“Where are you from?” I asked.
“Macedonia.” Dragan responded.
“Oh, so do you live in Skopje?”
Astounded he replied, “What!?! How do you know the capital?”
I then drew Dragan the flag of the Macedonian flag. He said I was crazy and we have been friends ever since. Crazy has been an adjective to describe me in middle school and high school. This is quite fitting because my last name sounds very similiar to the word for ‘crazy’ in Macedonia (луди loo-di).
Dragan and kept in touch after we stopped working at Napa in Williston, ND. About four years later, I needed to visit him in Macedonia. Other than locating it on a map and realizing it has the coolest flag. I was not too sure where I should visit. To my surprise, the country is quite mountainous and has great scenery all around. Since he works during the week I planned on spending sometime in Ohrid before the weekend.
I flew in from London Luton to Ohrid. Expecting a small plane due to the town’s smaller size, it was actually quite big. From what it looked like was many people travelling to visit family in Macedonia or Albania. Ohrid is right on the border with Albania due to their past history, there is not too many affordable options to fly in and out. (Wait until later this summer to find out.) After three hours on the plane, we landed in Ohrid. On the plane, I practiced Macedonian phrases for Border Control. This was for sure not America. I walked up, showed her my passport and we looked at eachother. Then she stamped my passport no questions asked! Canada has fully searched my car and the United States gives me the full questionaire!!
Once I gained entry, it was apparent that my favorite part of Macedonia was Macedonians. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. If you look somewhat lost, someone will be willing to help. The lady next to me on the plane offered me a ride into town from her nephew. This was wonderful because I did not change my money to dinars yet.
In Ohrid, the main attraction is the lakes and all the churches. As in many old cities it was part of a trade route. What made Ohrid important during the Byzantine Empire was that it was a center for education and theological study. This is represented by having 365 churches in the Ohrid area. I was unable to see them all but I went to the major ones.
Photography is not allowed in most monastaries and churches. However, many Eastern orthodox churches have much of the same themes. One of major things that struck me was the amount of icons and the amount of murals seen throughout the church. For me, it was hard to focus and take in becuase there was sooo much coming at you at once. Icons are pictures of various saints and Bible Characters. During the Byzantine Empire, the use of Icons was controversial and at one point there was an order to destroy them all. However Icons were reinstated and it is actually very hard to find icons from earlier than the 8th Century. At the front altar there is usally a row of icons and large icon of Jesus Christ or Mary. I am not sure if its true, but the use of domes are common as well. On these domes there is either a Biblical scene made or a painting of Jesus Christ.
The two main churches of Ohrid are Sveti Jovan at Kaneo (as seen on National Geographics magazine) and the St. Naum monastary. Sveti Jovan at Kaneo was built in the 13th Century and was a place
for student of theology to study. Much of the church is original but I am guessing the real attaraction is its location on Lake Ohrid. Perfect to watch a sunrise or sunset.
St. Naum (Nahum) Monastary was not in Ohrid but was a good afternoon trip across the lake. I went along with my hostel roommate from Australia. It was a nice boat ride with explinations in both Macedonian and English. We were on the front of the boat so I missed which apostle was killed near Ohrid. (From research, I think it might have been Andrew.) The way there we stopped at a recreation if a Bronze Age civilization. It was not worth the entry price. but it was only $2. It was interesting beause it is rare to know for certain that a community was there. During the Bronze Age, many communities were built over water. This allowed them to have prime fishing locations and protection from the wildlife in the forests. The location of this village was right over where the trout spawn in Lake Ohrid. Trout from the lake is actually a specialty served at many of the restaurants.
After 2 hours on the boat, we made it to St. Naum. The monastary was first started in the 900s when a poor farmer lost his cow. The priest told him to pray about it and he would too. By the time he got back home, the cow was there. The grounds of the monastary were wonderful and it seemed like the tourists were more interested in taking pictures of the peacocks rather than the church. This monastary was also an educational center as well. The church also pointed out that if I put my head on the grave of St. Naum, I could hear his heartbeat. Well, no such luck. Alistair and decided to enjoy the views and have a Turkish coffee. (Turkish coffee has been my obsession as of late.)
The boat ride was faster on the way back but we got there just in time for dinner. Where we had some grilled meats and potatoes. It was quite affordable. For a decent meal it was only $4. For dinner we splurged and had the ‘Sexy Salad’ for desert with a Dutch couple that Alistair met the other day. We tried the sexy salad because a lot of the restaurants were serving it. It was chopped walnuts, pineapple, mango and papaya with honey and chocalate drizzle. Decent but should have been served with ice cream.
After staying two nights in Ohrid, it was time for me to meet up with Dragan in Kocani. Ohrid was an amazing place where the people made the place special and joy to visit.
This the iconic photo of Sveti Naum. As seen on National Geographic.
As a heads up no dogs and don’t dress like a floozy when going to an Orthodox church. In general have your shoulders covered, no shorts and women should have something to cover your head.
Entrance to St. Naum
St. Naum church
Did I mention the flag was cool?