On the Road to Lake Ohrid
We arrived at our guesthouse in Shkoder, no worse for the wear, from Theth, into what appeared to be a sorority house the size of which would have done the producers of the movie Animal House proud.
One young lady after another poured out onto the patio where we were enjoying our breakfast the following morning. The only thing that we could surmise was that the building ‘must be bigger on the inside’. I enjoyed our stay there very much.
Ah, but I digress. The reason for our short 2 day stay in Shkoder was to plan for our trip to Ohrid, Macedonia; a small town located on one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes, Lake Ohrid. Our reasoning was simple. It was just across the border from Albania and we weren’t through exploring Albania yet, so we could easily return to Albania.
Also, the lake, another UNESCO World Heritage site, was billed as stunningly beautiful, with Roman ruins and elaborate ancient churches thrown in for added measure. But, most importantly, we were hoping to catch our first glimpse of that classic of automotive excellence, the Yugo, and also to discover the Macedonian Black Stallion.
There is no direct bus from Shkoder to Ohrid, so a return to Tirana was required, which was fine by us. We scheduled 2 nights to allow us time to research travel to Ohrid and it would also give us a chance to revisit our favorite cafe, Gazmar’s. Although a regular bus was available, we opted for the minivan as the absolute price differential wasn’t that great and we were on budget. Additionally, the bus, we were told, was about a 5 hour ride – made multiple stops, the border crossing was time consuming – and it left at an odd hour. A travel agent, located on premises of our B&B Tirana Smile, directed us to an agent for a minivan company near by. As it turned out there was only one other passenger, so we could sprawl out and get comfortable. A little over 2 hours later we were nicely snuggled into our guesthouse, La Piazza, which was centrally located in the old city.
Classic automobiles were in abundance in Ohrid, including the beautiful Citroen 2CV, but the never out of style Yugo was what we were looking for and we found it, also in abundance.
Goal number one accomplished. Interspersed with hunting classic cars, we visited St. Johan’s church at Kaneo, St. Sopia church, an ancient theater, and St. Clement church which is surrounded by ancient Roman ruins.
All fascinating stuff which we enjoyed very much, but our mission was to cavort with nature while consuming some of the revered Black Stallion. No, we were not chowing down on horse meat, although I’ve done that and it is tasty. The Macedonian Black Stallion is a wine based of the grape varietal Vranec. Vranec means strong, black, and powerful horse and when you pour yourself a glass you’ll understand why. The grapes produce a wonderfully full bodied, rich in
tannins, ruby colored – nearly black – red wine that kicks your palette with the aroma of ripe fruit and cocoa. Once we acquired our prize we strolled along the newly constructed coastal walkways until we found the perfect spot for a VinoHike picnic. One of the pathway’s arms led you down to a small beach where you could find the infamous Ohrid hermit living in a small cave.
The locals seem to get a kick out of him and the local tour boats, filled with tourists, circle the small bay hoping to get a glimpse. Perhaps a myth, perhaps not? In any event, it makes for a fun walk.
But fun walks can happen anywhere, so make the effort to acquire a nice bottle of Vranec, then find yourself a lake, any lake, sit back with a few snacks, and imagine the time that was in Macedonia’s Lake Ohrid; Romans running around pillaging and plundering – usually naked – all the while sipping on a goblet of the black stallion. Then go home, open a second bottle of the black stallion and read Plato’s Republic and get philosophical.
Hike Drink Live Laugh (Apero Time) More photos below.
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