North Macedonia (final post) – a day trip to Ohrid and a personal history from my guide.

Everyone said I should visit Ohrid if I could while in Macedonia and it is certainly very different to Skopje – but then most places are:).

I had an excellent private driver/guide so learned a lot more about Macedonian and in particular his family’s history along the way (it’s a 3 hour drive each way).

Both his parents were 2 of about 28000 children who were forcibly exiled from Greece during the civil war in 1948 – ostensibly to keep them safe. They were sent to communist countries to live in orphanages – his mum was 7 and his dad was 12 at the time. They never came back to Greece nor heard from their parents. 12 years later through the Red Cross they both found out their parents were alive and living in Poland and so they went there to meet them again after all that time. The two “kids” met in Poland while finding their respective parents and married soon after. Eventually the families moved to Romania and then back to Macedonia BUT these children had had their citizenship revoked by the Greek authorities and it wasn’t given back so they had no rights to enter Greece or make claims on the properties that had been left behind. My driver, having been born in Macedonia, was able to visit his mother’s family home in Greece but only one wall was left standing and the ownership had passed to others long ago. It seems there are no reparations for loss of citizenship or property for these exiled children or their descendants. I always find personal stories the best way to remember stuff.

Anyway, back to Ohrid. Of course there is a fortress (via a Roman amphitheater) – in this case it is Samuel’s Fortress and the steep climb up is worth it for great views of the surrounding countryside. Having flown Wizzair from Tel Aviv to Sofia recently it was fun to see their plane at Ohrid airport. As Macedonia doesn’t have its own domestic airline they have kind of adopted this one. I thought they were pretty good.

Roman Amphitheater and airport in Ohrid

En route to and at Samuel’s Fort Ohrid

Then a stroll through a small dappled forest, past the almost complete orthodox seminary (the church are the only people with money in this country) and then the gorgeous and much photographed Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo.

Forest and the soon to be opened seminary with great views

The very picturesque Church of Sveti Jovan

A further stroll down the hill took us into Ohrid’s downtown – far too infested with tourists due to cheap flights from other parts of Europe – the high up part was way emptier and prettier. I tried to edit out the people but the building is worth noting. Three storeys means the original owners were very wealthy and as it cost more to build at ground level they tended to expand outwards as they built upwards – so they end up with upside down houses which has become a symbol of the town.

Traditional house in Ohrid

Also on the way downtown is the Sveta Sofija Cathedral with frescos.

Sveta Sofija Cathedral, Ohrid

We then drove further around the massive lake in Ohrid for lunch (dodging some cows crossing the road) – it is their equivalent to the seaside and the water is crystal clear.

Along the lake in Ohrid

A brave swimmer – the water is chilly.

Finally we took a boat ride in the protected waters within the Galicia National Park. The white sandy bits are where the natural springs are bubbling up to form the lake.

On the lake at Ohrid in Galicia National Park.

Abstract beauty of the pristine water in Galicia National Park, Ohrid

And so it is goodbye to North Macedonia. Someone summed up the current political corruption as follows. “The only difference between “then” and “now” is that now we can complain and grumble about the government without being arrested for speaking out”……

9 thoughts on “North Macedonia (final post) – a day trip to Ohrid and a personal history from my guide.

  1. Tirza Haviv

    I think it is the personal stories that make any place unique. I loved the stories you told, the reparations and forced evacuations seems to prevalent in so many places, at so many periods. Always one population against the other. I wonder where do you get your guides, is it just through the internet recommendations, or friends recommendations, or you arrange it through the hotel? We tried it all, and sometimes we were very lucky and sometimes not.

    Love to follow your blog. So if you manage to come to Lithuania in August, we can meet there.

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    1. Global Nomad. whatsusiebdidnext Post author

      Hi Tirza. I think I’ve been (mostly – I got a 50% refund on the Jewish tour in Bucharest as I knew more than she did!) lucky but I do find if you book a private tour that the additional cost is outweighed by the quality of the guide and the ability to spend time asking questions. I think you also get a more realistic perspective than with the larger tours and the guides are willing to let you know what they really think:). So I tend to do small group tours if the visit is primarily scenic and requires traveling a distance and private guides for city or history tours. I’ve just had an excellent on in Belgrade covering the underground tunnels below the fort. Unfortunately no Lithuania on this trip but would like to do more Eastern Europe next year as there is still so much I haven’t seen so will be watching your posts from there with interest. Have fun. Maybe I will go over to LA next year – will let you know.

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  2. Jaiven

    Oh Ohrid is nice. I visited it years ago. Thank you so much for the photos. The personal story was new to me… I had no idea about the exiled Macedonians from Greece. BTW, have a read of my story “How I entered North Macedonia illegally” – if you wish. Thanks for sharing your Macedonian post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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