Macedonia – One of the tectonic lakes in Macedonia is Lake Prespa, famous for the only island in Macedonia that lies in the arms of its water. The island is known by the name Golem Grad (Big City, Big Fortress) and it is the place where Tsar Samuel would come after he would end his battles. Today, the most numerous inhabitants of this place are the snakes; the legend says that actually the snakes are protecting the wealth of Tsar Samuel.
There are two roads that lead to Golem Grad – the northwest and southeast, where there are cracks in the rocks that lead to small beaches.
Point of departure is the village Konjsko which is only 2 km away of the island. It is also possible to come with a private boat driven by a resident of the village Stenje. The island is 750 meters long and 450 meters wide. Because the island once served as a resting place of Tsar Samuel and later as a shelter for some insurgents from the Ilinden Uprising, the two entrances to Golem Grad are still protected by stone walls.
While only one and unique, this island has a rich history and even richer fauna (rich in terms of the number of snakes that rule with these rocks)! In the ancient period, a Macedonian tribe known as Orestes was living here and as a proof of this fact are the graves found in this area. In the period of 10th to 14th century the island had a developed monastic life. There is evidence that the island churches were built in the period from 4th to the nineteenth century, but the only completely preserved church is the church of St. Peter. It’s a church where you can go open the door by yourself and light one of the candles left on the entrance. This modest building has beautiful frescoes and the most important of them is the one with the representation of the siege of Constantinople by the Persians and Avars in 626. Near St. Peter’s Church there are remnants of the medieval church of St. Dimitrija and another early Christian basilica from the early 5th century.
Birds and snakes – guardians of the lonely island
The alternative name of Golem Grad is ‘The Island of Snakes.’ Upon arrival on the island itself, make sure that the first tree which you’ll see (and there are many) will be decorated with thin snakes that hang on the dry branches. The first ones are friendly and are not poisonous – beloushki (grass snakes) and they live in the rocks and by the water. The second type…Well, you may be amazed, excited or terrified – it depends on how willing you are to encounter horned vipers having a party on the island. Yes, they are the everywhere. Yes, they are poisonous. These magnificent guards protect the place from the top of the island.
The island is especially rich in birds. Pelicans are present from 15 April to 15 October, while cormorants are the most numerous and they live in the nests made on the branches of the Juniper tree (Macedonian: фоја – foja).
Most of the dry Juniper trees on the island are older than thousand years.