Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Ohrid is said to be Macedonia’s jewel and it doesn’t take more than a glimpse to understand why. Resting by the still waters of the lake with the same name, the town is full of stunning Byzantine churches, small cobble-stoned streets and picturesque landscapes. During the summer, the town is packed with people; in March, it is quiet and marvellous. Under Byzantine ruling, Ohrid became the Episcopal centre of Macedonia, and the first Slavic university was founded here in 893 by Bishop Kliment of Ohrid, a disciple of the inventors of the first Slavic script, St Cyril and St Methodius. I came for the first time one year ago and, in spite of my eagerness and several stays in Macedonia, only now was able to come back. Walking around the old town is easy and nice, and the views over the lake compensate the efforts made up the hills. The grandiose 11th-century church of Sveta Sofija was closed and therefore I could not see its extremely well-preserved frescoes, but continuing through the winding streets, the amazing little 13th-century church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo suddenly appeared before me on the cliffs above the lake, with its unusual half-folded umbrella roof. The beauty of this place is breathtaking and I am sure that I will never have enough of it! Afterwards, I went up through the park towards the newly built Sveti Kiment and Pantelejmon, standing next to the remains of Ohrid’s oldest church of the same name. I remember that when I came last year, the most impressive part of it were the foundations of the 5th-century basilica with their intricate mosaics on display in front of the new church; now, a vast area is undergoing archaeological excavations and I was lucky to get a very interesting explanation from one of the young people involved in these works that already revealed remains from the Bronze age, the Hellenistic and the Roman periods. Continuing towards Gorna Porta (Upper Gate), I arrived to the gorgeous, 13th-century church of Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta, last stop before Ohrid’s Classical Amphitheatre where gladiators have been replaced by the Summer Festival performances. After the nice walk under the sun, nothing feels better than having one drink at one of the lakeside terrace-bars while watching the sunset and the wonderful colours it lends to the Galichica Mountain, and that’s exactly what I did. Today, my hunt for Zastava’s snapshots led me through the commercial streets of the old bazaar area and I was encouraged to have a haircut. I confess that I hesitated a bit, but I actually like the result! Soon, I will be going back to Skopje airport and, from there, to Zagreb, Amsterdam and, finally, Brussels. I will miss Ohrid and its beauties for sure. But, most of all, I will miss the lovely company I was fortunate to enjoy over the last two days, and I know that both my heart and my mind will remain set on her, no matter where my travels will bring me.


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