Ohrid, North Macedonia

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The bus ride from Skopje to Ohrid took around 4 hours. The landscape we saw on our way was beautiful: mountains and plains changing each other. The road was quite picturesque.

We were arriving to Ohrid at the sunset hour and the view we had from the bus windows was amazing. The sun was setting down behind the mountain on the Albanian side. It painted the sky in the pastel colors with a bright golden shine in the middle.

Our apartment

Turned out that the owner of our apartment in Ohrid worked on the same street where we lived in Skopje. For this she gave us the keys there. She is a very nice woman and helped us when we needed to find a bus stop to go to the Vodno mountain in Skopje. A really friendly and helpful person.

Reviews on the apartment were great, so we didn’t expect any unpleasant surprises. However, when we arrived, we found out that the place was cleaned really bad. To the point that there was an old sponge in the kitchen sink with dirt and someone’s hair on it. Brr!

The kitchen itself was covered with a layer of fat mixed with dust. It seemed like nobody cleaned it for months if not years (we found a jar of instant coffee that expired in 2015…).

We wrote to the owner about it, since she takes money for the cleaning service. She was very sorry, but well, we had to live there for a week, so we just cleaned it up a bit so we are more or less comfortable.

For the rest, the apartment was not very convenient. Especially on the contrast to the Skopje’s place, it looked much worse. Everything was old and some things were literally falling apart. But well again, we didn’t plan to stay inside much.

The good thing about this apartment was its location: just 5 minutes walking to the lake and the city centre with all you need. So we left our luggage and went to the supermarket.

City events

On the way we passed a small open-air theater located just at the main street, and there was a folklore show. Turned out that we came in the middle of the folklore festival week.

A Polish band singing in Russian 🙂

There were many people watching groups from Europe dancing and singing. It was really nice! We had this kind of shows everyday for almost the whole week. They stopped just a day before we left.

 Another interesting event that we witnessed was FINA 2019 Ohrid part (the results are here: http://www.fina.org/event/fina-ultramarathon-swim-series-2019-3/results , there were many Argentinian swimmers). It is an international swimming competition that is carried out in different parts of the world, the participants swam 25 km. By the way, there were Olympic champions among the participants.

After completion of the distance, there was an official awarding part. There were many people, security and journalists. We couldn’t understand what was going on, but they all seemed to be quite excited about one person.

There was a well-dressed middle-aged man who was in the center of attention. We didn’t know who it was, and we didn’t have our camera’s nor our phones to take a picture of him. So we just observed. He passed really close to us, guarded by the security guys.

Stevo Pendarovski, the current president of North Macedonia
Picture is taken from http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/planeta.300.html:819923-Pendarovski-otkazuje-predsednicku-penziju

Later we checked and found out that it was the President of North Macedonia. We were surprised: the first visit of the country and we’ve got to see its leader. (A week later in Tirana we came just a bit too late to see the Prime-Minister of Albania, but that’s another story).

Entertainment

There was only one place with attractions in our area, and it looked pretty much like the ones from the 90s. There were electric cars that bumped into each other, one “shaker” where kids and adults screamed like crazy even though it was quite ok, one mini-basketball and a mini-pool for babies and that was pretty much it. People seemed to be happy even with such limited choice of attractions.

The lake shore is full of restaurants, often with live music. We heard many times people singing along the local popular songs.

Crowds of people were promenading along the lake in the evening, eating some leskuvachka (local burger) or grilled sweet corn. The atmosphere was joyful. We liked spending an hour or two in the evening at the lake, enjoying the vibes of holidays.

Sightseeing

The Church of St. John at Kaneo

Ohrid has many churches and they are quite old. The most famous one is the Church of St. John at Kaneo that you can see on touristic pictures of the lake. There is a view point next to the church from which it is great to watch the sunset.

The Colosseum in Ohrid

The Church of St. John at Kaneo is located on the hill half way to the Tsar Samuel’s Fortress that we also visited. The first time when we tried to reach it, we turned in the wrong place and came to the Colosseum instead.

The part of the city that we saw on our way was marvelous. People really know how to do gardening in North Macedonia. Every house was surrounded by beautiful flowers, and the owners seemed to be proud off their plants.

The Tsar Samuel’s Fortress

Next time we approached the Fortress from another side and finally reached it. It is built on the Ohrid hill 100 meters above the level of lake, so you can see the panorama on the whole city and the lake itself. The view is breathtaking! We took our time to fully enjoy it.

