Bazernik homestay, Macedonia

Bazernik is a small village in the southwest of Macedonia a few hours from Skopje. Less than 30 people live here permanently and the neighbouring slightly larger village Babino too have only a few dozens of permanent residents. But for anyone visiting, it’s very obvious that it didn’t always use to be like this. There are many abandoned traditional houses in the villages, picturesquely standing around against the backdrop of the mountains, forests and streams, sometimes exploding with plants coming out of the windows, doors and ceilings.  It gives a foretaste of the surrounding forests, known by many for it’s many streams, old gnarly trees and beautiful hiking. Views of lake Orhid are possible from the peaks. And if that’s what you want, it’s easy to spend days up there without meeting anyone.

The homestay is located at an elevation of almost 1000 meters, just where the road ends and the forest starts. It’s an old traditional house in which lives a young man and his mother. They will be your hosts. You will stay in a small private room with artworks and plenty of Macedonian and Yugoslavian items on display. The house itself sometimes resemble a miniature museum. And the son, Stojance, is interested in painting and design and has turned the house into something of an artwork too. See the picture below for examples of the design.

traditional macedonian items on display
Traditional beehive (upper left corner) and other items on display

During your stay, it will be possible to sample many different local dishes. They will be cooked with locally produced ingredients. There will also be locally grown fruits and – if you are a smoker – even tobacco. Tastiest of all perhaps is the local honey, produced in beehives a two minute walk from the homestay. It’s collected from wildflowers, pesticide free and a great souvenir from Macedonia!

beekeeping forest macedonia travel

While up by the beehives, turn around for a beautiful view of the surrounding area:view from the homestay

 

The homestay is easily reachable from various places throughout the country. Most easily perhaps from Kichevo or Bitola, which both have good connections to Babino and other places in Macedonia, but there are direct busses from Skopje too, departing daily at 15:30 from the main bus station. Try Balkanviator for up to date schedules. Simply type Skopje to Babino. From Babino you will continue a few kilometers more to Bazernik. Pickup at the bus station can be arranged, but if you aren’t in a hurry the walk is actually a very enjoyable experience, and there are several places with fresh spring water along the way should you get thirsty. Also you can check out Babino’s small library/ethnological museum, which strangely enough (in this forgotten place filled with abandoned houses) played an important role in making Macedonia literate and has several medieval books in it’s collection.

Except for the library/museum, there are some other cultural heritage sites that could be of interest. These sites are ruins of six old churches, abandoned in the forests. You could either visit them yourself or go on a day tour with your host. Walking from one to the other, you would pass through groves and fields, eating food you bring with you from the homestay and possibly wild fruits, hazelnuts and other things. It’s possible to do day tours or overnight tours by horseback too, with very flexible itineraries depending on what you are interested in. If you want suggestions for independent walks, it’s just to ask your homestay host, who (even though his English is limited) tries his best and is very enthusiastic about the area.

tourists out for a daytour in the forest
Stojance taking two guests on a day tour up the mountain

All in all, this is a great place to visit for anyone going to Macedonia or the Balkans. It’s does lack in things such as variety of restaurants (there is only one in the entire area) and internet connectivity (there is no wifi), but it by far makes up for it with it’s many good sides – the unique atmosphere, amazing host family, beautiful nature and peculiar cultural sights (abandoned houses, abandoned barns, abandoned churches – I’ve never seen anything quite like it).

Some things to be aware of.

  •  Internet connection is very limited unless you have a SIM-card with data.
  • There is only one restaurant in the area but traditional local food is served at the homestay. Much of it is homemade from locally produced ingredients.
  • English language skills are limited but improving. Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian and related languages are spoken fluently.
  • You will not stay in a hotel but in a private building in which lives a family.
  • You will most likely not meet other travellers during your visit.

For anyone not discouraged (and especially for those who get encouraged!) by that, an unique and very enjoyable experience is guaranteed.

Prices per person and day are 11 euro for a bed and 3 euros per meal (you can choose to have no or all meals at the homestay). There is an additional charge of 5 euros which you can easily get rid of writing a short text about your experience at the homestay and sharing it somewhere online. Read more about that here. That means that for 20 euros you can have a room and three meals per day. The way the prices can be kept so low is that there are no agencies or middlemen involved asking for slices of the cake. 100% of the money will stay with the family.

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