People like to talk in Macedonia and the how much the recipient understands could well be a secondary consideration. We stayed a few days in Ohrid and encountered a succession of extremely talkative taxi drivers, waiters and other hospitality workers all speaking flawless English. A head spinning quantity of information was delivered. Opinions about food, wine quality, social etiquette, viticulture and travel were all imparted. However, away from the towns the wish to engage with travellers does not seem to be just limited the the tourist sector and takes no account of language barriers.
The town of Ohrid is well-appointed. The curve of a mile long promenade along the lake side finishes at the old town which forms pile at the base of a promontory jutting into the Lake. Wooden walkways take you around the edge of this headland to the classic view of Kaneo church. This is much beloved as a screensaver of choice for many and is now vying with antelope canyon, Utah as the most cliche image that people can’t place. The promontory is crowned by a crenelated fort which is surrounded by woods. It is self-evident that Macedonia has the coolest national flag and a super-sized
version flies above the fort.
Early in the season a lack of hub-bub is noticeable with a weak-willed passeggiata evident in the early evening. The changing weather rapidly altering the texture of the lake surface.There is a general feel of light touch commercialisation about the place. We were told charter flights were going to arrive for the first time the following week. We will see what the impact of these may be.
To spend some time out of the town of Ohrid we decided to hike some the the nearby Galicica National Park. The national park appears to start immediately outside town. We decided to use the sleepy village ofVelestovo as a jumping off point. Trails radiate outwards from this centre. We decided to hug a contour 600 to 800 metres above the lake walking south.
The first part of the hike entailed walking along shepherd trails. After around 25 minutes we saw were three elderly ladies coming in the opposite direction carrying plastic bags of flowers, leafy green stuff, some veggies and with the last of the group dragging a tree branch behind her. Upon meeting, Our neon bright orange and pink water proofs contrasted sharply
with their dun coloured clothes and head scarves. There was broad smiles all-round followed by a more formal hand shake and nod of the head. After the greeting, We were then asked lots of jovial sounding questions in Macenonian which we nodded amiably to. The only one to be discerned from the chatter was whether we were German or not. After a happy parting of the ways we walked on into some diffuse thickets of trees. In front of us a shepherd was leading a small flock of sheep. In the rear guard were a couple of scraggly sheepdogs of a noticeable large size. The dogs greeted us with single, intermittent, exploratory woofs. Rounding the next corner The shepherd and sheep went in one direction; we and the dogs went in a different one. The dogs kept on our flanks darting in the lightly tug on our sleeves then bounded in front to perform a downward dog pose as an invitation to play. A call from the Shepherd brought them to attention and that were not performing their day jobs. They reluctantly sloped off after their little diversion and any potential fun curtailed.
The forested areas frequently gave way
to grassy clearings resplendent with wild flowers. The heavy red soil was saturated after heavy rain and clung aggressively to our boots as we slogged along. Occasionally clumps would be propelled into the undergrowth by leg movement. After a decent walk we started our decent using the road down to the penultimate village (Trpejca)before the Albanian border. By this time a rain was beginning to hammer down. We took shelter under the awning of small shop on the outskirts of the village. Three of four people were also clustered around looking forlornly out at the ragged grey clouds blanketing the hill side opposite. As we peered into slanting rain, a stocky middle aged gent engaged us in a variety of Macenonian, German, English and sign language indicating the shop would be open at four and that a bus should be their in an hour. After a profuse thanks, the rain had slackened and we decided that there was energy left for a walk to the ominously named Bay of Bones museum and then back to Ohrid.
We had similar weather conditions the previous day. This was during a walk to a monastery of St Petka Velgoshtiwhich is nestled in
a slope above one of the many entrances to the National Park. We decided to walk further uphill to the small chapel of St Iija. The skies promptly opened five minutes after this decision had been made. The road was rapidly a torrent of brown muddy water which had sufficient force to roll pebbles. On reaching the gate of the chapel and after ducking under some rather soggy looking Easter ribbons we entered a precinct which must have doubled as a picnic area. Bedraggled we found a small building at the rear of the chapel. As we approached, the caretaker spontaneously awoke from a doze and beckoned us in with a broad smile. After being provided with a welcome and powerful coffee we lapsed into companionable quiet. Meanwhile the rain drummed heavily on the glass and the hill side was enveloped in a thick grey duvet of cloud. After leaving a donation in the chapel as a proxy payment for the coffee we followed the newly formed turgid streams back downhill.
On various travel blogs such as wanderlust Macedonia commonly crops up as one of the friendliest countries in the World alongside Senegal, Ireland, Iceland and New Zealand. I guess you could make some generalisms that these countries may be modest in size and slightly on the periphery of things in general and thus there is an eagerness to engage with the “outside”. Commonly if you come from London you occasionally arrive in new countries armed with a degree of skepticism and a fairly guarded nature gained from urban living. Although, I’m not to sure what the causes of this Macedonian friendliness may be, the results are splendidly disarming.
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