Macedonia – In the recent articles about Macedonia, I mentioned that the western part of this country is one of the most beautiful and most unique areas. The Rekanski region (River region), which lies between the Albanian border and Kicevo area on one side and between Mavrovo and Debar on the other side, has a simple, but symbolic construction; it is a stone bridge known as Elen Skok (Deer Leap) or Elen Most (Deer Bridge).
This bridge looks like it was made according to drawings from a picture book of fairy tales, or as being part of Lord of the Rings. However, this stone building comes from an earlier period; it was built in the mid 18th century by Mimar Hajrudin.
The builder is otherwise the same architect who gave the plan for Stari Most (The Old Bridge) in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This can be recognized through the line and the style of the Elen Skok.
Elen Skok passes over Mala Reka (Small River); the mere fact that Mala Reka it is actually the common name for all rivers in the field of Bistra and Stogovo, awakes a person’s desire to visit the place. Mala Reka is the largest tributary of the river Radika, which is considered one of Macedonia’s most vibrant valley rivers.Elen Skok bridge is surrounded by images of nature that take you to a place beyond reality. It’s amazing to stand on the bridge and to experience the peace and the freedom offered by this environment.
Otherwise, except as captivating as an architectural construction, the bridge is also known for the legends about its origin.
One of the few legends says that a boy, trying to defend the honor of his beloved, murdered the Turkish Bey who wanted the girl for himself. After the murder, the boy escaped and the Ottomans sent an army to find him. Upon reaching the shore of Mala Reka, he didn’t know how to cross the river. Because he was desperate and helpless, several fairies appeared and turned him into a deer to help him cross the river. The boy easily turned into a deer and jumped the bridge, then ran away. In his honor, the villagers built the bridge whose structure represents the body of the deer at the time of jumping.
One of the more interesting stories about the occurrence on Mala Reka and the building of the bridge is as follows:
One day, a hunter went to hunt in the woods and he met a graceful deer; the animal, with his courageous stand and gaze fixed directly into the eyes of the hunter, forced him to change his mind. The hunter observed the animal for hours, because he had never seen such a wonderful creature before. He let the deer to live and returned home. The next day, the hunter went with his rifle in the woods and met the deer again. The animal curiously looked at the hunter, and he pointed his dark-brown, big eyes towards the confused man. The hunter was impressed by his courage and he increasingly admired the deer’s beauty and powerful antlers, which ideally adapted to the branches of the nearby trees. The third day the hunter went into the woods with a desire to see the animal again. The deer approached and looked into the hunter’s eyes.
He wanted to get closer to the animal, but he was afraid of the animals reaction; he didn’t want to scare him. When the hunter returned to the village, he told the villagers about the unique animal. When asked why he didn’t kill it, the hunter said that he could make such a sin and that the animal should remain to adorn the woods, because never before has such beautiful and unique creature appeared in the forest. The curious villagers told the hunter that they want to see the deer too. He believed them and took them to the post. The animal was there and it has recognized the hunter, but his fellow villagers had lied and began to chase the animal.
Scared of being caught, the deer ran away and came to the shore of Mala Reka. With his last efforts, he jumped but hit his front legs in the river bank and he broke them. Before he died, the deer had tears in his eyes and he looked at the hunter. The hunter cried and said that the animal’s sad eyes are the curse on his pursuers, and that they will be punished. Frightened that the curse will succeed, some of them repented for their actions and decided to make something kind. In honor of the last leap of the deer, they built a bridge that would represent his courage and struggle.
Legend or not, it sends a powerful message.