Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

From Tirana it is a 5.5 hour bus ride to Struga, Macedonia, and then a €5 ($6.75) cab ride to Ohrid. Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe. The lake itself is over 3 million years old. One-third of the lake belongs to Albania and two-thirds belong to Macedonia.

With a maximum depth of 288 meters (940 feet) it is the deepest lake in the Balkans.

Old Town used to be surrounded by walls. The Upper Gate is the only one of the three remaining gates to the city and dates back from the 3rd century BC.

The King Samuel Fortress is one of the largest preserved fortifications in Macedonia. It sits on a hill above the town. There are a few towers but not much else to see at the fortress. The best thing about the fortress is the views of the town and the lake.

Below the fortress is the open theater. The amphitheater is just over 2,000 years old. It is the only Greek theater in Macedonia; the other three are Roman amphitheaters. It was buried for centuries and fully uncovered by the 1990s. During the summer it is used for outdoor concerts.

Near the bazaar and the town fountain is a large tree. It's a local landmark and somewhere between 800 and 1,000 years old.

Ohrid used to be the city of 365 churches, one for each day of the year. There are no longer that many churches here now but there are a few interesting ones.

The 13th century St. Jovan Kaneo church sits on a cliff overlooking the lake. The view is great. The church is known for its frescoes and Armenian-influenced architecture. Below the cliff is a great place to catch a short water taxi ride around the lake for nice views of the town.

St. Sophia Church is an 11th century cathedral. It was built in 1035 and is the oldest church in Ohrid. It is one of the largest medieval churches in the area and home to the world's largest composition of preserved 11th century frescoes.

St. Bogorodica Perivlepta is a 13th century church that was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The church was built in 1295.

The monastery church of Sts. Kliment and Pantelejmon sits on a hill overlooking Lake Ohrid. This is the place where the Cyrillic alphabet was created. Opened in the 10th century, this was the first and oldest discontinued university in Europe.

On the south-east side of the lake, near the Albanian border, is the St. Naum Monastery. I really wanted to visit it but unfortunately, I just didn't have enough time. This time that is. I'm for sure coming back to Ohrid.

In 1979, Lake Ohrid was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2010, NASA named one of the lakes on Titan (one of Saturn's moons) after Lake Ohrid.

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