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Castle above the River Pcinja

P assengers driven along the E75 highway from the Serbian border and continuing to Greece will be surprised by some breathtaking views of canyons, fields, shepherds’ houses, monastic caves, vineyards and old-style stations along the railway route in the river valley. Just half way between Skopje and Veles, where the road twists following the canyon of the river Pcinja (pronounced pchiniya), they will see the remains of some medieval fortifications on their right. Depending on the speed, the image may appear ghostly or may even be noticed by the driver.

The castle above the Pcinja is built in a spectacular location just three kilometres away from the confluence of the Pcinja and the Vardar on a 70 meters high rock washed on three sides by the river that makes a sharp bend here. The highway following the old north-south route passes through a saddle separating the rock from the mountain massif. The old route crossed the river at this spot.

This gorge has always been a border area and natural defence from the attacks coming from either north or south. Archaeologists found here traces of human settlements going back to 3500 years BC, when village residents were forced to erect palisades in order to protect themselves from invaders coming from the north. From their belongings it appears that they were farmers and goat herders living along the Pcinja. Further evidence dates back to around 1000 BC. The pottery from this period can be with a greater certainty attributed to Paeonian warriors whose mighty kingdom lay in the south-eastern part of present-day Macedonia between the rivers Vardar and Pcinja. From Homer’s Iliad we know that Paeonians were allies of the Trojans in the Trojan War against the Achaeans. As one of the north-western and border areas close to Dardania, the Paeonian settlement over the Pcinja was certainly an administrative dependency of Bilazora, the big Paeonian city twenty kilometres from here. Read more …