BITOLA is the greatest town in the fertile and the biggest Macedonian valley Pelagonia, and the second biggest town in the Republic of Macedonia. Bitola is situated in the end southwest part of the Republic of Macedonia in the bottom of the Baba Mountain with the 2601-meter high peak Pelister, 13 kilometers away from the Greek border.
Bitola extends between the lines of 21o18’20’’ and 21o22’11’’ longitude east of the Greenwich meridian, and between the lines of 41o00’00’’ and 41o03’20’’ latitude north of the Equator.
The town occupies a surface of 15 square kilometers for the narrower area and over 24 square kilometers for the wider area. That is about 2% of the total area of the former municipality, and 9,7% of the new municipality area. The diameter of the town both ways is about 7 kilometers long.
Set on both sides of the river Dragor, Bitola, is enclosed with four hills called “Bair” on the north, that are 640, 770, and 785 meters high, and the fourth, which is called Kale is the highest one (890 meters). They are spurs of the Oblakovo – Snegovo massif. On the south the town is enclosed with the hill Tumbe Kafe, which is a 744 meters high spur of Neolica and Baba Mountain. On the east, Bitola is wide opened to the Pelagonia valley, and on the west Bitola is opened to the fluvial-glacial alluviums of the river Dragor, the wide Gjavat valley, and the high peak Pelister.
The Bitola terrain leans from west to east, that is from Pelister and Baba to the Pelagonia Valley or from 710 meters to 590 meters height above the sea level, and the town’s average height above the sea level is 650 meters. These parameters make Bitola the highest town among the largest cities in the Republic of Macedonia. (See map No. 1).
The basic characteristics of the local topographic situation of Bitola result from its location on the boundary of two different physical and geographic entireties. It is in contact with the Pelagonia Valley zone, the hills of the Oblakovo – Snegovo massif, and the mountainous terrain of Baba Mountain and Pelister. The eastern and the southeastern part of the town are lying on alluvial layers of the Pelagonia Valley, the northern part is lying on hilly terrain of the Bair Hill, and the western and partially southern part of the town are lying in the direction of Baba and Pelister.
These differences greatly influence the look of the town and the structure of its landscape. One side of the town is set on a plain area, and the other side is set on hilly terrain and pluvial material. Two different agricultural branches, gardening and farming in the east, northeast, and southeast, and orchards, gardening and cattle breeding in the west and southwest get in contact in the Bitola area.
Generally speaking, although Bitola is set at the peripheral part of the Republic of Macedonia, it is second largest economic center after Skopje. Bitola is set in a region of intensively developed agriculture and is important agro-industrial center, not only for the Pelagonia Valley, but also in the wider southwestern region of the Republic of Macedonia.
The geographical location on the Balkan Peninsula made it possible for Bitola to be economic, administrative, educational and cultural center over the history. There is an ancient city settlement – the Ancient Macedonian city Heraklea Linkestis. This city had very important military-strategic, traffic, economic and cultural thousand year geographical and historical position and function. This is proved by the fact that the most famous ancient road Via Egnatia passed via this settlement, and had a large economic and military-political importance.
Bitola through the medieval period was a settlement with different positions, different functions and roles, developing from a medieval fortified city, to a city with churches and monasteries, a city of a royal palace, bishop’s residence, religious center etc.
During the Turkish time, Bitola was a craft, religious, and military-political vilayet center, bishop’s residence, cultural, educational, trade, construction and economic center. A city – residence of several European diplomatic corps, a modern city, a city – subject of military strategic plans and aims, a city with its own ups and downs.
All these facts mark Bitola as a city with no accidental location and importance of the geographical position and function on the Balkan and wider. But, this importance considerably reduced with the division of the territory of Macedonia during the Balkan war 1912/13 and the defining of state borders with Greece and Albania.
All the characteristics of the geographical location of Bitola had great influence on the life in the city. Unfavorable peripheral geographic location of Bitola since 1913 should be mentioned among them. This situation crucially influenced, and it still influences the development of the city and regional economy reducing the role of the economic functions, influencing the urban and spatial planing, and causing migrations, as well.