Macedonia’s Galichnik Wedding Festival

The Galičnik Wedding Festival is an annual festival held in the Macedonian village of Galičnik, in which a selected couple gets married in the traditional “Galička” style wedding. Traditionally the wedding lasted for 5 days with the main activities on St. Peter‘s Day (12 July) every year. It was the only period of the year when couples got married. Today it is part of the festival “Galičko Leto” meaning Galičnik Summer. It is a two-day event held on the weekend nearest to July 12th. Tourists in Macedonia flock to Galičnik to witness this beautiful ceremony and take part in the festivities. Each year, couples from all over Macedonia enter a competition run by the organizers to be the couple that gets to have a Galicka style wedding.

The five day event comprises of the following program….

Inviting the dead relatives to the wedding:
The bridegroom, along with a group of his closest relatives, visits the graves of dead family members where he proceeds to invite the deceased to his wedding.

Inviting the ‘kum (literally: “godfather”, though the closest equivalent in English is “best man”): After returning from the cemetery, the bridegroom, his friends and closest relatives invite the best man to the wedding.

Shaving the bridegroom:
In front of the “Upija” fountain, one of the friends shaves the bridegroom; an act which makes the closest relatives rueful because the shaving is a symbol of the separation of the boy from his mother and father.

Off to the bride’s house to formally ask for her hand in marriage:
From the bridegroom’s house, an entourage of over 50 in-laws goes to the bride’s house. The entourage is led by a bajraktar (flag bearer) and his friends on horses. The horses walk slowly in front of the entourage. Before their arrival, one of the bridegroom’s friends goes to the bride’s house to ask for permission for the arrival of the in-laws. He then returns to re-join the procession.

Arrival of the marriage brokers:
After the arrival of the in-laws, the flag bearer hands over the flag which is hung by the window. Then one of the bridegroom’s friends leads his horse in front of the bride’s house where the bride looks at the bridegroom through her ring. The bridegroom kisses the hands of the bride’s parents and then they put a towel over his shoulder.

The bride welcoming the marriage brokers:
In front of the house the bridegroom’s closest relatives sit at a table. The bridegroom’s mother gives presents to the bride and then the bride kisses her hand. The bride gets dressed and ready to go.

The bride sets off with the in-laws:
A bridegroom’s friend informs the in-laws that the bride is ready and they all prepare to go. The bride mounts a horse. The procession is then led by the flag bearer.

Welcoming the bride:
The bridegroom’s mother welcomes the bride with a sieve, a cake, and a goblet full of wine. She circles around the bride three times tapping her on the head with the cake. Then she puts a bridle on her and on the bridegroom’s cap. The bridegroom helps the bride to dismount the horse. Then she walks into the house.

Macedonia’s Galichnik Wedding Festival

Marriage ceremony:
The bride, the bridegroom’s mother and father, the flag-bearer and the other relatives walk up to the church. The bridegroom’s mother carries a kettle and a basil bouquet. She spatters the young couple and other guests on the way from the house to the church. A carpet is laid in front of the church and a flag is hung to the right of the entrance.

Marriage banquet:
After the wedding ceremony there is a wedding banquet at the “Upija“. The best man resides at the head of the table and the bridegroom calls for a toast.

Taking the bride to “Upija” where she leads the brides dance:
The bridegroom’s father and the best man lead the entourage. The bride is taken to the fountain where she fills water jugs. After that, the bride leads the bride’s dance.

Farewell to the musicians:
When wedding ends, the closest relatives say goodbye to the musicians.

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What to eat in Macedonia?

The national dish of the Republic of Macedonia is called Tavče gravče. It is a stew made of lentils and spices served in traditional earthenware.

Tavče gravče

Ćevapi (kebab chi) are mini-kebabs made with ground beef and grilled without skewers. They are served with chopped onions, salad and pita style bread. Generally, 5-10 kebabs are served on an individual plate. Cevapi is a popular late-night snack in Skopje.


Polneti Piperki is green bell peppers stuffed with rice and meat and baked in the oven.

Polneti Piperki

Ajvar is a type of dip made with roasted red bell peppers and garlic. Sometimes, eggplant and chili peppers are added. It is also served as a side dish or starter with bread. Preparing Ajvar is a tradition in Macedonia and households often compete on who makes the best one!


Pinđur is another dip made with eggplants and roasted peppers. It is served as a side or with bread for dipping.


