Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Macedonia Pt. 3 - Ohrid where my husband had a shot of rakija

The shot of rakija (home made liquer) was not the most important thing that happened in Ohrid, but I had to grab your attention.  It's taking me a bit longer to get the details of my trip posted on my blog, and I am afraid that as time passes, mine as well as your enthusiasm goes down.

Ohrid, is probably one of the most visited destination in Macedonia by foreigners.  Situated by a lake makes it a great vacation destination in the summer.  It has beautiful and unique architecture, as well as natural beauty with the crystal clear lake surrounded by mountains.  It's a 3 hour bus ride from Skopje, and that is how we got there.  One of my uncles (I have many in Macedonia) who lives in Ohrid picked us up.  Once, a long time ago, my brother and I stayed with him and his wife.  They didn't have kids at that time, and now their son was a college student.  It was the first time I met him.  Yes, I have been gone a long time.

"If I moved back to Macedonia, this is where I'd like to live", I told my uncle.
"There is only tourists here in the summer, and retired people the rest of the time", he told me.
Maybe I want to retire then.

We stayed in the old part of town, where the locals rent part of their home to you.  We had a two bedroom, and a small kitchenette on the top floor.  And a balcony with this view:
And this to the left.

We were next to one of the many churches there, Sveta Sofija (St. Sofia).  My uncle said that there are 365 churches in Ohrid.  One for each day of the year.
Our visit was short in Ohrid, but full of great experiences.

The first day we walked to a fort, very similar to the one in Skopje.  The one in Ohrid is called Samuilovi Kuli (Samuil's Towers).  King Samuil was the king of the first Bulgarian Empire. (9th century, I think).  I am not one to say that history is my forte, and what I remember about King Samuil is that his military was defeated on the mountain Belasica, by the Byzantine Empire.  The battle is known by that all of his solders were blinded, except for every hundredth man was left with one eye to guide the rest of them home to King Samuil.  Sometime I wonder about us humans.  We are pretty cruel to each others.


Near by there is an amphitheater, dating back to somewhere 200 BC.  If I ever get any superpowers, it would be to be able to see back in time, while standing in a place in the present.  Can you imagine the people, the activities, the performances for the past 12-13 centuries.  Today you can still see performances here during the summer.  Take a look at the houses on top.  Talking about seeing a life performance from you bedroom. 
As you wiggle around past the amphitheater, you end up at Sveti Kliment Plaosnik.  It's a basilica dating back to 5th century.  Nowadays there is construction going on around it building a University.  I believe for religious Christian Orthodox studies.
By the time we got to Plaosnik, my kids were ehxausted.  A bus ride, walk through the old town and carsija (bazaar), up the Samuil fort, to the amphitheater, and now to was a bit much for a 5 and 7 year old.  I really would have liked to take a little more time to finish this long walk with a visit to Sveti Jovan Kaneo, another church with a gorgeous view of the lake as sits on a cliff over the lake.  But it did not happen.

When we got back to the place we were staying, the neighbors occupying the small apartment next to us were in.  They heard the kids speak English and were curious where we were from.  After a brief introduction, we learned that our neighbors were neighbors in many ways.  They were from Los Angeles....well this is where they lived.  Vlatko, the guy is actually originally from Ohrid, but has lived in the States for over 40 years.  And as the conversation went on, it turned out that we have even more connections than that.  He went to school with the husband of one of my aunts.
"What are you plans for tomorrow?", Vlatko asked us.  Embarrassed, I said that we didn't have any big plans.  There is a lot to see in the old town, that just walking around with two kids was a plan enough for me.  Vlatko was quick.  "Have you ever taken a boat ride to Sveti Naum "? (a monastery on the lake, some 30 km from Ohrid).
After a phone call to a friend of his (another school buddy of my aunt's husband), it was arranged that the next morning we are going to Sveti Naum by boat.
Our captain Kole (Nikola Ribarski)
And here is where the rakija comes (the home made liquor) was offered to us many times.  I take beer, but usually refuse rakija.  My husband, taken aback by the spontaneity of the entire experience in Ohrid, decided that this offering of rakija must not be refused.  So the four of us, Vlatko, Kristen, my husband and myself all had a shot of rakija.  And a cup of tea for me to chase the burning sensation in my throat and chest.

Kole was a great captain.  He stopped for us at a  place about half way between Ohrid and Sveti Naum, called Museum on Water.  A reconstructed historic settlement on water.  And this is where I have a confession to make.  See many places have their entry fee doubled for foreign visitors.  My Macedonian still in tact, with no noticeable accent came in handy.  So I asked my family to stay aside and be silent, while I purchased tickets. This worked many times in negotiations.

We continued to Sveti Naum after this.  And oh we were lucky in many ways to have visited just slightly outside of the booming tourist season.  That day we were the only visitors to Sveti Naum by boat.  It's like getting a private tour of everything.
Sveti Naum
We had a nice lunch at Sveti Naum and almost negotiated another boat ride, on a row boat, that takes you in to see some springs.  But time was short.  We had to get back to Ohrid, I had bus tickets to go back to Skopje.  I really would have liked to spend more time in Ohrid.  Maybe next time I go to Macedonia, I won't even tell anyone I am going.  I will enjoy Ohrid in peace.
I am going to leave you with this picture I took when we were somewhere in the middle of the lake.  I believe the shore that is barely visible is the coast of Albania.
I do have a little more to share about my trip.  Check back soon!

1 comment:

Joseph Buckley said...

Absolutely fascinating~! It's like being there! Thank you so much for sharing this Vesna. -jb