Europe’s enchanted secret place Ohrid

Europe’s enchanted secret place Ohrid

 

Europe’s enchanted secret place

 

In the colourful south-eastern part of Europe, which so far has been rather disregarded by travellers, you’ll find one of the oldest towns on the continent – Ohrid. From a distance, it looks as if the ancient town has not changed at all over the centuries. Picturesque and magic are added by the country’s so-called crown jewel, a lake that is pressed between mountains a few thousand metres high, and a culture that has been moulded by a 5,000-year-old civilization and Christianity that lasted nearly 2 millennia.

 

Culture-seekers will discover the Jerusalem of the Balkans

The city of Ohrid, along with the 3-million-year-old lake, belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List. You’ll encounter historic sanctuaries, cobble-stoned pathways, and lovely narrow streets with reasonably-priced wine bars, cafeterias and restaurants at every step. The city centre and old town are perfect for easy strolls. If you start from the main square, which is surrounded by museums, set your sights on the Church of St. Sophia that is pictured on the 1000-denar note of Macedonia, then continue to the amphitheatre, which once hosted the gladiators of the time, as well as now hosting the annual Balkan folk dance and song festival in July. Finish your walk with Samuel’s Fortress where you’ll get an overview of the entire town.

Legend says that Ohrid has 365 churches, so it's possible to go to one holy place a day, every day of the year. It isn’t a coincidence that the city is referred to as the Jerusalem of the Balkans. The abundance of churches is not surprising, as it was there that Saints Cyril and Methodius founded the Cyrillic alphabet and Slavic church culture in the 10th century. However, mosques and buildings from the times of the Ottoman Empire have remained and add character and diversity to Ohrid.

After a long day, it’s perfect to visit Antiko restaurant on Tsar Samuel Street, which offers the best ajvar (roasted pepper sauce) and sarma (cabbage roll with minced meat stuffing). If you happen to miss out on rakija, the local fruit liqueur, NOA Lounge Bar has a large cocktail selection.

Hikers and road-trippers will find magical natural beauty

Only a walk away from the city centre, you can admire the Church of St. Clement on the top of the Plaoshnik hill, and the Church of St. John at Kaneo, completed with a breathtaking view over the dazzling lake. One thing is sure – any hiker will be mesmerised by the rich nature of Galičica National Park, that is located close by. Fresh air, wild flowers, aromatic herbs and beautiful panoramic views will not leave any experienced wanderer feeling indifferent.

If travelling by car you are lucky, as the whole lakeshore area is worth discovering. Other villages like Elshani, with its home-grown grapes, are definitely worth seeing. A hidden bar at Orveche beach is a great discovery for enjoying a dinner of fresh exotic Ohrid trout, delicate pita and local Zlaten Dab beer. For those planning a longer holiday, Albania is an easy drive from Ohrid! Take a quick burek or banichka, rolls filled with cheese or meat with you to snack on the road trip.

The unforgettable charm of the lake for the whole family

It’s a sin to miss out on the mystery of the lake when visiting Ohrid. Bright blue water is simply hypnotizing with its beauty and purity. In a small harbour by the lake, boat owners are waiting to take you out for a day tour that offers memorable views of the Monastery of Sveti Naum. For families with smaller children wishing for a shorter boat ride, the locals are happy to come to an agreement. Rumour has it that some of them also offer great Turkish coffee on board.

Nothing is better on a hot summer's day than refreshing yourself with swimming or water sports at either at the bigger Ljubaništa beach or smaller Labino beach by Lake Ohrid. In the second half of August you may witness an exciting international swimming marathon that is held at the lake. If you get hungry, feel free to taste the different, unique fish served in local seafood restaurants. Creamy fish soup ciorbă makes a perfect warm meal. One of them – plašica – is literally a pearl: Ohrid's famous pearl is handmade from the fish’s silver scales using a secret technique. In the Talev family workshop you’ll get a chance to see how the pearls are made into a stunningly beautiful jewellery.

When is the best time to visit?

The high season in Ohrid falls between July and September. It’s especially nice to visit the city in July and August and perhaps time your visit according to the popular Ohrid Summer Festival, that features many world-famous artists.

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