Struga is an ancient settlement where traces of an old civilization dating from the Neolithic period can be found. The archaelogical records demonstrate that there was a community in this area in prehistoris times, when on the shores of the lake were built the first Neolithic settlements dated from the year 3000 BC. The first Neolithic settlement, which is assumed to have been a fishing area, was built on the place where the river Crn Drim flows out of the Lake Ohrid. It is a pile dweller, an ancient fisherman community. Many archaelogical objects were found there that date from the early stone age, such as different tools made of stone and bones as well as weapons.
It is considered, according to some relevant sources, that the first inhabitants of this area were the Briges and the Enheleians, and later came the Desarets. With the passing of the centuries this fishing settlement grew into a town-like village which was called Enhalon (eel). The name is accidental. Namely, here on the outflow of the river Crn Drim from the Lake Ohrid, the longest journey of the eel starts, which leads to the Sargasso Sea in the Caribean region of the Atlantic ocean where the fish satisfies its biological needs for continuing its kind. The ancient historian Polibius says that in the year 334 BC, king Philip II (stavi link) of Macedon, conquered Enhalon in addition to Lihnidos and the other towns on the shores of Lake Ohrid. There is an important monument from that period with inscription in classical Greek, discovered by the monastery of St. Bogoroditsa (the Virgin Mary). Enhalon was part of the Macedonian state until the year 148 BC when it was conquered by the Romans. The connection of this area and Rome grew closer with the construction of the strategic road Via Ignatia, which connected Rome, through the town known today as Drach and through Thessalonica, to Istanbul and Asia Minor. The road was passing close to Enhalon.
With the spread of Christianity by the end of the 3th century AD the ancient temples were destroyed and on the same place many Christian basilicas were built. Their remains have been and are still being discovered in the surroundings of Struga. The antiochian bishop St. Erazmo (stavi link do ohrid.com.mk ako postoi) is considered to be the first Christian missionary in this area.
The name Struga was mentioned for the first time in a document dated from the XI century. In another document dated from the XVI century (Kalimanova Gramota) there is a royal issue: "The incomes of the fishing area in the town of Struga should be given to the monastery Zoograf". The legends say that St. Kliment Ohridski (stavi link) founded a school in Struga. The grounds and the river which was passing through have the name Klimetitsa even today. It is considered that the medieval Macedonian tsar Samoil (link) built a church in Struga devoted to St. George and also erected a church in the village of Vranishta. On his demands one hundred bridges were built over the river Crn Drim, according to the byzantine traveler and author Ana Komnena.
In the VI century Enhalon, Lihnidos and the other inhabited places were in the frames of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. In this period the Brsjatsi tribe settled in this area changing the name Enhalon with a new one, Struga, on which historians and linguists have different opinions; some say that the word comes from the word STRIG (to fleece sheep) and some claim that it means a passage for sheep through a fence which was called STRAGA, STROGA, STRUGA. In addition, there are some claims that Struga means a river branch, a tributary or a river flow.
In the medieval times Struga was frequently visited by authors who wrote about their travels. One of them is Bernard (1591) who describes Struga as caravan-station with caravan-inns, as a crossroad for many caravans. The famous Turkish traveler Evliya Cheleby, who visited Struga in 1671, describes the town in detail. Struga used to be a great fishing are, especially for eel. The local Turkish ruler by the name of Eminaga, who lived in Struga then, from his rich incomes, built a large bridge on the mouth of the river Drim. On the bridge he built his palace (Saray). The traveler Cheleby wrote that the town was built by the lake and consisted of 300 houses all built of hard material. Cheleby adds that the climate is pleasant, and that there are 3 inns and 40 stores in the town. In this town, says the traveler, twice a year a big fair takes place which is visited by up to 50 000 people. During the 10 days of the fair, people traded their goods and celebrated the fair. The crowd of people gathered there is undescribeable, according to Cheleby. In the vicinity of Struga 300 stores were built for the purposes of the fair. Even today the name of the location, described by Cheleby, where the fair was taking place is preserved - Panagjurishte ("panagjur" means a fair in Macedonian).
In 1783 the Englishman John Bew in London printed the map "Turkey in Europe" where one can find Struga. The chronicler Nikola Pop Stefanov in his "Chronicles" says: "June 6, 1808. We built Geladin Bey's Saray on the river. And it was a terrible forced labour..." The saray was built in the middle of the river Drim and was a quite atractive object visited by many authors who wrote about their travels and were passing through Struga.
In the years to come, on the sky over Struga, two brighest Macedonian stars would appear, the fighters of the spiritual freedom and self-awareness of the Macedonian people, the dearest sons of Struga, the brothers Dimitri and Konstantin Miladinovtsi. Dedicated to their mission, they would leave to their people the Golden Book of Macedonian renaissance - the Collection of Macedonian Folk Songs. Their lives tragically ended in a Turkish prison in Istanbul in 1862. The citizens of Struga, in the following years, will get involved in the spiritual and the national liberation. They would take an active part in the Ilinden uprising (1903) and the National Liberation Movement (1941-1945). There is an interesting information that right here in Struga the Macedonian National Anthem "Today over Macedonia..." was sang for the first time by its author Vlado Maleski.
In the period after the Second World War the town lives its renaissance in all fields. Struga becomes a modern town with wonderful banks and wide streets, with many parks and greenery, with beautiful new buildings, trade and industrial areas, and catering objects and cultural institutions. In honor of the Miladinovtsi brothers every year a renowned festival of poetry is held - "The Struga Poetry Evenings", where many famous world poets take part. Today in Struga there are around 18 000 inhabitants, living in 5430 apartments.
