“Nice and Flat,” You Said, “Around the Lake.”

After our jaunt in Mavrovo, we headed south toward Macedonia’s number one tourist destination — Lake Ohrid. 


Evidence of sociocultural unrest. Depending on the region, different languages were often blacked out.


It was one of our best biking days. Though much of the route was uphill, it was a gentle grade with very little traffic and pretty views of the river throughout the day. When we stopped for lunch, we saw a tortoise in the bushes. 

Eventually we arrived in Ohrid (the town, on the northeast side of Ohrid, the lake). It had a much more touristy vibe than anywhere else in FYROM. We stayed two nights with some cool AirBnB hosts. I got caught up on some grading while watching a couple of Owen Wilson movies on the TV (a TV! With English-language movies!). The first night was Shanghai Knights with Jackie Chan, and the second night was Starsky and Hutch with Ben Stiller. The fact that I was entertained by this is a little sad. I’m envious of all my friends watching Orange Is the New Black . . .

I don’t want to make it sound like we only watched bad movies, though. We spent our rest day exploring the town. First, we went up to Car Samoil’s 10th century castle on a hill overlooking lake Ohrid. Its walls are more impressive from a distance than up close, but it had nice views of the lake and city. After that, we went to a few churches (Sveti Jovan, Sveti Kliment, Sveta Sofija), but in the midst of all the sightseeing I started to feel sick again. We retreated to our room and ventured out again only for dinner later.

The next morning I decided to see a doctor in case my symptoms kept recurring. I was feeling a little dehydrated and knew we would be heading to more remote/less touristy areas. 

Some people visit their doctors at home and load up on just-in-case drugs before venturing to far-flung places. This is not a bad idea. However, my method worked out pretty well. The clinic in Ohrid was nice, with a wait of a half an hour at most. The doctor was helpful and wrote me several prescriptions including an in-case-it-gets-worse antibiotic. The pharmacy down the street quickly filled my prescriptions. Both the clinic visit and the drugs cost about $20. I’m sure even with my insurance the bill would have been higher in the States.

I am happy to report that I have not needed the in-case-it-gets-worse antibiotic. Nonetheless, I’m glad we took the time to visit a doctor. I feel like that antibiotic is insurance against future issues.

Anyway, after the doctor visit, we got a kind of late start to our day. “No worries,” Mike said. “We’ll have an easy day. Our route is nice and flat, around the lake.”


Biking around Lake Ohrid

It was not flat. In fact, there were some pretty steep grades. I suppose it was nice enough, though. On the southern edge of the lake, we visited a monastery. It was very pretty on its own, but it was also decorated with at least a dozen peacocks. They were everywhere, strutting their stuff. As Mike says, “Peacocks really class up a joint.”

Finally, we crossed the border into Albania. After biking 5km or so, we found a great little camping area for the night. It cost about $8, had some of the cleanest bathrooms of anywhere we’ve stayed, and was about 20 feet from the lakeshore. We had dinner there as well: a salad, bread, French fries, 4 fish, and cherries for dessert. It was a great pick for sleeping and for eating!

Our fabulous campsite on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid

FYROM was unexpectedly beautiful, hilly, and lush, and it is populated with wonderful, friendly people. If only the people would value the natural resources enough to quit dumping their garbage on every roadside and in every stream, Macedonia would be a world-class destination.

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