Sunday we went to the city of Ohrid which is, surprisingly enough, on the shores of Lake Ohrid. The lake is beautiful, surrounded by mountains and small villas, and towns, and churches.
After arriving in Ohrid, we started the day by going to the National Museum of Ohrid. The museum was amazing. Not so much the artifacts, though they were cool and plentiful, but we’ve seen a bunch of similar artifacts either in museums or pulled out of the ground ourselves in the past two weeks. The museum was in a very old and very beautiful house in Ohrid, however, and I spent most of my time staring at the woodwork that decorated it. The ceilings were all carved wood or intricately painted plaster. There were many cabinets, icon shrines, and other storage places arranged in the walls. Stunning. I could easily live there.
After that we were released. I had a few things on my to do list. One I wanted to get a boat ride. After lunch, a few of us got a boat ride to where there was supposed to be a cave church. It turns out, however, that these cave churches were likely made during times when Christians couldn’t worship openly, so they really don’t exist as tourist spots. We did, however, get taken to a place that had a shrine in the rock and right above it was the Church of St. Jovan’s. This is right next to the lake and was a beautiful view.
We then decided to go to the castle. This turned out to be a bit of an odyssey. There are two ways to walk to the castle. One goes through the forest and is fairly short, though fairly steep. We didn’t realize we could go that way. We went the other way which went through the town, generally up fairly steep, but it was up and down and took us about 45 minutes to get there.
It was, however, worth it. The castle wall has been greatly restored, and we got to walk up on the gate tower and the battlements. I didn’t realize that the Macedonian tradition included bagpipes, but there was bagpiper on the gate tower and he played for us (after, of course, we tipped him). He even handed me the bagpipes and tried to show me how to play them. Between his ability to speak English and my musical ability, it will not go down as one of the world’s musical highlights. After this, we walked around the walls some more, getting great pictures of the town and the lake.
We then strolled amidst the tight streets and lanes of a medieval city toward the lake. We got another boat ride, from the famous Captain Mile (pronounced me-lay). He said he’d take us around some and show us some neat stuff around the lake.
The lake is very old, very deep, very clear, and very beautiful. I tried the water as we were sailing around, but Mile said to wait as we were going to the best spot for that. He led us into a little inlet past a Macedonian navy base with a moored patrol boat (i.e., their whole navy).
He showed us first the fish hatchery. They’re trying to breed more of the endangered Ohrid Trout, which is a huge delicacy in Macedonia. The trout doesn’t seem to want to grow anywhere but in the lake though, so they’ve had some problems there.
The special part though, was he led us to one of the springs that fill the lake. It comes out in this old fountain and the water was delicious and cold. After drinking some, we cooled off from a long hot day by dangling our feet in the spring water. It was wonderful.
Mile then took us back out on the lake to see the President’s House. Tito apparently wanted a lakeside villa so he had one built. Following all of the changes here, it’s ended up as the retreat for the President of Macedonia.
We then hustled back just in time to make the bus back for the long drive home. I wouldn’t have minded staying the night in Ohrid, it’s a great place to hang out in.
Today, we went back out on the mountain for one last day. We profiled some of the pits, including mine, which basically means we draw the side walls pretty thoroughly. After that we backfilled. I’ve dreaded this, and it turns out with good reason. It was hot, there was lots of dirt, and it’s frustrating to think you dug out all of this dirt simply to put it back in so that someone can come next year to dig it all out again. I also went too fast and my back started arguing with me. GRRRR. But it all got done, thanks mostly to the other people.
We worked on some of the final paperwork and packing of stuff so we should be pretty good to go tomorrow. I’ve gone and picked up a new suitcase that is sitting next to me in the Ramshorn Food Court. Tonight we pack a bit but we’re planning on sitting by the river and having beer with our Macedonian friends.
Then tomorrow, to Vienna and hopefully to London if I make the connections.