The eminaga of this fishing area, in one bay, right in the middle of this provincial town Struga, built a big wooden bridge on twelve arches, a hundred and fifty steps long. The eminaga's saray, erected on posts, was built on that bridge. It is a large saray. There is a big wooden gate in the middle of the bridge, in front of the saray. Every evening the gate-keepers close the gate on the bridge so the no-one can pass one side to the other because every evening forty to fifty sentries take the turns in standing guard in front of the gate and the saray intil dawn so that no runaway slaves, thieves, murderers or poachers can pass. Therefore that gate was built on the bridge.
This small town Struga comes within the jurisdiction of the cadi of the Ohrid district. It is a small town placed on a sandy ground by the lake. It is built in a valley overgrown with greens. On the whole there are three hundred one and two-storeyed houses roofed with tiles and built of hard material, with orchards and vineyards all around. The climate is pleasant. There are forty shops, but there is no Bezistan, since these shops are enough.
One branch of the lake flows through the bazaar and there is a wooden bridge (across that branch). All the boatmen from the town tie their boats in the water flowing through the town.
A big annual fair, visited by forty to fifty thousand people, is held in this town; it swarms with people for ten days and ten nights. It is such a big-fair that it cannot be described. Out of the town, in its immediate vicinity, there are three hundred shops. In addition, at the place where that fair is held, thousands of booths used for selling goods are built.
Every evening people get into boats, ten to fifteen of them, and go fishing by using lights and fish-nets. The fish is then given to the emin, boat by boat. He sells the fish to the traders coming from all over Rumelija. Then they preserve the fish with salt, put it into both large and small barrels and distribute the fish from Lake Ohrid to different places.
There are very rich and well populated feudal properties all around the lake. What makes the lake unique is its being rich in different properties species of fish. It is the fish eel in particular which can be found here and which has a pleasant smell of musk and amber. It is very greasy and when it is quite fresh it is grilled. One gets very strong by eating this fish. It can be also be used to cure headache. If one puts salt on one's head and then puts the head of the fish on one's head, the headache will be gone. These species of fish are also delicious: pike, trout, carp, and belvica. There are thousands of species of fish, but these five, referred to above, for a wonder, do not have the smell of a fish at all.
(Evliya Cheleby, 1668)
Struga lies in a valley and it has the appearance of a beautiful town. Apart from the lake, it is the Drim that makes the town beautiful and here it is wide, crystal clear and deep... but it does great damage when the level of the water rises. The Drim is very deep at the point where it flows out of the lake, and it is shallow on its way out of the town where it branches. Since its water is very rapid and powerful it even turns several water-mills in the very town. Today Struga has 836 houses and 4312 inhabitants. Of the Christian side there is one church and one paraklis (a very small church in which service is not held). The church is dedicated to St. Georger. Next to the church there is a big school building which is of great significance, in respect of reputation, for Struga and the people of Struga. There are two schools, boys' and girls', and there is also one secondary school of two classes. There are 200 pupils in the boys' elementary school and in the secondary school, and 80-90 girls attend the girls' (school). Of the Turkish side there are several mosques and one school. Struga has itw own bazaar with 180 shops. The shops in Struga are well supllied with everything. A famous fair was held in Struga up to 50 years ago, and the place in the field where it was held is still called Panagjurishte, (Fair-place). Market-day in Struga is Saturday, and the market is very rich.
.There is trade in Struga which will never fail. It is the fish trade which is very prosperous because the eel, the chief export of Lake Ohrid, is caught in large quantities only in Struga. On the Drim, in the western part of the town there are special devices (spots) used for catching eel and many people in Struga are in that business. There, the Drim is dammed and divided with an islet into two branches, when a south wind blows it drives all the eels from the lake into the Drim, when the weather is like that and there is no moon then a large quantity of fish come. Swimming downstream (along the river) the fish get held up at these dams. In the morning the catch of fish is put into a barn, and then it is slaughtered, cleaned out and it is salted. When a south wind blows and there is no moon, even 10,000 oke of eels can be caught and that is an excellent catch of fish. Then the eel is distributed to different places all over Turkey, but a lot of fresh fish is sold in Struga and Ohrid as well.
The people of Struga are not only hard-working but they are well-known for their hospitality as well. Every single family keeps open house-offer hospitality to all comers, guests or travellers. The women and girls of Struga are famous for their beauty and it is said that there you will see neither an ugly norr a crippled woman. Even an old woman aged 80 has a straight body and is well-preserved. The women in Struga wear long shirts, zabun, a sleeveless dzube embroidered in silver thread, as well as a bodice - a sort of sleeveless embroidered jacket and "ipomane". They wear a belt round the waist, white fine linen on the head, and two or three ducats on the forehead. That dress/costume, especially in Struga, has been made with a lot of taste and luxury.
Something else about Struga. According to the people and recorders of travels, the old town of Struga was not located on the site of present-day Struga. Both the old and the young will tell you about the old town of Struga. They point it 15 minutes south-west of present-day Struga, by the lake. They say that the old town was called Drimeni and that it was a big city with 16,000 houses and 24 churches, with squares and palaces built on pillars. What is beyond doubt is that even today some walls and cobbles can be seen in the lake when it is crystal clear. Before reaching that place there is an area of mud which the people of Struga call Klimetica.
(Branislav Nushich, 1892)