Not all fails are permanent. Last night in Skopje Alfred and Ted was kind enough to go back and check if my card was still in the ATM machine, and a passer-by informed them of a safety feature where the ATM automatically eats up the card for safekeeping if it is not withdrawn within 40 seconds of the end of session. None of us knew about that with ATMs, even though nearly all of us had the same experience of leaving our cards behind while traveling or back home.
So this morning I gave this a shot, waking up early to retrieve my ATM card from the bank it was attached to and … success, the staff was able to open up the machine for me and give me back my card. I only showed them my passport as proof of identity. Huzzah!
But that damn kayaking place at Matka Lake still has my GoPro.
On the downside, our body count in these Game of Thrones has rose to 7 with Taylan and Mihaela now getting sick after drinking from a public water fountain earlier yesterday afternoon. They join Alfred, Sidian, Anthony, Maria, Beverly in the infirmary. Who will be next?
After I returned with my ATM card at 11am, we all took quick short cab rides back to the bus station from our hostel to board the 12pm (520 denars each) 3.5 hour bus ride to Ohrid. Bus seats are assigned at purchase, much to our surprise after traveling through the Balkans the past 2 weeks on buses, which led to a game of chess so that we could sit close to one another without getting too close to the sick folk. This resulted in meeting other friendly American travelers and breaking in an already broken bus seat that went from “this seat won’t lean back” to “yeah we just turned it into a flat bed.”
We arrived in Ohrid at 4pm.
Ohrid is one of the oldest human settlements in all of Europe with a 3 million year old lake and a mention by the Greeks in 353 BC, when it was known as Lychnidos (“the city of light”). It then became a significant economic and cultural center during the Byzantine Empire, the site of the first Slavic universities in the 9th century, and briefly the capital of the Bulgarian Empire under the rule of Car Samuil.
Unfortunately in Ohrid, the bus station is quite far away from the old town, so we took cabs to our hostel (Sunny Lake Hostel) and dropped off our stuff. We then walked up Clement’s Univeristy street which is a steady, easily climb up to where everyone should start their walking tour of Old Town: Upper Gate, built as early as the 3rd century BC.
Curve southeast to visit Holy Mary Perybleptos for the frescoes inside (100 denar entry) and views of the lake.
Return to Upper Gate and then curve south along Ilindenska street to visit the ancient theater, the only remnant of ancient times in Ohrid. The upper part has been removed, but it was likely an arena for gladiator fighting. Entry is free.
Again, return to Upper Gate and this time head directly northwest along Kuzman Kapidian street for a steady climb to Samuil’s Fortress. 30 denars to enter.
You can climb up the fortifications to the very top for these insane views of the lake and city:
From the fortress, we turned right and headed into Old Town Park, walking downhill.
Within the park is the Saint Pantelejmon-Plaoshnik Archaeological Site, arguably the oldest university in Europe when it opened in the 10th century and where the Cyrillic alphabet was created. 100 denars to enter (30 for students).
Head further downhill to the edge of the lake and you’ll reach the Kaneo settlement and Church of St. John the Theologian, where you can get the classic views that define Ohrid.
Don’t forget to pose.
And definitely come here for the sunset. I think we timed this walking tour pretty well.
After sunset we headed down to the beach where we had dinner at Kaneo Restaurant.
We ate an aquarium.
After a leisurely dinner, we decided to amble along the beach at night and its medieval-like boardwalk, which becomes so frustratingly and beautifully atmospheric that it makes you want to linger forever and stay . . . even though you know you have way more of the city to explore.
But alas we must press further, curving up Ilendenska street to reach Saint Sophia Church.
From there, walk along Car Samoil Street to take a look at traditional Ohrid architecture exemplified by the Robev Family House and The House of Urania.
Continue onwards along this path and you’ll reach Lower Gate.
You’re now by the docks, where the city comes alive at night.
Walk to the very edge of the Port of Ohrid to look at Ohrid from the lake:
The lively pedestrian mall of Ohrid is along Boulevard of Macedonian Educators where you can do your obligatory shopping and ice cream/gelato tasting.
At the end of it will be the City Center Roundabout, which officially separates Ohrid’s Old Town from the rest of the city.
And with a job well done of exploring all of Old Town in 5 hours, we headed back to our hostel along the winding alleyways and kicked back with shisha and music on our balcony until 2am.
I recommend listening to Antonymes’ “A Feeling Of Being Closer” if you happen to be doing the same thing we’re doing.
The next morning some of us had breakfast back at the docks by the Port. . .