Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Great Alex - Ohrid, Macedonia

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:22 PM
First we stopped at Pogradec to see lake Ohrid from the Albanian side. Not much there, just a beach. A fisherman pulled up his boat but there was no catch. I was photographing the view from the beach when Laura laughed and asked me why I was photographing the man peeing. I didnt even see him. So she thought I was taking a picture of a man pissing on the beach!

Next we stopped right before the border for coffee in Hoxha's summer residence which now is a park. There was a picture of him and his wife in the restaurant. He was old already but still tall and quite handsome. He died peacefully while his wife went to prison. Now she's living in a flat somewhere in Tirana. Lucky he who didnt had to pay for his crimes against humanity.

Border crossing was an adventure. The border guard insisted to come into the van and see our passports. He was courteous though. Gert said he tipped him even though we saw a big sign saying no tipping. The car in front of us was searched and refused passage. The driver then just parked it next to the border building. He looked pissed and the woman (his wife?) sitting next to him started yelling at him. Must had done something wrong. A car coming from the opposite side, from Macedonia, was also refused passage. It went passed the white line and was ordered to back up to behind the line and then searched. But we got through. And suddenly it was like back to civilization. Roads were paved and in good condition. After bumpy, rocky and broken roads and passing through a smoky village (they burned their extra crop to remix in the soil), Macedonia was clean and organized. The houses looked clean and new, the air was fresh and even the foliage seemed more beautiful. Lake Ohrid, the deepest in the Balkans, was big but hazy. Our hotel, the Alexandrija, was modern and cute and lake front. My room had a tiny balcony that had partial lake view and city view. The tiny bathroom had a modern glass sink that was transparent. Cute but hardly practical. The shelves were clear glass and every time I put something down, I thought I was dropping them to the floor.

In the square near our hotel, there's a statue of St Clement holding the city of Ohrid, and another statue of brothers Cyrill and Methodius holder a book in Cyrillic.

We had free time (again) and I walked up to the Samuil fortress and down to the new St Clement church, the site where St Clement founded the Ohrid Literary School in the First Bulgarian Empire. They were excavating in front of the church and I was delighted to see an archaeological dig. The basilica had 2 beautiful mosaics and the lake view was spectacular. There was a service going on inside with good singing. If the rest of Macedonia is like Ohrid, then I like it very much. However, I had a sneaky suspicion that Ohrid was probably the best Macedonia had to offer. But the pottery leaves much to be desired. I had expected them to be more Greek but they were simple with very simple design. Nothing like the ones in Bulgaria or in Greece. I was told Macedonian wanted their own identity and so purposely made their pottery different and without any Greek motifs. Gert said the Macedonian wine was good and at the restaurant I saw small bottles, so I made a point of getting a couple to take home. Nothing else much in terms of souvenirs but I did see the same pashmina scarfs like the ones we found in Bulgaria.

lake ohrid

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