A unique, millennia old Carnival forged by traditions of both paganism and Christianity
Vevchani is one of the most idyllic mountain towns in Macedonia and as such it often attracts tourists looking to experience the true natural beauty of the mountains. Being only half an hour drive from Ohrid, Struga and the shores of lake Ohrid only makes this mountain town a great year round destination. Here you can find true representation of traditional Macedonian architecture, music, and most of all traditional delicious Macedonian cuisine. The strongest rakija in the country is said to come from the family owned distilleries in Vevchani, pair that with delicious salads and dishes and you’ll quickly experience what we’re talking about. The town and its surroundings are also home to dozens of churches that stand testimony to the rich history.
Before we go off into too much detail about the extensive offer of Vevchani, we have to focus on the event that makes Vevchani a very important cultural destination in Macedonia, the Vevchani Carnival.
The traditional carnival takes place each year on the 13-14 of January and is said to be as old as the town itself, which was founded over 1400 years ago. There are even some indications that the Carnival is more than 2200 years old which would explain the mix of Christian and pagan elements that make this one of the most interesting carnivals in Europe. The Carnival is known as Vasilica Carnival because it's dedicated to St. Vasilij Veliki and coincides with the Old New Year as celebrated according to the Julian calendar.
The calendar features several main masks, the groom and the bride, the musicians, the devils and the stupid august. These masks are made each year by the two rivaling participating groups in the carnival, the upper neighborhood and the lower neighborhood which compete for the best made masks and performance. These traditional masks are complemented by contemporary masks that usually mock the issues in society and politics from the previous year adding diversity and excitement for each year.
As darkness falls on the night of Vasilica (13th of January) the groups with masks led by the “groom and the bride”, descend upon the centre of town, singing, dancing and trying to make their masks as convincing as possible. The groups are followed by musicians that use traditional instruments such as zurlas and drums to add a dramatic element to the whole ordeal. These musical instruments are found quite often in Macedonian folklore. As they move through the city and head over to the Vevchani springs the convoy of masks is greeted by travelers as well as people from visiting villages that want to show their support for the centuries old tradition.
The nights of the Vevchani Carnival are filled with plenty of entertainment as concerts, gathernigs and other performances are organized. They last until late in the evening and add plenty of excitement to the visitors and locals alike. The accommodation in the town is packed throughout the carnival so make sure to have the reservation ahead of time.
Visiting Vevchani during this period will undoubtedly be an adventure and one of the most unique experiences of any traveler. It’s location near other major travel destinations such as Ohrid, Struga and Mavrovo makes it a must visit during your stay. One suggestion though, make sure to dress warm as the weather forecasts are still for chilly and snowy weather.