Pearl at the Shore of a Freshwater Sea
As a merge of wisdom of centuries and postmodern tourism, this ancient city in the present Republic of Macedonia leaves a strong impression on every visitor. Its magical lake, lights and music, cuisine and wine, beaches and famous pearls, the old fortress, churches, promenade, cafés and clubs, quietly and eternally become part of your nice experience and  everlasting memory. Why is this the city ”one always returns to”?

By: Jelena Nikolić

At the very south of Macedonia, in an unusual natural surrounding by the shore of the magical lake, stands one of the oldest European towns – Ohrid. Numerous historical and archeological testimonies show that life in this town has been continuously lasting for more than two thousand years. Civilizations, empires and conquerors changed in this long historical period. They built and destroyed it wishing to leave the trace of their power. With all these traces, Ohrid today is a ”city museum” and a unique tourist attraction due to its historical significance and its natural beauties, first of them naturally being the Ohrid Lake. Since 1979, the town and the lake have been enlisted as world heritage and under the protection of UNESCO.


The pleasant climate, enchanting nature in its surrounding, clean water and many sunny days during the year make Ohrid Lake a very attractive tourist destination. Arranged beaches make a large part of its shore, it has modern hotels, restaurants, clubs and, of course, numerous shops full of different products. The average water temperature in July is 22 and in August 23 degrees Celsius.
The lake is at the altitude of 695 meters and is one of the oldest tectonic lakes on the planet. Although estimations are that it is about four billion years old, some flora and fauna species in it are the same as in the Tertiary period. Seventeen fish species live in the lake, the most famous of them are two endemic Ohrid trout species (letnica and belvica), as well as eels which can be up to 1,5 meters long.
A special species of the bleak fish lives in Ohrid Lake. Its scale is used for making a special emulsion for painting the pellets of processed pearls taken out from shells delivered from different parts of the world. The recipe for the emulsion has been a strictly guarded secret for centuries by two Ohrid families. Only they have the certificate for manufacturing this unique jewelry – the Ohrid pearl.
Sailing the lake which changes its color throughout the day is a real attraction for tourists. The water of the lake is so pure and clear that the picturesque underwater world of this ”freshwater sea”, as naturalists like to call it, can be seen through it.


The Slavic name of Ohrid was first mentioned in 879, and its ancient name was Lihnidos. In the late IX century, Ohrid became the center of spreading literacy among the Slavs, begun by the students of Cyril and Methodius – St. Naum and St. Kliment. Kliment founded the first Slavic university, so Ohrid is considered the cradle of Slavic literacy.
Numerous temples were erected in Ohrid, the spiritual center of Balkan Slavs. Locals like to say that Ohrid and its vicinity have 365 churches and monasteries – one for each day of the year. Although the truth is there are not so many, their number is certainly imposing.
The most important Ohrid temples are St. Sophia from the XI century, which used to be the seat of the Ohrid Archbishopric for centuries. The Church of Holy Mother of God Perivlepta, erected in the XIII century, is one of the most beautiful and oldest churches in Ohrid. Extraordinary architecture and beautiful wall paintings make this temple one of the most significant medieval monuments in Macedonia. Scenes from the life of Holy Mother of God and Jesus Christ painted on its walls leave a strong impression on every visitor. About 30 kilometers from Ohrid is the beautiful Monastery of St. Naum. In it are the relics of this saint who, besides being famous as an educator, was also known as a healer during his lifetime. That is why the monastery is visited by numerous devotees throughout the year.


Besides Christian temples, Ohrid is decorated by numerous other historical monuments. The most significant among them is definitely Samuil’s Fortress. This fortification around the town was named after Emperor Samuil (976-1014), who made the first Slavic empire in these lands and chose Ohrid for its capital. He renewed and rebuilt the old fortress and surrounded the town with towers and three kilometers long walls. For centuries, Samuil’s fortress protected Ohrid from the invasions of various conquerors; and there were certainly many.
The most precious value of Ohrid, a true archeological treasure, is the ancient theater. It is considered to have been built in the late IV and early III century B.C. for performing dramas, music and poetic plays. It had about 400 seats, and prominent citizens of the time had their permanent seats in the audience, according to the names carved in the stone blocks. After Roman conquests, the theater was rearranged as an arena for gladiator fights, and after Christianity came to this region, the ancient theater was destroyed and its parts were used for the construction of early Christian temples. The ancient theater was restored in the XX century and is now used for performing theatrical plays, music and other cultural events.


Ohrid Summer
The renowned cultural and artistic event ”Ohrid Summer” takes place in Ohrid from July 12 to August 20. The festival was established in 1961 and has been a regular member of the European Festivals Association since 1994. During almost half a century of its existence, many local and foreign artists, music and theatrical ensembles performed here. Famous names of world art such as Zubin Mehta, Hose Carreras, Ennio Moricone and others had their performances at this prestigious event.  


Night Life
Besides enjoying natural treasures, visiting historical monuments and bathing in the lake, Ohrid offers excellent night life for tourists. Visitors can enjoy the piquant local specialties in numerous restaurants and taverns as well as international cuisine, naturally accompanied by local wines. Younger tourists can visit many city clubs, cafés and disco clubs in which ”crazy parties” continue deep into the night.


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