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Clare
Clare

Day 5: Bitola to Ohrid

When we woke up early in Bitola this morning we were relieved to see that the sun was shining through the curtains. We went for a stroll around the town and found a nice cafe where we were able to sit outside and eat what must have been one of the world's sickliest pastries for breakfast. It was the shape of a giant croissant but had the texture of a doughnut and was filled with chocolate sauce. We were ready to check out of our guesthouse by nine - which was quite early because our bus to Ohrid wasn't until 10.30 - so we took a leisurely walk to the station and spent some time reading while we waited for the bus.

It was less than 90 minutes from Bitola to Ohrid, which was good because the bus was a bit decrepit. We drove very slowly but it was a beautiful journey, again through the mountains. As we got towards Ohrid it became more overcast, but the rain held off. When we arrived we were ambushed by a horde of ladies with rooms to rent out, indicating that this is somewhere more used to tourists than Skopje and Bitola. We successfully evaded them but for some reason we also thought it would be a good idea to turn down the advances of the taxi drivers and walk the 2km to our apartment. I knew that Ohrid was on a bit of a hill, but I hadn't appreciated quite how steep it would be!

It's hard to quantify exactly how far uphill we walked, but by the end of the day our fitbits were showing that we had climbed the equivalent of 96 floors! It certainly felt like a long way with luggage, although my new suitcase is doing a very good job of coping with the sometimes dubious quality of Macedonian pavements. We arrived at our apartment just before one and were pleased to see that not only was it nice and spacious but that this was the view from our balcony.

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Ohrid is an ancient town situated on an even more ancient lake. Lake Ohrid is estimated to be between 3 and 4 million years old, making it one of the oldest lakes in the world. Only part of the lake is in Macedonia, as the border with Albania passes partway through the water. The town of Ohrid is the largest settlement on the lake, with a population of around 42,000.

As soon as we had settled into our apartment we headed outside again to take advantage of the fact that it wasn't actively raining and see how much of the town we could see. Climbing further uphill from the apartment, the first thing we came to was the fortress of Tsar Samuil.

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For the bargain price of around 20p each we were able to climb around its ramparts.

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We had a lovely view from there out across the lake...

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...as well as a view back towards the old town.

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We also caught sight of this fascinating church and decided to climb down to have a better look.

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It turned out to be the church of St Panteleimon, believed to have first been built when St Clement came to Ohrid.

Close up you can see what a beautiful church it is.

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Macedonian flags were flying from the church tower.

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Outside the church were more Roman remains, including these mosaics.

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Those aren't the only Roman remains in Ohrid, as we soon discovered our second theatre of the week!

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We chanced upon a lovely restaurant where we sat and had a late lunch overlooking the lake and the theatre. The proprietor was very friendly and gave us an English menu, but his translation of 'hamburger with cheese' really didn't do justice to the meal we were served. It was a large slice of grilled meat, folded in half with delicious cheese melted in the centre. And some Macedonian wine to wash it down with, of course :)

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After lunch we went for a stroll through the town centre and explored some more churches. We were also able to walk for a little way along the promenade at the edge of the lake. The water was a beautiful shade of blue; it almost looked like the Plitvice lakes in some places. Unfortunately the clouds were starting to gather again and when we felt the first few drops of rain we knew that it was time to head back to our apartment.

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