Weddings, Trout and Roman Roads in Radožda
On the western coast of Lake Ohrid, not far from the border with Albania, is the town of Radožda. On a normal weekday, this must be a sleepy village on the shore. But when we visited on a weekend toward the end of summer, “sleep” was the last thing on Radožda’s mind. Radožda was ready to party.
Immediately after entering town, we encountered a couple guys making rakija in their garage. In true Macedonian fashion, they asked us to sit down and try some. It was early and the freshly-made liquor smelled extremely potent, so we politely declined… but in even truer Macedonian fashion, they insisted. Don’t bother turning down a Macedonian’s hospitality. It just doesn’t work! They will insist until you accept whatever it is being offered. Even if it’s moonshine. Even if it’s 10 in the morning.
With the fire of fresh rakija burning in our bellies, we continued exploring Radožda, following the sounds of a band into the town’s back streets. A wedding was getting underway, and we tailed the procession, which paused in front of a house. While we waited with expectant locals, the band went inside, eventually re-emerging with the bride. The assembled party (which now included us) walked back uphill toward the church.
We stole away before anyone had the chance to insist that we remain for the wedding itself, and walked into the forested hills to the south of Radožda. Here, we were able to find some remnants of the Via Egnatia, the Roman road which once cut clear across Macedonia, connecting the Adriatic Sea to Byzantium. In Radožda, the old stone road isn’t marked at all; it forms part of a regular path used by sheep.
We then headed back into town and discovered a steep flight of steps that led to the cave church of the Archangel Michael. The church is normally locked, but you can ask for the key at Dva Biseri, a popular lakeside restaurant. The stairs looked more difficult than they were, and after a few minutes, we were already unlocking the door. The church is larger than the more-renowned Sveti Stefan, on the other side of the lake, and enjoys the superior view.
This had been an exhausting day, and we were ready for a break. For lunch, we returned to Dva Biseri and sat down at a table overlooking the lake. Radožda is famed for its lake trout, so I ordered up a plate. Pink, succulent meat that fell off the bone, with no fishy taste at all, it was unlike any trout I’d ever had.
Before arriving, our plan had been to check out Radožda quickly, then spend the majority of the day in Struga. But this town had been so entertaining, that we decided to skip Struga entirely. It could easily be that, in winter or on a weekday, Radožda isn’t all that fun. Maybe we caught it on a good day. But we had a great time; a real surprise and a highlight from our time at Ohrid.