In the immediate vicinity of the city of Kumanovo, downstream from the inflow of Kumanovka into Pcinja, nature has built the beautiful Bislimska Klisura, which according to its characteristics is among the most interesting in the Republic of Macedonia. Some people know about the gorge and its treasures, although it is a natural rarity that is only 5 km away from the city. Under the name Bislimska gorge, the section between the hill Krasta from the west and the hill Golic from the east side, ie the deep valley of the Pchinja River from the village, is covered. Goodness to the village. Pchinja. The gorge is only 7 km long, but on such a small length there is plenty to see. In the people, this space is simply called “Bislim” and immediately associates it with a stone and mysterious space where rarely passes. According to the findings, the name is probably derived from the medieval village that stretched in the central part of the gorge, which was displaced towards the end of the 16th or 17th century, ie. during the Turkish rule.

Accessibility to the Bislim gorge is possible from several sides. The easiest way is by turning off from the main road Kumanovo – Sv. Nicole directly at the Orashev Bridge, and then the river flows. The second possibility is from the south side – through the village. Pchinja, so it goes upstream to the river. But it must be said that the central most interesting part of the gorge is completely inaccessible to any vehicle and can only be walked by walking. To see the gorge in all its beauty, it is best to climb the hill Krasta, that is, the top or the locality of the Tikijatnica, which is above the river itself. The strong meandering of Pchinja, which is in the rocky abyss, is almost 300 m deep. From here you can see the highest peak in the area – Kukuljica with its 722 m. Krasta and Golic are cut with shallow and deeper drywall, through which water flows only after heavy precipitation. In some places, these hills resemble genuine rocky deserts similar to those in the Herzegovinian area. The Krasta above the quarry can be seen several rotors – the only ones of the kind in the Kumanovo. For their creation, it took thousands of years in which the atmospheric precipitation dissolved the limestone and formed the hollows.

We will start our journey by Bislim from the north side, ie from the inflow of Kumanovska River into Pcinja. In the beginning, the Pchinja valley is wide open. The riverbed is a small fall, and along it are sandy island islands. On the opposite side in Pcinja, the short gradient Gradiska Luca flows from Gradiski Reid. A few hundred meters downstream from the inflow of Kumanovska River into Pchinja, the valley sharply narrows into the thick limestone masses of 140 million years old. Suddenly the wide kolska roads along the river are barely passable, and those who continue will not guess what awaits them next. The natural tidiness of the area gets a wild appearance, and the Pchinja River accelerates its course hitting the old rock masses. In some places, the rocks descend so much toward the river, which appears to have been cut off with a knife. It’s even going over the river stream. Moving along the riverbed and passing the river in suitable places, we are reaching the first surprise that nature has arranged for hundreds of meters. Namely, on the right side of the river you can see the opening of the first cave which, due to the overhanging rocky slopes, gets a terrible look. The people call this cave Markova House. The legend says that one of you, Marko, was chased by Turks, he found a cavern whose entrance was by the river, and the exit was quite high above the hill. Thus he fled to the Turks, and since then the cave has been named Markova Kucha. Modern research shows that this cave or more precipitous is one of the largest in this part of the Republic of Macedonia. Its entrance is at the foot of the hilltop (elevation 421 m), but it is clustered with stones to protect the cattle from accidental crash. So the entrance to this underground world from the upper side is almost impossible. But luckily the bottom of the ruin is connected to a wide horizontal canal that starts in a rock 10 meters above the Pchinja River. The interior of these underground channels is very steep, and slippery – especially after atmospheric precipitation, so we need to move extremely carefully. And in the interior a whole maze of channels, so if we do not have good orientation, we can easily get lost in the darkness. Several channels end up with openings in the cliff above the river, so it seems like we are coming out on a tall terrace from which an unusual sight extends. Although it is not abundant with lavish underground jewelry, what has been created is invaluable. Unfortunately, rare visitors endeavor at all costs to leave a stamp on their presence by inscribing the initials of the cave walls and degrading the interior. But it should be known that such underground canals are created by gradually lowering the storm water through the cracks over a period of several hundred thousand.

