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Published: September 26th 2007
Chuch of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo
The 13th century designers obviously had postcards in mind when they put this pretty little church in such a gorgeous spot.
Upon arrival in Ohrid I was quite surprised by what I found. I had read a bit about this town and the lake, how it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of ancient buildings and how the Cyrillic alphabet was invented here in the ninth century AD. I had also seen a lot of photographs, nearly all of a little church sitting on a cliff above a deep blue lake. Well that is only half the story. Tacked on to the side of the old town is a lively modern resort. There are lots of restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, banks, everything you need. There are a few tall hotels and apartment blocks but they don’t really bring the place down. In fact it is a nice contrast with the quiet cobbled streets of the old town.
It began on the train from Belgrade to Skopje. I shared a compartment with an extended half-Serb half-Macedonian family and we quickly got talking seeing as I was wearing a Red Star Belgrade T-shirt and they were all Partizan fans. This rivalry is equivalent to Rangers and Celtic. Or if you don’t know much about football think Israel and Palestine. Despite this, and
One of the oldest lakes in the world. Have you ever looked at a lake and thought "ooh, I wonder how old its". Me neither. I find that quite an incomprehensible fact.
despite very little common language, we got on great. Soon it seemed like half the train was trying to squeeze into our cabin, either backing me up as Red Star fans or threatening to throw me out the window unless I took the shirt off. The train took nine hours instead of six and a half but we didn’t care because it was like a party all the way.
It wasn’t a one off. I found that any little thing you do can turn into a social event. Shared taxi journeys were always punctuated with frequent café stops where drinks and food would be flowing, but this did mean the journey probably took longer than the bus. Going for a drink or something to eat, you weren’t alone for long. And, best of all, Macedonians really know how to laugh. Whether it is at each other, at you, at their country; I like them.
Yet this country was at war as recently as 2001. Macedonia was strained by approximately 300,000 ethnic Albanian refugees, fleeing Serbian oppression and NATO bombs in Kosovo. They joined Macedonia’s Albanian minority in seeking greater political and cultural representation. Tensions grew and a few
Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo
It was photographs similar to this one that made me want to visit Ohrid. Thats Albania in the background.
bombs led to a short war in the west of the country. The two groups agreed to meet in the middle and so far there has been peace. Interestingly, a number of local people that I talked to about the future prospects of this peace, told me they were worried that an independent Kosovo may stir up secessionist feelings amongst Macedonia’s Albanians. We’ll see.
I only gave myself a few days to visit Macedonia, primarily because I enjoy weekends in Belgrade so much. I thought this would be enough time, believing Lake Ohrid and the town of the same name were the only real tourist attractions. This is half correct, in that nowhere else in the country draws anywhere near as many visitors. However, given the nature of the population in this country, I could have ambled around for ages.
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