We went back to the lake side through the pine forest, passing another little church. On the way we saw some “stray” turtles eating grass at the construction site. This was the first time we saw them walking free just like street cats or dogs.

The Church of St. Sophia

Talking about turtles, there was another couple of them at the yard of the Church of St. Sophia. It perfectly worked as an attraction for people, especially for the younger ones. We liked them too. The Church itself is one of the most important monuments of Ohrid and it was built in the Middle Ages.

Architecture and gardening

The house of Krapche

In the 19th century the Kanevchevi family had built one of the most typical facades found on the West side of the house – the house of Krapche (it is authentic). It was later used as a model for the street lamps which can still be found in the old part of Ohrid.

The city is well decorated with plants and flowers. They are shaped in different forms, put together in beautiful compositions. It creates a fine image of the city and a nice atmosphere of blooming beauty.

Adventures of buying a bus ticket

For the next location (Tirana, Albania) we had to buy bus tickets in one of the local offices. For this we went to the city center to check what’s available.

At the time when we went there (around 16:30) there was only one tourist office open, where they sold this kind of tickets. Unfortunately their bus departed at 5 am, which was unacceptable for us.

We decided to try our luck in another one, on the same street. It was closed for a lunch break until 17:00. We decided to wait, it was only 30 minutes. However, nobody appeared half an hour later. We’ve been waiting until 17:30, and still no one came.

So we lost our hope to see anyone coming and went to another local provider of bus services, who seemed to be the most popular among the locals – Galeb tour, but their office was further away from the city center.

When we came to the Galeb tour office, at nearly 18 hours, there was no one. There was also no working schedule to know when they are open.

Sales professional

Waiting for the dinner 🙂

So we went away to search for another company and we found one small touristic office. The woman who worked there was sitting on the stairs, smoking and talking on the phone.

We asked her, if they had tickets to Albania. She asked someone she talked to to hang on and said that she had them, but she was not sure, how much they costed and at what time the bus departs.

She said she thought it was 30 Euro, or maybe 50, and it departs at 5 am. We asked to check if it was really so, because we really needed to get to Tirana on Wednesday.

The woman was not very happy to finish her phone conversation, but she did it and asked us to follow her. Turned out, that the tickets costed 15 Euros each and the bus departed at 7 am.

We asked her if we could pay with a bank card, she said yes. We decided that it was ok for us and asked her to proceed.

She called the owner of the bus line, reserved two places and prepared two tickets for us. We got our bank card to pay and she said that we could not pay with it, because their terminal didn’t work.

We were surprised, because she said the opposite before. It was senseless to argue, we asked, if we could pay with euro. She said no, but she could go and exchange it for us.

Super service

We didn’t have enough Euro with us, so we went back home. picked up the money and came back. This time she told us to go to an exchange office and do it ourselves (a very inconsistent lady…). She wrote the rate for today and how much Denars we should receive and explained where to do that.

In that office the rate was slightly different, and the guy wrote on the paper details of the exchange. It was a bit less Denars than she said, but we didn’t care, because the price was in Euro.

We came back. The woman was speaking on her phone again and she served us continuing to talk and explaining the situation to her friend on the phone.

We showed her the exchange rate. She was a bit angry that it was less, the difference was 40 Denars, but it was a matter or principle. Her service was awful and we didn’t want to pay more.

In the end she gave us the tickets and continued telling her friend about us and this situation. We took our tickets and left.

Moving further

Our bus came on time. It was a nice morning with clear sky. There were around 8 other tourists going with us to Tirana. We arrived to the border quite fast.

It was our first time of crossing this border and we didn’t know what to expect. Surprisingly, we didn’t even have to go out of the bus: the driver collected our passports, brought them to the customs and later returned them to us. That’s it.

It was the simplest passport control in our trip so far. However, there were different situations that we read about later. It is not always so simple. We were lucky and happy about it. Our trip continued.

Our impression of Ohrid

We liked Ohrid very much. It is a place with a long history and an everlasting charm. There we saw one of the most wonderful sunsets and ate delicious food. We swam in crystal clear water and enjoyed the fantastic views.

Ohrid is a pearl of North Macedonia (actually, they have real pearls that they produce by a local technology). We highly recommend you to come here and see everything with your own eyes.

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