After the exit of Markova Kuča we follow the flow of Pcinja to the locality Orlovac. Here the valley has an almost canyon character with vertical sides up to 200 meters. Until ten years ago, the high rock beams were indeed inhabited by many eagles, but today they are reduced to only 3-4 individuals who retain the highest and inaccessible parts. On the higher rocky hills, the so-called “windows in the rock” can be seen, a very rare occurrence that occurs with the rupture of parts of old caves. At the locality Orlovac, a larger karst drywall descends to the river Pcinja from the hill Krasta. After its bottom weak water flows only after strong atmospheric precipitation. In general, the Bislim area is a typical karst area that resembles rocky landscapes in Croatia or Herzegovina. Because the terrain is built of carbonate rocks – limestone, which does not retain surface water, the entire area is anhydrous. The water from the atmosphere sinks through the limestone and passes through the underground channels into the Pchinja River. There are 3 interesting caves on the right side of the drywall, which got the name according to the locality: Orlovi caves or Orlov cavern. In the interior of the largest cave there is a cave chimney – a chimney-like opening through the ceiling. The chimney is 15 meters high and exits to the top of the elevation. Due to the high altitude difference, inside the cave there is a strong atmospheric circulation, so we have the feeling that a large fan is placed in the old rock masses. Hundreds of meters below the previous cave are the two smaller caves about ten meters long. Through them can hardly be a man of the test. They were once short underground watercourses – springs, whose water flowed through the present dry land into Pchinja.

Following the flow of Pchinja through the almost impenetrable terrain, the man does not expect that in the middle of this rocky wildlife the space will open quickly, be “indulged” and get a paradise. Here the river suddenly changes the direction of the flow – meanders, and the wide alluvial plain due to the underground waters is dislocated for most of the year. Gradually we come to the place that the people call the Tikiyirnitsa. Here on the right side is the highest canyon part of the gorge with over 250 m steep slopes, and on the left side is the place Gradishte. Although today the space seems deserted and lifeless, here once passed old known antique roads, and there were also several settlements that existed for over 1000 years. This is evidenced by the destroyed remains of defensive walls in the town of Gradiste, the inscriptions on the rocks, and the traces of human activity in several surrounding caves. At the very top in the town of Gradiste, few surprises are expected. In the low rock below the top there is a rectangular opening through which it enters the short cave through which walls can be seen old inscriptions – probably since ancient times. Today cattle use this cave as a shelter in case of weather disasters. At 10 meters from the entrance to the cave, hidden behind the rocks, is a kind of well-shaped hole. Through the hole are thrown branches to prevent the cattle from falling into it. This opening is actually an entrance to the Great Gradiska ruin, deep over 20 meters. In depth, the ruin extends and ends with a larger underground hall from which it sometimes drains water. At the bottom there are piled stone blocks and skeletons of smaller animals. There is a legend which says that the villagers from the former village of Bislim threw a Turk who wanted to embark on a Macedonian mom. On the opposite side of the Gradiška cave is the smaller Gradiška ruin. It is interesting because it has two entrances – channels that at a depth of 10 meters merge. The channels are so tight that one can barely enter through them. It is interesting to mention that in the months of July and August, a large number of snakes can be seen on the rocky surface in this part of Gradiste, and especially the snake gemstones that are quite poisonous and difficult to notice.

At the foot of Gradishte, to the very basin of Pchinja is one of the most characteristic caves in the area, which the people call “Cold Cave”. Where did the name come from? The entrance from the cave consists of a number of openings through which a strong air circulation takes place. It’s a few meters away from the entrance, the temperature drops sharply. Therefore, a few decades ago, when the river was cleaner and visited, the entrance to the cave served visitors as a refrigerator for food items. To the inside of the Cold Cave two channels are separated, about twenty meters long. The upper canal resembles a maze and from it you can reach the ceiling on the lower canal or exit the “terrace” above the main entrance. In several places in the cave there is interesting underground jewelry, but also a large colony of bats of several hundred individuals. Unfortunately lately, bats are extinct because of the belief that they have magical power. On the opposite side of the river is a huge rocky bay 250 meters high. This section calls the people the Meccano ravine. Measurements of the depth of the Pchinja River along the rocky parts show a value of up to 3 meters, so the crossing of the river is very difficult especially during higher waters. And the river must cross over to see the beautiful Lishkov cave, perhaps the richest with a cave object in the Bislim gorge and in the Kumanovo region in general.

