• Adam

Macedonia: Lake Ohrid region

Lake Ohrid is claimed to be one of the oldest lakes on Earth. I don't know how they know this, but it is home to many species that aren't found elsewhere. The waters are crystal clear and beautiful. It is a tourist town - Macedonia is landlocked so this is their big beach town - and I spent 2 nights here. The center is a charming old town with cobblestone streets and many Orthodox churches. (During Ottoman rule, only mosques could be built outside the town walls.) I booked 2 nights at a hotel that was only $29/night and included free parking. They didn't tell me in advance that there's a gate at the city wall blocking entry to cars except for residents and hotel guests, so I had to park, run down, and have them come let me in. With narrow streets and scarce parking, how could I be guaranteed a space to park?

Hey look! Spikes locked to the stone that they unlocked and moved so that I could park here!

I walked along their "famous boardwalk" which was really just a literal boardwalk around a cliff to get to the "most famous sight in Macedonia" - the Church of St. John at Kaneo. It is situated on a point overlooking the lake, and it was indeed beautiful. I continued walking through a forest where I came upon an old fortress and an ancient Greek amphitheater.

The famous "boardwalk" hyped by my guide book left much to be desired. But the surroundings were indeed beautiful.

The church of St. John at Kaneo (above) - I can see why this is "the photo" everyone visiting Macedonia wants to take. Albania can be seen across the lake. I didn't pay to enter the church, which itself is similar to other churches. But I did enjoy the walk uphill where I could relax and take in the views (right).

I then got in the car and drove along the lake, south towards the Albanian border. I stopped for some burek (delicious phylo pastry filled with meat, cheese, spinach, or whatever, for about 50 cents a portion) and continued to the Monastery of St. Naum. The church itself was quite small but pretty on the lake, surrounded by a park on the lake (with potentially aggressive peacocks) and a lagoon that was fed by spring waters where there were smaller churches. I hiked about a mile to one such church - it was built fairly recently and below the alter was the source of the spring water. The water then exited in a channel behind the church and emptied into the lagoon.

The church of St Naum in the courtyard of the monastery. Look out for the peacocks, they can peck at you!

This is a newer church with the source of spring water beneath the altar, then channeled out the back as a stream towards the lagoon, which then empties into the lake.

On my way back to Ohrid I stopped by the "Bay of Bones" - a museum and recreation of a prehistoric community built on wood pilings in the lake. It was fairly simple and not too developed yet. Back in Ohrid I relaxed by the beach, swam in the water, and enjoyed a night of dinner and walking by the lake.

I can't read Macedonian so I chose a beef dish that ended up being a stew. Fortunately, it was good, and only about $6.

By night, with a fortress lit up and Macedonia's sweet national flag.

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