North Macedonia: Ohrid and Skopje

We left our heroes on a cold morning trying to hitchhike from Florina to Bitola. Turned out to be quite easy. We got our first ride before even leaving the town of Florina. A student took us to the university at the edge of the populated area. From there we walked for perhaps over an hour before a friendly local gave us a ride all the way to Bitola. He spoke both Greek and Macedonian, but no English or Turkish.

It isn’t all that crazy to expect Turkish out here. There are Turkish-speaking villages just over the border in North Macedonia, and in fact the Macedonian border guard spoke Turkish. Crossing the border was so easy we didn’t even have to get out of the car!

We were dropped at the bus station in Bitola, and immediately a bus was leaving for Ohrid. The next one was about seven hours later so we left Bitola right away even though we had wanted to see the Atatürk exhibit at the local museum. At Atatürk’s birth house in Thessaloniki we had learned that he attended a military academy in Bitola (aka Manastır), something I hadn’t realized on my first visit to Bitola.

Our original plan after Thessaloniki was to go to Kavala and hop on ferries to İzmir (Çeşme?). Bektaş somehow learned that one-way tickets from Skopje to Antalya were going for 70 euro. Heck, that’s less than we’d be spending on ferries, and isn’t Oliver staying in Ohrid now? We could visit him as well! Turns out the flight tickets were only 60 euro, and Oliver said, yes, come visit. He was waiting at the Ohrid bus station for us.

I visited North Macedonia only 18 months earlier for the first time and went to both Ohrid and Skopje. Somehow I’ll try to make this blog a little different from that one. I might fail, however, so you can stop here if you’re tired of picturesque Ohrid photos.

IMG_20231016_154339 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231016_154844 by bryandkeith on flickr

Kind of looks like Kaleiçi, doesn’t it?

IMG_20231016_155128 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231016_170538 by bryandkeith on flickr

Ohrid is all about the churches. Holy Mary Peribleptos Church may have some of the best frescoes.

IMG_20231019_143033 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231019_143953 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231019_143938 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231019_143904 by bryandkeith on flickr

We came across friendly women in 14th century St. Bogorodica-Chelnica:

St. Bogorodica-Chelnica, 14th century by bryandkeith on flickr

Church St. Bogorodica Bolnichka is another one we got inside.

IMG_20231016_145752 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231016_145604 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231016_155413 by bryandkeith on flickr

St. Sophia Church was my favorite from my first visit.

IMG_20231016_162033 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231016_162326 by bryandkeith on flickr

For the view it’s hard to beat St. John Kaneo Church.

IMG_20231016_174719 by bryandkeith on flickr

If you like the frescoes, Oliver recommends visiting Boyana Church near Sofia. For me the best were at the Visoki Dečani Monastery in western Kosovo.

For an out of town excursion we rented a car one day. Our first stop was Struga, another lakeside town.

IMG_20231018_112326 by bryandkeith on flickr

We had a decent lunch in Vevchani and enjoyed walking a bit in the foothills there.

IMG_20231018_113941 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231018_130020 by bryandkeith on flickr

Our favorite though was driving over the mountains on the east side of Lake Ohrid and then descending to Lake Prespa, another gem.

IMG_20231018_154246 by bryandkeith on flickr
Lake Ohrid by bryandkeith on flickr
Lake Ohrid
Lake Prespa by bryandkeith on flickr
Lake Prespa

A bit of trivia: Lake Prespa seems to be one of four lakes in the world in exactly three countries — North Macedonia, Albania, and Greece in this case. Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria, and Lake Constance are the others. The only one I haven’t visited is the latter!

We enjoyed the view from Stenje:

IMG_20231018_173645 by bryandkeith on flickr

Ferda and I said goodbye to Oliver. He was off to Morocco via Albania just a day or two after we left and is in Colombia as I’m writing this. That guy gets around. Ferda and I spent one night in Skopje before the red eye to Antalya.

IMG_20231020_125014 by bryandkeith on flickr

We took a city tour in the afternoon and learned that the Greeks claim Alexander the Great as their own and the Albanians claim Mother Theresa. There’s no one left for the Macedonians our guide joked.

IMG_20231020_130459 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231020_153213 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231020_223338 by bryandkeith on flickr
This entry was posted in North Macedonia, Traveling and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to North Macedonia: Ohrid and Skopje

  1. Jennie Werner says:

    Wonderful photos and write up. I remember Lake Ochrid and getting there from Tirana felt like a suicide mission–crazy drivers on that road at that time–back in maybe 2006? Such a beautiful area and you saw more than most having a friend there. Miss you two–I need to get traveling again and see you in Turkei! Lots of love!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.