Today it is September 30th. Our plan: Leave Korça and travel to Macedonia to visit the Naum monastery and Ohrid. Then return to Pogradec in Albania.
Leaving Kroça – a quick stop at their brewery
After a tasty breakfast with local specialties we leave the cosy guesthouse Bujtina Leon. Ben takes me to the brewery of Birra Korça.
The Korça beer is available all over Albania. In August, they have a beer festival, similar to the Oktoberfest in Munich. Some 100’000 persons participate in the beer garden next to the brewery. Does Munich know about their little brother?
Crossing the border to Macedonia – first stop at St. Naum monastery
This is our first view of the lake Ohrid, shortly before arriving at Pogradec.
We cross the border and visit the St. Naum monastery…
… with its frescoes.
St, Naum and St. Kliment have brought Christianity to this area – in the 9th century. They were the disciples of Cyrill and Methodius. We will meet St. Kliment in Ohrid.
Ohrid îs a gorgeous town with narrow streets, Turkish style houses and amazing churches – one for each day of the year
Around noon, we arrive in Ohrid. Elena is waiting for us. She is a translator for English, Italian and Spanish and now works as a tour guide. She loves her city and is full of stories. “Ohrid”, she says proudly, “has many, many churches, one for each day of the year.” “Great, and what about the leap year?” I ask. “We will surely find a 366th church”, she answers smiling mildly. It is true, we come across many, many small churches, and we stop extensively at three churches: The cathedral of Sveta Sofia, the church of Sveta Bogorodiza with the adjacent icon museum and the church of Sveti Jovan Kanoa which is said to be the most photographed church. I will talk about these churches in my next blog.
While walking Elena stops after every few steps to point out some details that otherwise would remain unnoticed. We enter the city at the lower gate.
The streets are narrow. The Turkish houses grow in size from bottom to top.
At the bottom, Elena says, space is needed for the traffic in the streets. And higher up, the houses grow in size to efficiently use the space. Sometimes this pattern is even repeated in the lamps.
Roman and Greek remains
While walking through the streets of Ohrid we find these Roman mosaics that have been uncovered. Entry free.
The Greek amphitheatre from the second century BC has a wonderful view of the town and the lake. The theatre was covered in Ottoman times. It has been discovered only recently, Elena says. To excavate it, houses had to be removed. Now the theatre hosts performances. I like the view of the lake and the – mostly – Ottoman houses – no construction sins can be found here (why does the Treschner guidebook complain about the houses hindering the view of the lake? These houses have been here for centuries and before the theatre had been rediscovered…).
At various places in town, Elena says: “Here is the theatre”. But the theatre is not “here”, I think. Then again: “Here you can see the theatre.” What does Elena mean? I ask myself. It takes a long time, until I understand: In many churches and houses, columns and stones from the theatre have been reused. Yes, now I understand, why the theatre is omnipresent in Ohrid.
We are hungry – we have completely forgotten about eating and now it is almost 3 PM
Just across the cathedral Sveta Sofia, we have lunch with regional specialties. To me these Macedonian bites look like mezze. And the fish soup is one of the best fish soups that I have ever eaten – light and with a fresh-sourish taste.
We say good-bye to Elena and exchange business cards. Elena was an excellent and knowledgeable guide.
Driving back to Pogradec
On the way back to Pogradec we come across the stilt houses. Unfortunately the museum closes already at 4PM.
We are about an hour late. We cross the border to Albania and settle in the five star hotel Enkelana. Well – five stars is a bit much for the place. But it is an interesting time travel back to communist times. Old communist style hotels and American top hotels like Hilton have one thing in common: They lack atmosphere, even if they are a safe bet – we know what we can expect. Ben smiles and shows me the tiles on the floor. They look like an irregular mosaic and have been there since communist times. I later hear that this style is called “Terrazo“.
Dinner at the Enkelana: Koran, the endemic trout of the Ohrid lake
Ben has eaten in the Enkelana before and recommends to try Koran fish here. Koran is the trout endemic to the Ohrid lake. Ben say that in communist times they have eaten the Koran fish on the Yugoslavian side – now it is the turn for the Albanians to eat it. I feel a little bad, as I suspect that this trout is in danger of extinction.
Before the hydropower stations, the eel of the Ohrid lake travelled to the Sargasso Sea in the Carribean and their offspring travelled back to the Ohrid lake. But the dams in the Black Drin have resulted in the eels not to come back to the Ohrid lake any more. I am shocked, how we humans are changing the world. Not only here in the Balkans. We made the same experience in Basel – the salmon came back from the sea, until the dams were built – and they have not yet found their way back using the fish ladders that have recently been installed.