25th July 2018
If you’re reading this while battling with crowds on a busy commuter train or while stuck in rush-hour traffic (hopefully not driving at the same time), then you may be tempted to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Paying a visit to the rather sparsely populated village of Galicnik, which has a permanent population of just two, seems like the perfect antidote.
Alas you won’t find this village anywhere near a major city, as you’ll need to make your way to Mavrovo National Park in western Macedonia, but the journey is highly recommended (and there are direct flights from London to Macedonia’s capital Skopje).
The road literally stops in Galicnik, and for 4 months every winter the village is completely cut off by huge snow drifts. Local politicians did consider extending the road to connect it year round but with only 2 people registered to vote it is perhaps understandable why the project has never been completed. As such I was fortunate enough to be able to take one of the most beautiful walks in the region – a 3hr gentle descent along a village path to the village of Jance, which is known for its stunning location and wonderful organic food - without seeing another person.
My guide for the walk was Marko whose grandparents are the two aforementioned permanent residents of Galicnik. During the harsh winter Marko’s grandparents are largely self-sufficient – despite being in his 80s, his grandfather is still a proficient hunter - but Marko chooses to come in by snow-shoe once or twice over this period to check on them and re-stock them with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Galicnik wasn’t always so quiet and once supported a wealthy population of several hundred sheep farmers, but these days most of its former residents abandon it for the winter and return only once the road re-opens in the late spring.
However, if you are looking for tranquillity and peace then I would suggest not visiting Galicnik in mid-July as for this one weekend every year it hosts a much-lauded wedding festival with hundreds of guests and visitors coming to see traditional costumes, dancing, singing and yes... drinking (the Macedonians do like their home-brewed rakija, for sure). But at any other time, you’ll have the village more or less to yourself. Which is more than can be said for myself as I attempt to board the delayed 18:57 to Bromley South…