A lake, some churches and a national park

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
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Trip End Aug 15, 2008


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Flag of Macedonia  ,
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The bus ride was mildly frustrating. Having jumped on the bus at nine in the morning, I had expected it to head straight for the border. I was slightly surprised when it started heading west. And carried on going west until we hit the coast at Durres, before turning and finally heading in the right direction. At 3 hours into the journey, we passed a road sign reading "Tirana 48km". Why not just start the bus from Durres and not waste time and money? Idiots. The only other excitement came when the australian with whom I was travelling discovered (rather belatedly) that he needed a visa to enter Macedonia, and was stuck with paying 35 euros on the border.

I used Ohrid as a base for a few days, and what a pleasant little place it is too! Situated on Lake Ohrid, the most noticeable aspect of town is its many distinct and picturesque Byzantine churches. You can't really escape them when walking about town, not that you would want to. For once, these were some churches that I found really quite appealing, though it may have been for their situation than anything else. St Jovan Kaneo especially is quite stunning. There wasn't much else to town, but a nice place to wander the streets nonetheless. I found the place oddly quiet. The most visited town in Macedonia, with 20000 visitors per day during the summer, I think they all stay on the one main pedestrian street as most of the town feels deserted.

This was even more apparent in the Galicica National Park. The entrance to the park was within 15 minutes walk of the centre of town (rediculously close, in other words), yet I walked around the park for eight hours and saw almost no-one. This was possibly to do with the fact that the 'paths' were less paths and more vague, half imagined impressions, which is my excuse for losing my way quite badly. I think I walked through the undergrowth where I really shouldn't have been walking for a good hour and a half before I happened across a Dutch/Belgian biological research station. As you do, in the middle of Macedonian national parks. Not that I really minded being a bit lost, as the area in which I was walking was really quite beautiful. Fortunately the biologists had slightly more accurate maps than mine. Coincidentally, it was actually exactly where I had been aiming for before getting lost. After pointing me in the right direction and topping up my water supply, I managed to follow the paths for a good couple of hours before losing them again, though I was within sight of town by that point, so all was well.

One disappointing part-day trip out from Ohrid was to Vevchani, a nearby village. Supposedly an independant republic with its own passports and currency, I saw no sign of that when I was there, and couldn't find anyone to talk to about it. At least there were some nice springs that made for a pleasant half hour walk, so the journey wasn't completely wasted.

Despite how much I liked travelling around Albania, I have to admit it was good to be back in the realm of timetables and decent roads again.
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