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Vardar Gemija – Memories of the Times Past

Since Macedonia is a landlocked country, all the terms, customs and experiences connected to the naval or maritime life evoke a strange feeling and curiosity amongst its population. As members of the Macedonian Academy of the Sciences and Arts have stated, “Macedonia does not have access to sea, but strongly smells of the sea” being just a stone`s throw from the Aegean and the Adriatic. In its folklore and epics there are many words, scenes and expressions associated with the sea and maritime life. They are remnants and traces of the past life when the current borders did not exist, so that ancestors of the present-day Macedonians lived in a broader and unrestricted territory including the sea shores. Experienced translators know that and often dig deep into the old poems to find adequate expressions when translating maritime literature.

One of the most evoked sea faring traditions in the recent years has been that of gemija sailing along the Vardar river. Gemija is a larger sail boat ranging from 10 to 20 metres. They were used for fishing near the sea shore and for river trade. Historical records say the Vardar was good for sailing from Veles to its mouth in the Aegean Sea near Thessaloniki (Solun). It was actually the gemija fleet that powered the Veles-Solun trade and turned Veles into one of the most progressive towns in Macedonia with the first school, the first theatre, the first female actor and the first socialist ideas. Read more …