Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Anastasia Guesthouse

Flag of Macedonia  ,
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If you happen to turn up in Ohrid wondering what the place is all about, the name of the main street - Turisticka Boulevard - may provide a clue. Tourism is not new to Macedonia's side of lake Ohrid (the lake is shared between Macedonia and Albania) with the wealthy subjects of the Roman Empire enjoying a bit of a swim in the lake. 
The old town is gorgeous and filled with churches in varying states of ruin or repair, the oldest being the 4th century floor mosaics (with no actual church remaining). The highest point in town is adorned with the heavily reconstructed fortress which has great views over the lake. At the base of the hill, the cobbled streets have become tourist hangouts with the buildings converted to cafes, shops and icecream stands. Where the cobblestones end the concrete high rise sprawl begins... you have to house all the tourists somewhere.

Getting used to the concept of swimming off a beach of pebbles instead of sand, we found our very own patch of baking hot concrete, set our stuff down and went for a swim. The lake has an interesting algae aroma but is delightfully cool - as it should be I guess, as it is 300m deep. Most people seemed to be there just for sunbathing (an interesting choice seeing as the only available surface is concrete or sharp rocks) which seemed a pity, as the tree shaded swimming spots were far more pleasant. Instead of beaches, the shore of the lake closest to town has been turned into a promenade. A stroll along the lakefront is a popular way to spend an evening and good business for the popcorn and icecream stands.

Heading for the Albanian border from Ohrid, we passed the little monastery of Sveti Naum. Perched on a peaceful cliff above the lake, it is still an operating monastery which surprised me seeing as a huge great hotel and restaurant complex has been built looming over the little church. Next to the surrounding farms and the traffic of donkeys I found the place to be rather a contrast as we watched peacocks roaming about the rose gardens. 
The border point itself was only about a 10 minute walk away, this time we actually got an exit stamp although judging by the clarity of it, there must be a money saving initiative on ink at the moment.

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