Halfway up Ohrid’s biggest hill, between the Church of Sv Jovan and Tsar Samoil’s Fortress, is the archaeological site of Plaošnik. With the arrival of St. Clement in 893 AD, and the subsequent establishment of his monastery, this location became the center of Slavic learning. Today, the Church of St. Clement has been rebuilt and much of the site has been excavated, revealing long-concealed Byzantine mosaics.
One can still find a number of traditional craftsmen toiling away within Ohrid’s historic quarter. Craftswomen, too. During our time in Ohrid, we had the chance to hang out with Marta Pejoska, who had recently opened a downtown studio dedicated to silver filigree.
There are a lot of activities one could choose from during a trip to Ohrid. Scuba diving, paragliding, hiking and sailing are just some of the options available to those who crave action. But “action” is the last thing on the minds of most visitors to Ohrid. This is, after all, where Macedonians come to relax. And for that, nothing’s better than a day spent lounging on the lake.
Shimmering in the southwestern corner of Macedonia is Lake Ohrid: a UNESCO Heritage Site, and one of the oldest lakes in the world. Over the years, Ohrid has developed into Macedonia’s favorite summer retreat. Whether to play in the pristine water, dance the night away, or just escape the heat, Macedonians and visitors from across the Balkans descend upon the lake in droves.
On the western edge of Skopje, we came across an archaeological dig in full swing, with dozens of laborers hard at work dusting off rocks, writing in notebooks, and carting away earth-laden wheelbarrows. This was the site of the ancient Roman city of Skupi, and the archaeologists were in the process of exposing its massive theater.
We had already hiked to Matka Canyon from the top of Mount Vodno, but made a return trip to check out Vrelo, which is Macedonia’s most famous cave. Although its depths are yet to be fully explored, Vrelo is presumed by many to be the deepest underwater cave in the world.
Among the Ottoman-era buildings still standing in Skopje’s Old Bazaar are three Turkish trading inns and an old covered market called the Bezisten. We visited them all, to see how these ancient buildings have been incorporated into the modern city.
Located in a grand neoclassical building set along the banks of the Vardar River, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle opened its doors on September 8th, 2011: the twentieth anniversary of the country’s independence from Yugoslavia.
High on a ridge overlooking the town of Prilep are a set of medieval fortifications known as Marko’s Towers (Markovi Kuli). After exploring these expansive ruins, we would set off on a hike through the hills to the monastery of Treskavec.
For four days in July, the central Macedonian town of Prilep is taken over by Pivofest: an annual celebration of beer which has become the nation’s biggest festival. It’s not exactly the most traditional event on the calendar, but that wasn’t going to deter us from attending. We’re talking about a giant beer party, after all. Tradition can wait.