Although Lake Ohrid receives the lion’s share of tourists in North Macedonia, Lake Prespa is a stone’s throw away, and it packs some historical sites for those who are willing to go off the beaten path. Marshal Tito was quite fond of Prespa Lake, which was the place where the borders of Southeast Europe were drawn in the aftermath of World War II. These were the borders that remained in place until the end of the Cold War.
If those spomenik monuments scattered throughout the Balkans can be read as a sign of unrelenting optimism, Hotel Evropa can be seen as their post-communist counterpart. Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the pacification of the newly-born countries (circa 1992), optimism was in the air. It was a time of new opportunities and hope for a prosperous future. The sheer size and architectural boldness of Hotel Evropa epitomize this sense of rebirth. Its location further corroborates this idea: far from the touristy route and back to where history was made.
The two angular arms forming the gate to the hotel epitomize the communist minimalism characteristic of spomenik monuments. The two arms are joined by a banner that still reads, ever so faintly, “Hotel Evropa.” Vegetation encroaches on the short road leading from the gate to the hotel, which has been neglected for years.
There are uncertainties around the events that led to the hotel’s abandonment in 2005. What is certain is that a massive fire broke out in the kitchen. What is not clear is what caused the fire. Three hypotheses exist: Frying pans got overheated and caught fire; The electrical circuitry failed and a spark started the fire; The fire was started deliberately in order to defraud the insurance company. No one hypothesis is more credible than the others. Shortly after the fire, the hotel was abandoned and has been vandalized since then. Shattered glass and graffiti are ubiquitous.
On the ground floor is the ballroom, which is easily recognizable by the number of smashed mirrors mounted on walls and pillars. A derelict bowling alley can be found in the basement. The upper floors can be reached through the main staircase, which is still in good shape. The upper rooms definitely commanded the best view of the lake, and they still do, but nowadays, what is really striking is the view of vegetation slowly but surely taking over the balconies on the lower floors.
There are rumors that developers are set to demolish the hotel to make room for something snazzier, but in the meantime, Hotel Evropa is still there for those who are willing to dare to visit it.