The Town of Bridges

Although it’s a small town deep in the northeast of Macedonia, Kratovo has seen the biggest growth in tourist visits in recent years. With its distinctive location in the middle of a volcanic crater, old architecture of medieval towers, underground tunnels, traditional stone and wooden houses, and many legends about its rich past, Kratovo is a real discovery. It is one of the oldest continuously settled towns in the Balkans. The glory of Kratovo is connected with its wealth. The abundance of gold, silver and lead mines in its surroundings brought wealth and glory to its rulers. It also fostered the growth of trade, manufacturing, crafts and many uncommon businesses.

Geography has been a major influence on Kratovo architecture including its wonderful ancient bridges. Although the town is built in the volcanic crater, three rivers, the Manceva, the Baba Karina and the Tabacka, flow through it and form the Kratovska River in the city centre. More than seventeen bridges used to connect the town quarters lying on different river banks. Of course, not all are functional today but they continue to exist in the legends. Stefan Simic, the famous Kratovo scholar, recorded that 14 bridges were still in use in the beginning of the 20th century. Today the town is connected with four stone and one wooden bridge. There is only one concrete bridge serving the modern needs of the town. The old bridges were built with hard rocks while the arches were made with stones cut at precise angles and richly decorated. The hard stones of volcanic origin used in the foundations are not very susceptible to water erosion. The bridges are a highlight of Ottoman architecture that incorporated previous Slavic and Byzantine traditions. The bridges are elegant and have decorations. Kratovo had a large community of traders including Jewish people and Dubrovnik merchants, who kept very close connections with Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Vienna and Venice. The intensification of trade in the 19th century created the need for many new bridges. Thus Radev, Radin, Grofcanski, Bazaar, Yorkshire, Saray, and Argulica bridges were built. Read more …