A hike to Galičnik

On this year’s Easter weekend, some friends and I went on a beautiful day-hike to a small but prestigious Macedonian village called Galičnik.

We started our little adventure in Janče, a small village approximately 6 km away and 700 m below our destination. Here we already met this lovely elder woman in the garden of her house, who was just too happy to show us the right way. Unfortunately we couldn’t understand what she said because (shame on us) we couldn’t understand Macedonian, but her gestures definitely would have helped us in a world without smartphones and digital maps. So we found the right track but just before we left the village someone was joining our group –  a dog. I called him Kuče, we called him Didier.

It was a nice hiking trail up to the village, which is known for its well-preserved traditional architecture. It was neither too steep, nor too easy. Sometimes the path was partly covered with puddles where Didier could take a good refreshing sip of water. For us there was a drinking fountain halfway. Well, actually we weren’t perfectly sure if the water was drinkable, but the taste was just great so we filled our bottles to the brim. And if Didier can drink from the puddles we can definitely drink from this fountain.

I always wonder why exactly dogs are joining us on our journeys sometimes. Do they think we are searching for food or do they think they will eventually get some food from us? Do they just want to hang out and enjoy some company? Maybe they don’t even know it themselves. They just do what they have to do. But why exactly did we actually go to Galičnik? As much as I wonder about Didier, maybe Didier is also wondering about us. These people are taking this exhausting walk and are not even searching for food. Strange creatures those humans certainly are.

There were quite some animals around. Some of us have seen deer. Someone supposedly saw a snake and was scared of it. The only things I saw were little lizards and a gigantic piece of poop that may have been from a bear. Didier has probably seen much more, but he kept it a secret.

Approximately after two and a half hours we finally arrived in Galičnik. The first thing we saw was a hotel/restaurant with many people sitting at the terrace enjoying themselves. Here we said goodbye to Didier. It seemed like his mission with us had ended and he joined some other people, who were walking to the restaurant. That probably seemed more promising to him at this moment. We instead entered the village. Due to a little misinterpretation it came as a surprise to some of us that there were actually more than two houses existing in Galičnik. Even though today the village only has two “real” residents, the number of houses used occasionally for holidays and weekend-trips is much higher. On this Saturday the village was comparatively alive. Since it was the weekend of Orthodox Easter, many people enjoyed their time in the garden of their holiday houses with barbecue and drinks.

The higher we got, the better the view became. I think the others didn’t pay as much attention but I was enjoying the scenery again and again. You could see mountain after mountain, left, right, left, in the distance the Debar Lake and a bit further, probably even Albania. It’s funny when you think about how old those mountains are, and that they also move and change as we do, but just incredibly slow.

There may be just one period of the year when there are even more people coming together in this little mountain village. And by more I mean thousands more. It happens once a year in the middle of July when one of the most traditional wedding festivals in Europe takes place in Galičnik. It is one of the famous Macedonian events where couples all over the country take part in a competition beforehand to become the lucky one that is getting married in this special celebration with rituals like traditional dances, the groom getting shaved and bread getting kneaded. Maybe one day I will get married in Galičnik too, but first I would need to find a girl with roots from the village, because at least one of the fiancées has to be from a Galičnik family. But no, this is not a personal advertisement.

After we passed the Church of St. Paul and Peter, where by the way the wedding ceremony takes place, a Macedonian flag came across our way. Instead of standing strong and waving proud, the flag was partly destroyed and lying on the ground. It somehow was of symbolic nature. I tried to lift the flag a bit up but of course I couldn’t make it stand. Well, we were just some tourists. We can try to help a bit but at the end of the day we want to take a good photo. I guess that’s what tourists do.

Eventually we wandered further around the village, took some unconventional paths and found our way back to the hotel/restaurant. From there we hiked and sometimes ran down back to Janče. But before we finally went back we took one last moment to watch the landscape and enjoyed this awesome (in the actual meaning of the word) view once more. Back then I was trying to capture what I saw, just like I am now trying to write down what I feel, when I think about this day of Galičnik.

Christopher Machold



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