Definitely not Skopje!
Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
14Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Orhid is one of those places that as soon as you get there you know it is a really nice place, lovely walking street, locals smiling and greeting each other and even me, well at least one old lady who obviously thought I was Macedonian did. Brightly lit streets, children and parents enjoying the Xmas lights down by the lake in the park, went for a walk and bought a large cheap cooked chicken and bread that lasted me for 3 meals.
The next day dawned bright and sunny, at least I think it did since it was lovely when I emerged at 10am, the lake glowing aqua in the distance under the snow caps. Seemed like a good time to do some washing in the kitchen sink and hang it on the balcony, since I was the only one there. By the time I had breakfast and several of the excellent brewed coffees supplied by the hostel and did the washing it was seriously raining... one of my better misjudgments! Went for an afternoon walk along the lake out onto the (manmade?) peninsular into the sunset at about 4.30 and took some eirrie pics of the reeds noisy with bird life settling down for the night. When I returned the wind had blown up, one of those winds strong enough to push you along, a strange sensation, but what was really weird was that the lake had waves about a meter high that broke at an angle against the concrete promenade creating a very strange spume that raced along 2m above the wall in a most unwave like manner, I stood and watched in fascination, as the waves charged up the steps leading into the lake and broke all over the pathway. The videos I took were all crap! ah well
The next morning was predictably windy, grey and showery, on with the wet weather gear, armed with the map, off I go to see 3 of the 365 churches in Orhid, the ruins of the 13thC basilica, St Someone's fortress (why does a saint need a fortress? who knows), the museum of icons and the 11thC church next door that they came from, plus the amphitheater. It was a great walk along the cliffs and up into the forest. After getting hailed on the sun broke through the clouds creating some stunning light effects over the lake and the views were awesome from the fortress. Stole a couple of pics in the icon museum (I have finally figured out how turn the sound off on my camera, which should make photo theft a lot easier!). The churches were all locked, except the oldest that one you had to pay to get into (par for the course) to see the very old frescoes that were almost invisible due to the candle smoke and a fire (strange that the two seem to go toghether..), same as the old monastery outside Plovdiv.
I had planned to leave the next day for Albania, but sat up late drinking beer with the very nice couple who had arrived the night before and didn't quite make it, so went on a day bus trip round the lake to Sviete Naum, another seriously old monastery that is in a hotel, actually the hotel is now the cloisters, but it in reality it's now the same thing. It's right on the border with Albania and is the same bus so it served the double purpose of checking out what I would have to do the next day. Of course the most important reason to go there was that the bad tempered Naomi Campbell and the man that makes a fortune from very bad acting, Brad Pitt, have been there. At least you could see the frescoes in this one and stealing pics was made easy by the disinterest of the guy collecting the money. St Naum and St Clement (he had the aforementioned basilica ruins and a statue in the park) are the local saints. Naum's claim to sainthood is that a local farmer got his oxen eaten by a bear and when he complained at the monastery Naum told him all would be ok, go back and plow your fields. Low and behold the bear was yolked with the other ox and he happily plowed away! The grounds were nicely populated with peacocks that are dangerous to children (the sign said so) and one even displayed his tail for a photo op! The springs that fed the lake were highly photogenic for people like me who like reflections and the bus ride past the tidy little villages around the lake was lovely.
I managed to get out of bed the next morning and make it to Albania, with plans of an adventure on an Albanian train...well that wasn't to be was it!