Ohrid, Macedonia

The town that sits by 'the jewel of Macedonia'

Ohrid is town to be found by the lake of the same name, the area is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lake Ohrid is Europe's oldest and deepest lake, from Ohrid you can look across the lake to Albania.

The old town of Ohrid has a number of heritage sites, I spent an afternoon exploring a small part. My original intention was to climb through the town to the top where the Fortress of Samuel was situated. Despite following the signs I seem to have made a wrong turn somewhere and instead of the fortress I found myself at the site of an old monastery and the Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon. St. Clement had come to Ohrid and restored an old church, he wasn't happy with the size of it and then had a new church built over it. He named the church for St. Panteleimon. St. Clement also set the site up as a centre of learning, it became one of the oldest university sites in Europe, established in the 10th century. He adapted an alphabet to the Cyrillic that is used in Macedonia today, as well as Bulgaria and Russia.

In the 15th century with the Ottomans in power, the church was converted to a mosque and then back again to a church at the beginning of the 16th century, then by the 17th again it was a mosque. The mosque remained until the year 2000 when it was torn down and the church reconstructed. The whole site is undergoing restoration so parts of it look like a building site.

The church was built over the site of an older and much larger basilica, the foundations of the basilica can be clearly seen, it gives a sense of how big the basilica was. A very large church for what would have been a small town.

The church is not just a museum, it's still a consecrated church and the day I was there, a wedding was being performed. I didn't go into the church, just walked around outside. I liked the way the car was decorated, like a large gift!

On the way up the hill I passed an old open air theatre. The theatre is from the Greek era and was used for staging Greek dramas. When the Romans took over, they used it for gladiator fights and executions of Christians. With the break up of the Roman Empire, the theatre was abandoned and gradually was buried under rocks and dirt. This protected the lower section of the theatre, it wasn't until the 1980s that it was accidentally discovered when the nearby houses were doing some construction work. It's since been fully excavated and it used during the summer months for the music festival that is held in Ohrid during that time.

Going down to the lake.

The rear courtyard of Saint Sophia Church.

The church of St. Sophia dates back to the 11th century, inside there are frescos that are from the 11th, 12th and 13th century. It's all quite lovely.

View from my room

The boardwalk and with cafes and restaurants, the Macedonian flag on the flagpole.

I really enjoyed my short trip to Macedonia, I liked Skopje and Ohrid was really beautiful. I travelled down by car and that was interesting too, seeing the villages and towns along the way, a new highway was being constructed so in future the trip will be even easier. Ohrid has a small regional airport so it's possible to fly in, tourism is an important industry. To me at least, what makes the whole area attractive, is that so far the rest of the world hasn't discovered Macedonia, so there's no being overrun by large tour groups.

 My suggestion to people is they should go and explore Macedonia, see it before the rest of the world discovers it! It's very affordable and not at all crowded with tourists.