treated as a World Heritage site. What nonsense is this – we have this heritage just 15 kilometers away from us and we ignore it. The same stalactites and stalagmites that we admired in Slovenia are in their original and brilliant state exactly in the caves in the Matka Canyon. There is also a huge, underwater cave that has not yet been tested despite the efforts of many divers.
The beauty of the Matka Canyon is breathtaking. From any side you see it, it is miraculous. And it is not at all accidental that early Christianity (5th, 6th, 7th century AD) spread just around Matka, precisely at this place, seeking its stronghold, its harbor. Today there are 11 monasteries in the canyon and around the canyon Matka. And the data obtained from the MOC – the Ohrid Archbishopric, say that it has the foundations of another sixty destroyed monasteries.
Recognizing the fact what Matka is not only for Skopje, but for Macedonia and the region, I came to the conclusion that this is an inexhaustible treasure given to us by nature and which in a synergy with man created an unrepeatable cultural context. Therefore, we should be careful to preserve it in the same original form, and that beauty to be available to every citizen of the Republic of Macedonia and to anyone who is curious to explore the treasures of early Christianity.
My idea as mayor was that Matka should be placed under full state protection, that all monasteries should be reopened. That MOC should educate personnel, guides that would help every interested person to become aware of the life and value of this early Christianity. And in the Matka Canyon, an infrastructure connection where vehicles with traction accumulators or buoys will be driven, which do not have to pollute the environment at all. Having a difficult access to the Matka Canyon and limited number of people who could visit it, my idea was on the ridge of Vodno to Matka to build a cable car with three to four stops, which would make it easier for the citizens of Skopje to run away from the unbearable summer heat in the city and enjoy the fabulous panorama, with the entire Skopje field and the surrounding area in front of their eyes. According to my ideas, the cable car was supposed to end at the Matka Canyon on its two sides. And there, it was necessary to design platforms for installing fast lifts that would be accessible to every lover of culture, spirituality and nature, and especially for people with physical disabilities. Then, my idea was the very lake Matka itself to become a kind of small Venice, with boats suitable for our country. Of course, in the surroundings of the canyon, strictly controlled construction of catering facilities should be allowed, which would not have been allowed to disturb the natural context of the existing flora and fauna.
I assure you, with this planning of the canyon Matka, Skopje would have had the opportunity to be glorified in the world. It is the only place in the world of Orthodoxy with so many monasteries and churches built outside of Mount Athos.
When I left the post of mayor, I left a White Book on what was done in my mandate and how the citizens’ money was spent. At the same time, I tried to recommend to the new mayor to consider this idea. Unfortunately, the White Book was immediately “thrown away” after his arrival, and he had no interest in its contents and all the research and recommendations.
I hope that this vision will one day be a reality, because objectively Skopje and the region in Skopje have nothing else to offer to their citizens but also to foreigners who are hungry for communication with real values.
I would like to use this opportunity to point out to the incumbent Skopje mayor, Mr. Shilegov, to take this idea into account.
At the same time, I would like to say again that it is necessary to start the realization of the tram-train, which also has a connection with the ecology and the acquisition of a new socio-cultural value.
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