Bitola, 13 March 2019 (MIA) – There are a total of 20 bridges over the river Dragor in Bitola, one bridge on every 200 meters. That’s twice the number of bridges in Budapest, Belgrade, and Zagreb.
Many historians have written about the bridges over the river Dragor. The first bridge dates back to the 19th century and it’s called “Crn most” (Black Bridge). A few years ago, this bridge was declared a pedestrian crossing, so a new traffic bridge, which is now one of the most frequently used crossings in the city, was built next to it.
Some people believe that this bridge got its name because it was originally colored black, but others say that the it got its name because it served as an execution site for many political prisoners during the Second World War. Some of these prisoners were incarcerated in the nearby jail, which exists to this day.
The next bridge is “Kaj kavaci” (Poplar Bridge). It’s a wooden bridge whose name comes from the Turkish word kavak, meaning a poplar tree, and poplar trees still grow in this part of the city.
All the bridges in Bitola used to be made of wood, and most of them were destroyed in the First World War. After the war, six iron bridges were built over the river Dragor, four of which are still in use, with the war reparations paid by Germany.
The bridges near the high school, the fire station and the municipality building are made of iron, though the last one got so damaged that it had to be replaced by a concrete bridge. The fourth iron bridge is called “Kaj Intifa” (Intifa Bridge), also known as the Court Bridge, as it is located near the city courthouse. This bridge had been named after the legendary tavern, Intifa, which was often frequented by food lovers, and was famous for its wine and delicious tripe stew.
Another bridge lies 50 meters away, and it’s called is “Kaj Ambdi” (Ambdi Bridge). This bridge is located near the covered bazaar and was popular among historians. Many of them, including Ottoman explorer Evlija Chalabi, called this bridge many different names, including the Great Bridge, the Clock Tower Bridge, and Pekmez Bazaar Bridge.
In 1979, as part of the urban redevelopment, Intifa Bridge and Ambdi Bridge started allowing only one-way traffic and the eight bridge over the river Dragor was replaced by a concrete bridge, which was redesigned again in 2015 and repurposed as a pedestrian crossing.
Unfortunately, people don’t use this bridge very much. Couples would much rather walk on the so called Lovers’ Bridge, and carve out their names in the wood. Older locals say that Lovers’ bridge has always been a wooden footbridge, and was previously known as Mushon Bridge.
Other bridges were also built with the war reparations, including “Lenski most” (Linen Bridge), which connected the houses on one side of the river with the linen market on the other, the bridges near the fishmonger’s and the dyers’ workshops, and the Sali Bridge, one of the busiest bridges in Bitola. All of these bridges were named after the businesses located in this part of the city, leading to the old bazaar.
For example, dyers would hang their goods to dry on the side of one bridge, so that bridge became known as Dyers’ Bridge. Sali Bridge, on the other hand, was named so because a famous dessert shop owned by a man called Sali was located in its vicinity.
The next iron bridge is called “Kaj Baltovci” (Baltovci Bridge). This used to be wooden bridge that connected the Jeni Maale neighborhood with the fields on the riverbank. It had been completely destroyed in 1963, by a flood, and was recently rebuilt with funds provided by Vlado Nikolovski from Bitola, a supporter of the bridges’ restoration initiative.
The second to last bridge over the river Dragor is called “Kaj Klanica” (Slaughterhouse Bridge) and its construction was suggested by the city’s butchers.
And finally, the last bridge is called “Zheleznichki most” (Railroad Bridge) and it was built in 1936. After the construction of Zheleznichka street a second traffic bridge was built next to it.
The bridges over the river Dragor are made of iron, concrete and wood. The last bridge is located near 16th street.
In some countries bridges are paid special attention. They are well-kept and looked after, and people can read about their history on the information boards displayed nearby. For example, a plaque on the Latin Bridge over the river Miljacka commemorates the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo Princip.
This is still not the case in Bitola, where people need to check the city’s archives if they want to find out more about the history of the city’s bridges. However, people in Bitola often joke that if nothing else, at least everyone knows that Dragor flows down from the mountain!
Tr. by Monika Mihajlovska