Tuesday 19 to Friday 22 February
We arrived in Ohrid. Our host Victor had already called to check when we were arriving, I think he wanted to go home. Our accommodation was in Hotel Bella Artes – a modern style hotel. Victor kindly upgraded us and gave us an informative lecture on what to do in the area.
He suggested restaurants that were local and typical – a barbeque place for the first night and a fish restaurant for the second night.
Ohrid is the major town in Macedonia for tourism on Lake Ohrid, one of the world’s oldest lakes, dating back more than a million years. The town is considered one of the oldest settlements in Europe.
Amongst Victor’s suggestions was a boat ride to see Ohrid from the water. The air was clear and cold, as was the lake.
Then we toured Ohrid. I forget how slowly you move as a larger group – everyone has their preferred sights and in our case, preferred angles for photography.
Our first stop was the Church of St Sophia. Ohrid is famous for its churches, the locals will tell you there is one for every day of the year.
It is a pretty church with a colonnade on the side. It was built in the 11th century and converted to a mosque during the Ottoman Empire.
We then found the Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo (St John the Theologian). We had impressive views of this pretty small church from our lake tour, as it is set on a cliff top overlooking the lake and is one of the most famous images of Ohrid.
We stopped for lunch beside the lake in a tiny fishing village called Kaneo. The sun was warm enough for us to sit outside and enjoy more important family time together.
Energised by lunch, we made the long steep climb up to Samoil’s Fortress (Samuel’s Fortress). The fortress, which was first built in the 10th century by the powerful medieval Bulgarian state, has a commanding view over the lake and the countryside behind.
We were tempted to stay and watch the sun set over the water, behind the Albanian mountains – what a sight!
From the fortress we had a great view of St Clement’s Church. St Clement was a medieval Bulgarian scholar and one of the most prominent disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius who are recognised as creating the Gpylons lagothic and Cyrillic scripts. He is the patron saint of Macedonia and Ohrid.
The next day we made an excursion along the lake. Our first stop was the Bay of Bones Museum also known as Museum on Water.
It is believed that around 1200BC a settlement of about 60 houses was built on stilts or piles over the water and connected to land by a moveable bridge to provide protection from Megabazus’ invaders.
The Greek historian Heredotus (5th century BC V 16) described the village and explained that each man was responsible for driving three piles into the water for each of his wives. A trapdoor sat within each dwelling, from which the plentiful fish could be collected by dropping a basket into the water. Fish were fed to the horses and other animals. He also reports that the children’s foot is tied by a string to prevent them falling into the water.
Today about 24 houses have been reconstructed over 3,346 piles. Three of the houses are circular, thought to be for ceremonial purposes and the others are square.
There are the remains of a Roman Castellum at the same site. It served as a place of smaller auxiliary Roman troops in the 3rd century AD on the Via Egnatia, defending the Empire from barbaric attacks.
We continued around the lake, towards the Albanian border in the south, to the St Naum Monastery. St Naum was born in 830AD and considered one of the seven Apostles of the First Bulgarian Empire and a disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Naum founded the monastery and is buried there.
It was a beautiful lunch stop, after visiting the church (no photos inside).