The accessibility of the Liškov cave is relatively difficult and leads to rocky “stairs” that have long been partially shaped by the old population. At the very entrance of the cave, a large cave hall is opened, the bottom of which is covered with blocks covered by the ceiling. From the hall, two channels end with smaller circular extensions. Through the canals you can see magnificent cave jewelry in the form of curtains, pale-yellow basins, and from the ceiling, thin tubes are lowered – stalactites, which nature painstakingly created. In the initial part of the left channel, several stone vessels of great old age can be observed, which were used by the ancient population. From the right channel, a secondary channel that descends in depth and ends with a circular hall stands out. And this channel is rich in stalactites, and there are several stalagmites. At the bottom of the canal in the winter period of the year a small pond is formed, which sinks through the cracks, and the water leaks directly into the Pchinja River. The interior of the Liškov cave is quite hot and humid, and it also has a diverse animal world, especially underground insects. There is a belief that in the cave and around it there is a buried treasure. Therefore, it is often possible to notice “adventurers” who are looking for wealth, but their dreams are not realized. If one can not find a real treasure, at least a stalactite or stalagmite is broken, and thus an unnecessary damage is done, because a unique such a luxurious object is destroyed in the Kumanovo region. And just imagine, the nature of each stalactite builds up with drops of millions of drops, and for a tube of 5 cm long, it takes over a thousand years. Let’s not drive at least this cave to stay for future generations to have something to admire.

After leaving the Lyshkov cave, the river must be crossed again to see a few more interesting places in the locality of Kitke. The ascent to the locality is very hard. However, labor is paid because there is another cave called the Dunes Cave. She is one of the smaller and poorer jewelry, but is interesting in terms of the shape and morphology of the main channel. The cave is 30 meters long and quite accessible. It is therefore used as a shelter for livestock farmers and livestock, especially when there are weather disasters. A few dozen meters below the cave, nature created a striking window into the rock. Under the influence of precipitation, wind, and mechanical decay, the softer parts of the rock mass were more quickly decayed, so for a period of 10 thousand years a window appeared resembling a window. From here there is a beautiful view towards Gradiste and towards the Tikiyarnitsa, and in the abyss, at a depth of 60 meters is the flow of Pcinja.

Lowering downstream, the gradually narrow riverbed expands into an alluvial plane in which geological investigations have established the existence of nodules of gold particles. Perhaps because of this, there are often “bits of gold” that can be found across the Bislimska gorge, which only destroy the appearance of the beautiful landscape, and the gold is not a trace. Even if a smaller piece or gold object is found, the damage done will be much greater than the benefit. Crosswise, through the riverbed there is an earthen stone stone high almost 1 meter, a remnant of an old riverbed that probably served to accumulate water, and further for irrigation of the downstream fields. Gradually, at the very end of the gorge, the first houses from the village of Pcinja begin. Here the gorge ends at the village itself, and our journey ends.

Confident of the beauties of the Bislim gorge, along with the unusual things we encountered and the surprises we came across, we leave the area telling this paradise just ten kilometers from the city of Kumanovo. The deep and impressive canyon, the numerous short but interesting caves and precipices, the rich animal and plant life make the Bislimski gorge a natural unique part of this part of Macedonia. At the same time, we wonder how it is possible that we did not know what is hidden in these ancient rocks. But the thought is that such beauty should be preserved for future generations. It is a pity that the polluted waters of the Kumanovska Reka, through Pcinja, greatly degrade the space that until twenty years ago was often visited by the pilgrims. That’s why we should all take more care not to ruin what has remained, but on the contrary – to regain the past purity and beauty of this pearl of Kumanovo.

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