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Beginner’s guide to Macedonia: Pehchevo – The little Istanbul

Under the hills of Vlaina Mountain, at an altitude of 1000 meters, in the most eastern part of Macedonia, at the two coasts of the river lies the small town of Pehchevo. The high hills of the Maleshevo Mountains rise around it, the highest of which is Kadiica on Vlaina Mountain – 1932 m high.

This town, which is the administrative center of the municipality of Pehchevo (also consisting of the villages Chiflik, Umlena, Robovo and Pancharevo) is surrounded by pine forests cut with cold, fast and unpolluted streams, and the clean air in this region will come good for everybody. The thick forests are intertwined with trails that lead to Rakovec, an old mining settlement.
Pehchevo is more famous as a winter tourist center, but the rare beauty of this region is attractive 365 days a year. The winters are cold with a lot of snowfall, while the summers are fresh with many sunny days.
In spring, everything bursts to life and the beautiful nights are a good wayto escape the impressions of the daily urban life. During the autumn, the marks on the sky and the wealth of ambient colors will melt you and liberate you from the every-day worries.
Being in Pehchevo means “being home” in human’s true home – nature! It is a healthy and clean environment where even the feces don’t stink, but smell.
From the moment you arrive in Pehchevo and its region your lungs start to fill with oxygen and you get an irresistible desire to sleep. This is where you will get a healthysleep. After the first day, you will start feeling that you can function well with less sleeping than usual, and yet, feel much more rested and energetic.
Pehchevo has a good location. The neighboring town of Berovo is only 10, while Delchevo is 30 km away. The nearest train station is in Kochani, 40 km away. The best wayto get to Pehchevo is by car, but if you’re travelling by bus, you should get informed about the possible connections, which in this case, are limited 

Traders from Constantinople, Thessaloniki and Edirne.
Because of its good location, Mohammedans from the mountain parts of Turkeystarted settling in Pehchevo, after which it became the center of the Turkish administration. According to a record byIvan Stanoev, Pehchevo was the biggest strategic, military-police, administrative and cultural-educational center for the wider Maleshevo-Pijanec region. Except for the institutions of the authority, there was also a military depot with a corporal school.
Back then, Pehchevo was also the main trading center of eastern Macedonia where all the trading took place, with traders coming from Constantinople, Thessaloniki and Edirne. They called it Kasaba, while the Turks also called it Little Istanbul.
According to the conversation that Ivan Stanoev had with Jagoda Stamboliska from Pehchevo, Isaije Pavlevski from Robovo, Dancho Takovski from Umlena, Dimitar Kacarski from Berovo, etc. it turns out that the freedom events from July 1908 was formally marked throughout Macedonia with the central ceremonytaking place in Pehchevo.
First, there was a meeting between the commander of the Turkish regimen in the village of Mitrashinci and the regional chief of the Malesh region – Gerasim Ognjanov and his associate, joined by a TMORO troop in the house of Lozancho Pop-Eftimov. They made an agreement that all troops from the Malesh and Carevo Selo regions come down from the mountain and declare a brotherhood with the Turkish asker and the police.
According to the agreement, around 600 troop members on one side, and the Turkish asker and police on the other, met in the region of Poduevo, west of Pehchevo. The TMORO troops were led by Ognjanov, while the Turks were led by Osman-Aga. The most important act of this meeting was the bowing of Kjamil Efendi in front of the soldiers
Ognjanov and Bocaliev and saying: “God bless your mothers for giving birth to you”. The decision of the Kajmakam to release a great number of political prisoners gained the biggest trust with the locals and the organization, after which Pehchevo was decorated with freedom paroles for several days.

Successor of the lost town?
According to the legends, the town got its name after some ore-processing furnaces that were located under the hills of Bukovik Mountain. The town was then called Pechkovo (after “pechka” – the Macedonian word for furnace).
With the arrival of the Ottomans, the town was named into Pehchevo. It had been mentioned as Pejchovo, Peshchov, Peshtevo, Pehchova, and according to some, the town is considered the successor of the lost town of Maleshevo, after which the entire region was named.
Some even think that the foundations of the medieval literarycenter Raven, where brothers Cyril and Methodius created the oldest alphabet of the Slavs are located near Pehchevo.
Today, the municipality of Pehchevo is an ecologicallyclean region with potential for further development of tourism. All the villages in the region are connected to Pehchevo byroads. The natural conditions offer great opportunities for pleasant stay and winter sport recreation, as well as hunting, health, and other types of tourism.
There are several hiking and biking tracks in the Maleshevo region and you can rent a bike in the town’s tourist center. One of the trails is 45 km long and connects the southernmost and the northernmost part of the Maleshevo region, with an altitude difference of 730 meters, and it can be covered in 12 hours. There are wonderful rest stops along the track, such as the one in the village of Dvorishte, the sheepfold near the “Divna” watchtower, etc.
A special experience is the walk along the hiking track through wonderful forest scenery along the river Bregalnica, which is 4 km long and connects the two tourist settlements Ablanica and Ravna River.

A few kilometers from Pehchevo, on Vlaina Mountain, is the natural park “Judas’s meadows”.
Whether Judas “paved the way” for St. Mary while betraying Christ with the symbolic eating of the body of the Son of God, is for some new stories and legends to show.

However, the symbolic makes me believe it. As it is known, the meadows are characterized by a unique flora – the carnivorous plant Drosera Rotundifolia, which is a local endemic species that is veryrarelyfound in the Balkans. So, you can have a rest in this park while enjoying the delicious hard cheese and brandy or with some vegetarian food while the plants around you are eating meat.
The river Bregalnica rises from the base of the Maleshevo Mountains. There are several waterfalls along its streams, which are just a few kilometers awayfrom Pehchevo. There are walking tracks leading to the waterfalls, cut byrivers and small bridges, road signs, wooden shacks and resting benches. One of two waterfalls on Bregalnica river is the biggest one and the richest with water and it’s 14 meters high, while the highest one is the waterfall on Z’tachka river.
In the slopes of the peak Orlovec (at an altitude of 1.723 meters) near Pehchevo is the rock called “Twisted ladder”, which is believed to have healing powers. It is long believed that going through the rock helps people have children, while helping the little children who suffer from insomnia or bad dreams.
The archaeological site “Sveta Petka” is located 4 km awayfrom Pehchevo. It is a monastery complexfrom the 14th century with an early-Christian church. According to local beliefs and legends, it had a bell tower so loud it was heard in Berovo and Delchevo. According to some sources, the church was built at the same time as the monastery of St. Naum near Ohrid. Another veryimportant monasteryfor the people of Pehchevo is Leshja, located 4.5 km south-east of the town

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