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The Republic of Macedonia, with the capital Skopje, is situated in the central Balkan Peninsula and occupies a significant geographical location owing to the favorable conditions of its valleys through which stretch major communication lines, and also to the relatively short distances from the Aegean and Adriatic Sea. Through Macedonia, along the Vardar valley stretches the shortest north-south route between Central Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, i.e the Middle East.
Since gaining its independence in 1991, the Republic of Macedonia has been undergoing severe political, social and economic transformation, with the ultimate goal - rapid and efficient integration among the world's industrialized democracies. Macedonia today is an equal party in the international community, a member of the United Nations, the Partnership for Peace, and a serious candidate for membership in the European Union and NATO and a member of numerous international associations and organizations.
In addition, Macedonia has enjoyed an influx of foreign investment; a major criterion for integration in the global economy.
Area: 25.713 km2
Population: 2.000.000
Capital: Skopje (over 500.000 inhabitants)
Official language: Macedonian (written in Cyrillic script)
Form of government: Parliamentary democracy
Monetary unit: Denar (MK den)
Time Zone: GMT +1
Holidays: January 1, 2; January 7 (Orthodox Christmas), Easter, May 1, 2; August 2; September 8; October 11

The town of Strumica

The town of Strumica is located in southeast Macedonia, and with a population of approximately 100.000 inhabitants is the largest economic and cultural center in that region. With its old history and wealth of culture and tradition, Strumica has much to offer.
History in the Strumica region can be traced back to 4500-3800 BC. The Neolithic settlement Stranata in the vicinity of the village Angelci is evidence that the region has been heavily populated since ancient times. The night sky adorned with stars gives this southern Macedonian town its name, known in antiquity as Astraion- the city of stars-and referred to by the locals as Astrai. Under Roman occupation, the town changed its name to Tiberopolis, commemorating the Roman general Tiberius. With the colonization of the Slavs the town received its present name Strumica. There are several stories concerning this name; one connecting it with the name of the belle Struma, buried in the village Veljusa.
The rudiments of medieval Strumica are evidenced in the findings of "Carevi Kuli" (Czar's Towers). It is interesting to note that the archeological ruins are an indication of life in this region prior to the Roman Empire. The citadel is surrounded with limestone walls, built in late antiquity, with two towers dating from the early 6th century AD. Byzantine coins from the 12th and 13th century have been found here. The citadel is a reminder of the downfall of Samuel's kingdom in 1018 AD. The church St. Leontius of the 11th century is the most renowned monument in the Strumica region, known to the locals as "Vodoca" or "vadi-oci"( blinding), where according to legend 14.000 of Samuel's soldiers were blinded. The monastery today is home to monks only, whereas nuns observe religious rites in the monastery of St. Eleusa, also from the 11th century. The only icon wholly preserved is "Descent into Hell", depicting two demons, a genuine rarity.
Throughout the ages, Strumica and the Strumica region have been a major commercial junction and hence an upheaval for the interests and influence of many civilizations. Despite severe propaganda and pressure, this region has sustained numerous traditional cultural values. Strumica today is a major cultural center where old traditions and customs, including popular folklore, village fairs, the bullfights of Drvos and the famed Strumica Carnival ( with pagan origins and held on the religious holiday of "Trimeri"- holiday of the engaged), are complemented with modern events such as The International Plastic Art Colony and the theater festival "Risto Siskov".
Strumica and the Strumica valley enjoy a mild Mediterranean climate, with warm and dry summers and cold and wet winters. Summer temperatures may reach 40 degrees centigrade, whereas winter extremes include temperatures below -20 degrees. The mean annual temperature is around 10 degrees. The favorable climate and the quality soils are the region's primary economic asset.
The Strumica valley is the largest producer of horticultural products in Macedonia. Particularly famed are the Strumica peppers, tomatoes and watermelons. Annual production includes 200-300.000 tons of various vegetables, part sold as cash crops, and part is processed and used in the manufacturing of tomato puree, "aivar" and other canned vegetable products.
The Strumica region is one of the most active agricultural regions in the Balkans. Until the 1970s, it was the largest producer of cereals and industrial crops, mainly poppy, cotton, tobacco, sesame, sugar beet, and anise- used in the production of the well-known Macedonian brandy, also made in Strumica. In addition, the Strumica valley is one of Macedonia's largest grape producers, annually averaging 10.000 tons of wine and table grapes raised on an area of 1.000 hectares.
The region in the foothills of Mount Belasica includes several thermal mineral water sources, with varying temperature. The baths at Bansko, with water temperature ranging 47-72 degrees centigrade and the highest in Macedonia, is the oldest resort of its kind.
Besides agriculture, Strumica is also a major center of the textile, non-ferrous and ceramic industries.

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