Turli tava (vegetable and meat stew) is made with potatoes, rice, okra, eggplant, carrots, peppers, pork, beef or lamb. The ingredients are mixed, topped with cheese and baked in an oven in a traditional pottery dish (known as tava).

Turli tava

Börek is a flaky pie stuffed with cheese, mincer meat or vegetables. A large pie is first baked in the oven and cut into serving size pieces. Influenced by Turkish cuisine, Borek is a delicious recipe prepared at homes throughout Macedonia.


Zelnik is similar to Borek, but the crust resembles more of a phyllo than pie. It is also stuffed with meat, spinach or cabbage and served warm with yogurt.

Pljeskavica also known as hamburger is basically a meat patty made with a mixture of lamb, pork, beef or veal. It is not served like a typical burger between buns, rather open faced with salad, flat bread and sliced grilled onions.


Tulumba is a popular dessert found in pastry shops across the Balkans. It is a similar to a tube shaped doughnut batter, deep fried and soaked in heavy sugar syrup.


Turkish delight or Lokum is available grocery stores and confections and makes for good gifts to bring back home. The texture of Lokum is similar to gelatin but much firmer. It is made with starch, sugar, nuts and flavoring such as lemon, rose, orange, etc. It is dusted with powdered sugar and served with hot tea.

Turkish delight or LokumRead more about Macedonia

The Life of a Macedonian Shepard

56% of Macedonia is made up of hills and mountains. While driving through the countryside, a common citing is herds of sheep blending with the landscapes with an occasional Shepard companion. By luck, I happen to visit the home of a Macedonian Shepard, which was located far out in the middle of nowhere, and was able to speak to him about his life (through a translator of course).

Macedonian shepard

The life of a Shepard is quite hard. He spends months away from his family, away from homely comforts and civilization. From the middle of May to the beginning of November, the Shepard locates his sheep in the mountainous pastures. During the rest of the year, he moves into valleys, to so-called winter pastures.

Often times 15-20 Shepards live together in a one-bedroom shack, that has nothing but basic necessities – beds, coat racks, table, lightbulbs, a wood-fire stove for cooking, and an outdoor shed used as a toilet. The Shepards spend most of the year taking care of sheep and ensuring they are well fed and safe. They use the milk to make cheese, which they sells in the markets and uses for their own consumption. They also makes fresh bread daily, which is a large part of their diet.


Dogs are an important part of a Macedonian Shepard’s life. Many Shepards breed and raise a particular breed of dogs known as, Sarplaninacs. Shepard dogs are loyal unpaid workers who keep watchful eyes on their herds. They make sure the sheep don’t wander off or are attacked by prey. In fact, as I was getting close to take pictures of the sheep, some of the dogs started barking and running towards me, warning me to keep away from their property!

shepard dogs

Sheep breeding has remained a longstanding tradition and an important part of the economy in Macedonia. Close to half of the country’s land is used for agriculture. According to official statistical data (Statistical YearBook of Macedonia) the total number of sheep in Macedonia is about 2 300 000 heads (1 600 000 ewes). Two varieties of the Pramenka breed (Zackel, Tzurcana), Ovcepolian (60 percent) and Sarplanian (30 percent) and their crossbreeds with various Merino breeds are popularly found in Macedonia.


Meat, milk and wool are the main productions from sheep rearing. Lamb is a staple in food and is also exported across Europe. According to United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, goat and lamb account for over $22 million worth of exports. However, a significant part of Shepard’s income comes from cheese made from sheep milk, marketed as white cheese in the local markets. It is a fresh, yet sometimes salty homemade cheese, resembling a Feta. Each region of Macedonia imparts its own flavor into the cheese, making the variations interesting and palatable. No meal in Macedonia is complete without white sheep cheese!

sheep cheese

Wines of Macedonia

Wine production in Macedonia dates as far back as 13th century BC. From the time of Alexander The Great up until Roman and Turkish rules, wine consumption in this region has remained prominent. During ancient times, wines were produced by monks at Orthodox Church and consumed during religious ceremonies. In the 1980s, Macedonia accounted for around two-thirds of the Yugoslav wine production. Now that Macedonia is a much smaller independent nation, high quality grape growing and wine production still remains an important part of the culture.

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Blessed by Saint Naum

Just a few miles outside Ohrid, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Macedonia, is the Monastery of Saint Naum. The monastery overlooks the pristine Lake Ohrid, that borders with northwestern Macedonia and eastern Albania. One can drive around the lake in under thirty minutes or take a day cruise aboard a ferry to visit the monastery. Continue reading “Blessed by Saint Naum”