Balkans / Europe / Macedonia

Macedonia – a blast from the Yugoslavian past.

I absolutely adore holidays in post communist resorts – Montenegro, Albania, Croatia (even though Croatia would nowadays be my least preferred summer choice – too much people!).

I guess you have to be born in Eastern Europe to truly understand where I come from. I feel quite sentimental about omnipresent awful concrete buildings and pebbled beaches.

Undoubtedly Macedonia is trending on my you-should-be-there list. Probably half of your friends don’t even know where it is. Sad? I don’t think so. Macedonia is one of the “yet unspoiled by mass tourism” destination. It’s a small country with lots of charm – nice people, amazing nature, good food and if it’s still not enough for you to book your tickets, think about everything SOOOO cheap! Ohrid – our checkpoint is a little town that sits next to a lake of the same name. Each summer hordes of locals come here to lazy around but don’t let this languorous atmosphere mislead you. This part of Macedonia has much more to offer that a doubtful moments of relax on a pebbled beach (hot stones massage anyone?). You shall plan your backpacking trip wise and make sure you visit this place while roaming around Balkans this summer.

Ohrid aka a blast from the Yugoslavian past.

Unfortunately we are not the only ones who came up with a super-hyper hippie idea to skip Macedonian capital Skopje and go directly to Ohrid. It was recommended by one of our friends as an “off the beaten track” thing to do while backpacking around Balkans. Well, not anymore. Our mini bus from Sofia is bursting at the seams! We reach Ohrid almost 2 hours later that we were supposed to so it’s 2am and we wander around the town centre along with two very nice Brits, looking for our hostel. When we finally find it, it turns out that our safe harbour is not as welcoming as we thought. It’s totally closed! I try to get used to the idea of sleeping on a bench, I could definitely do it 5 years ago but the truth is I’m almost 30 now I want a bed so badly! Tired as hell, we collapse hopeless on leather armchairs ready to say hi to the Morpheus when suddenly the door opens and… there is a guy with a chainsaw! My boyfriend wakes me up. Luckily it was just a dream but yes, there was a real guy, an owner of some dodgy looking apartments for rent and he let us in. We are safe and sound. How about the pre-paid booking we had in our hostel? Well, we will think about it tomorrow…

New day, new beginning they say. After breakfast we decide to go back to check if our hostel is a real place. This time it’s opened as it was at night as well. We just didn’t realize that we have to push the door – the simplest solutions are the hardest to think about when you are knackered. Sunny Lake Hostel Ohrid is a curious place. Curiosities start when you meet the owner.

If you ever wonder how does a Balkan terrorist look like, you should definitely come to Ohrid 🙂 If this wasn’t enough it turned out that there are two of them! Leave your prejudices behind and you will get to know two fantastic guys who run this place and make us feel like home. Sunny Lake Hostel is a place with the best vibe ever, very laid back, it’s all you love about backpacking. And we met our British fellow travelers from last night again. All the roads leads to Rome!

Off topic. In backpacker hostels, you meet people of all shape and sizes. In Macedonia, we met a Korean guy who liked to hug strangers. As you may guess, I became his victim. 🙂 But what was the weirdest thing ever was his trip to Galicica National Park where he was curing his PILES by sitting with his naked ass in a meteor crater (inspired by one of the urban legend says), people never cease to amaze me!

Ohrid – town center
one of small streets of Ohrid
summer time Balkan style – you love it or hate it!
Ajvaromania! Mario is in love with this local speciality!

We are in the middle of July, peak of summer, crowds around us and the center of Ohrid is mostly about little restaurants and pubs, shops with tacky clothes and souvenir stalls. It’s like being at Polish seaside, high season, you know what I mean. Not my ideal surrounding but at least there are no drunk tourists on my radar so far so I’m kind of glad. But hey, it’s no like there is nothing to do here – adrenaline lovers (like our British friends mentioned above) decided to do paragliding over the lake and they absolutely loved it! Boredom is a relative subject. We are not brave enough (I’ve already done the most crazy thing in my life and I don’t wish to repeat it – my crazy jump off the cliff? Haven’t read it yet? Full story here.)

What do we do in Ohrid? We mainly walk around enjoying the atmosphere and good weather. Whoever said you always had to do things to enjoy your time, was wrong. I simply enjoy being here now. Walk around Ohrid, a bit further than all people and you will be amazed by the spectacular views – st John of Kaneo is definitely one of the must-see places here. It stands on a cliff rising up from Lake Ohrid and if you are lucky to find yourself here alone, it’s a great place for a small mindful moment… If you are more into raving, summer in Ohrid has plenty of festival options for you. The most famous ones tend to take place in the ancient Greek theater  one your way to Tsar Samuel’s fortress. Go there just before the sunset for nice, crowd-free views. When we were there it was completely empty so aim for dinner time visit.

If you have 2 days, like we had, follow our steps to St. Naum – the best way to get here is by bus it’s an hour ride to the south part of the lake where you can see a very beautiful temple. It’s a small one but with a great history behind also considered one of the most beautiful in Balkans. The surrounding area is another perfect place for a “bliss of peace”. Imagine turquoise mirror of water, hot springs, ubiquitous peacocks and all possible shades of lush green from bottle to emerald.  A true mosaic of colours – this is Ohrid’s nature so don’t get disappointed when you get here and it’s full of people – they all want to see those wonders!

Walking around Ohrid.
According to some legends, there was 365 christian temples in Ohrid – one for each calendar day ( hey mr. Captain!).
A beautiful postcard from Macedonia – one of my mindful moments…
St. Kaneo is one of the most beautiful churches in Macedonia as well as in the whole Balkan region.
In the backyard, there are some tombs – who could imagine a better place for the eternal rest?
Tsar Salomon’s fortress.
Sunset is probably the best time to have a good panoramic view of Ohrid.
Sv Naum – on the way to the monastery you can enjoy a lazy boat ride to hot springs.
Omnipresent peacocks – all the colours of sv Naum.
Inside the monastery there is a big icon representing st Nauma, the founder, as well as his grave.
Mario and I enjoying our summer in Macedonia. 

We are so lucky to get last 2 tickets for a night bus from Ohrid to Herceg Novi in Montenegro. We manage to squeeze in after a fight with local teenagers – Balkan odyssey continuous and I can promise you it only gets better as in Montenegro all the WILDEST TALES begin 🙂 All good things come to those who wait so be patient dear reader. The funniest is yet to come.

Fauna in Ohrid – endangered specie of a flying spanish monkey 🙂