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