I'm writing this while sitting on a bench near Lake Ohrid. The bench faces away from the lake so it is not populated. It is however, in the shade and quite pleasant. I brought my pillow - Mr Pillow - with me to prop up my Zaurus 6000 in my lap above my small usb keyboard. It works pretty well.
Ohrid is beautiful today, as I expect it is almost every day in the summer. I'm listening to the 'roar' of small, battery power cars and the excited cries of the kids that are driving them. Those cars are a popular beach concession. There also lots of boats to rent for boat rides. The funniest ones are sea kayaks with outrigger flotation devices that act like training wheels on bicycle. Most of the boats are powered and come with a 'driver' they act as recreational water taxis.
The hill and some lovers - there seem to a lot of lovers here
and a lot of couples with little kids ;-)
The old town part of Ohrid is built on hill that comes down to the water. On top of that hill is a roman ampitheater, several medieval churches, the oldest of which dates from 900 or so, and walls with a city gate near the top of the hill.
At the base of that hill. on the side away from the lake, is a 900 year old plane tree. It is the focal point for a plaza with a fountain and lots of businesses. There is a Mosque - quite old - near that plaza and a, newer, Orthodox church near by. There is a new, big, Moslem center about 100 feet from the plane tree.
Yesterday, I walked up to top of the hill - a hard walk up steep cobblestone streets and walked down the other side on some dirt paths followed by steep old stone stairs followed by even steeper cobblestone streets - almost too steep to walk - down to the plane tree, passing on the other side of that Orthodox church.
The new part of the city of Orrid as seen from the top of the hill
The road in passed those strange towers in the left center of the image as welll as the water towers in the right center
My feet are still sore from that walk, but the views form up on top of the hill were worth it. When I got down to the plane tree, I looked for a restaurant recommend by the Lonely Plant Guide to Eastern Europe, but. like almost everything mentioned in that guide, published just a few years ago, was gone or changed beyond recognition.
Although the building of the old city and the ruins of even older buildings up there have not changed, there have obviously been rapid change in the commercial areas of town. Ohrid is an 'in' place, and it shows in both the numbers and in variety of tourists here. Most of what I hear is Slavic, but I heard European languages as well as English and even American.
Sitting by the lake this afternoon, I saw Muslims and Christians, Slavs and Albanians, sitting, walking and talking together and I saw their kids coming home from school in religiously and ethnically mixed groups.
Looking aross the lake at a hotel 2 km from Ohrid
You can see the road going around the lake
My Albanian friends that I met yesterday - friends seems a little strong, but they did tell me if I needed help in the Resen area to call on them - made the point that thing are improving here. When I said I now felt more comfortable in eastern Europe than in the US, the fellow that lives in Detroit - he used to be a Detroit Cop - said that nobody was going to mug you here.
This place is a little difficult to get to - especially on bicycle ;-) - but it is stunningly beautiful, has good, inexpensive as well as upscale, tourist facilities, and is very alive. The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and people are having a good time. I'm really glad to have been able to get here and I am looking forward to riding, around Lake Ohrid, to Albania tomorrow.