Struga - Poetry and bridges
The spirit of Struga is tender. Located on the shores of Lake Ohrid, the city is laced with bridges, dotted with delightful architecture, and linked by lanes. Everywhere its romantic soul is apparent. The Black Drim River flows through the heart of the city after it journeys from the springs near St. Naum through Lake Ohrid. From Struga it continues across Albania to the Adriatic Sea. Once known as “Enchalon” -Eel, Struga welcomes eels all the way from the Sargasso Sea. Nowadays, Struga is better known for its annual international poetry festival, “The Struga Poetry Evenings”. Poems are read from the bridges to add to their romance. Struga is the birthplace of the most eminent representatives of the Macedonian culture and national revival in 19th century, the brothers Constantine and Dimitar Miladinov. Since 1962 Constantine’s famous poem “Longing for the South”, traditionally opens this major world poetry festival.
And, in the mountains to the north is the wildest festival of them all, the Vevcani Carnival, where anything goes! Many other villages in the mountains and along the lake offer memorable experiences for visitors wishing to get off the beaten track and discover the rural charm of an ancient land.
Built in 1835 over a much older church from the 16th century, the small church of St. George stands in the centre of Struga. It contains frescos from the end of 19th century, but its real treasure is a small gallery of icons from 13th to 19th century, including the well known icon of St. George painted in 1267. A long inscription on the back of the icon mentions “Struga of Ohrid”.
The Natural History Museum was founded in 1928 by Dr. Nikola Nezlobinski. Initially featuring his own collection, it now contains a wide variety of insects, birds, fish, and animals from the Ohrid & Prespa region.
Vangel Kodjoman is one of the most prominent contemporary painters of Macedonia. Most of his work has been dedicated to his land and people. His paintings show scenes of old houses leaning over the narrow streets and a life that no longer exists. Some of his finest paintings are permanently exhibited in this gallery located in the middle of Struga.
The Black Drim River flows out from Lake Ohrid near the “Drim” hotel and continues all the way to the Adriatic Sea. The banks of the river are an ideal place for romantic strolls. Each year, at the end of August you can listen to poets from all over the world reciting poetry in dozens of different languages. It is an inspiring occasion.
In a natural cave on a steep rock above the village of Radozda is a church dedicated to Archangel Michael. It is one of the oldest cave churches discovered on the shores of Lake Ohrid. Its frescos, painted on the uneven wall of the cave, date back to the end of 13th century. A close examination reveals the extraordinarily beautiful presentation of the Archangel Michael in the composition of the Miracle of Cana. Nearby is a fishermen’s village with excellent restaurants.
The small cave church of the Nativity of the Virgin, is situated high in the rocks on the western shore of Lake Ohrid near the village of Kalista and close to a monastery complex. Entry into the church is gained through a wall (which also provides the church’s apse) into the natural space of the cave. The interor of the church was painted during the 15th or 16th century. Nearby, on a steep cliff overlooking Lake Ohrid is another cave church, dedicated to St. Athanasios. The natural opening of the cave has been used as a nave while the apse and the eastern wall are built of craggy stones. An old painting in the church is attributed to the second half of the 14th or the first half of the 15th century.
Located at the foot of the beautiful Jablanica Mountain about 10km northwest of Struga is the pretty village of Visni. It is surrounded by a forest of beech and oak trees. The cave church of the Holy Savior is a 3km walk from the village along a brook in a beautiful canyon. The fresco that decorates the wall and ceiling is dated from the end of 14th century.
Located near Vevcani in the mountain village of Oktisi is an ancient Christian basilica from the end of 5th or the beginning of 6th century. The mosaic floor of the church is richly decorated with representations of deer, horses, flowers, trees, and geometrical ornamentation.
Vevcani is a large village located 14 km northwest of Struga. It is built on a steep hillside and sheltered by a mountain. Its architecture is most appealing with many old houses and buildings of all styles and shapes. The sound of water can be heard running through channels throughout the village. It comes from the famous Vevcani Springs which have a water flow of between 400-4000 litres per second. Old water mills still grind corn, wheat and other grains as they have for centuries. Walk through the rich chestnut tree forest, climb up to the village of Gorna Belica or the glacial lakes.
On the marked walking trails above Vevcani are the remains of the old Roman road, the Via Egnatia. It goes through a beautiful forest to Vajtos, an ancient stopping place and vantage point used by trade caravans traveling between the Adriatic coast and the Black Sea. The panoramic view over the whole Lake Ohrid valley is spectacular.
Located 1,600 meters above the tree line and close to the Albanian border, the village of Gorna Belica can be reached by driving, biking or walking from Struga, or by hiking from Vevcani. Nowadays, only two elderly ladies live all year round in the village, although other residents visit on weekends and holidays. The church of St. Petkai is undergoing restoration, but the two ladies are happy to tell its story and that of the saint. The owners of some of the holiday houses offer accommodation in their homes, and there is a modern hotel in the centre of the village.
Peace and nature - Resen
The extraordinary, wild and unique beauty of the Lake Prespa area attracted the Macedonian Tsar Samuel to build his first seat in this place on the isle of St Achilles. The lake itself, which consists of two parts, Small and Big Prespa, is bordered by soaring and is part of the municipality of Resen. Here you will find endless sandy beaches, mountain slopes rich with game, stunningly frescoed churches, the peace of a wild and undiscovered country and even a few pelicans! The area itself is entrancing, you will certainly want to pay a visit to Brajcino, one of the most delightful villages imaginable.
The town of Resen was mentioned for a first time as a mediaeval settlement under the name Rosne in 1337. The transformation of this mainly rural settlement began in the 18th century with the development of crafts and by the 19th century Resen had become a city settlement with a rich market place. Resen is well known for its apple orchard area. Fine clay pottery has developed into a major craft industry and in the Resen ceramics colony was established in 1971 and continues to attract visitors and exhibitors from all over the world. The town also possesses a rich museum collection full of archaeological and ethnological finds from the area.
The village of Grncari sits at the foot of the picturesque Baba Mountain, not far from the road that takes you from Resen to Greece. Here you will find the 13th century church of St. Elias with its renowned frescos and accommodation built for pilgrims and other travellers.
Unbelievably, in the house of a local farmer Jone Eftimoski you will find one of the richest ethnological collections in Macedonia. It contains wonderful examples of jewellery, weaponry, old coins and over 140 national costumes from the whole region of Macedonia. Jone is delighted to welcome visitors and explain the origins of his colourful artefacts.
On the Northern shores of Prespa Lake you will find the Ezereni ornithological park, home for over 115 different bird species, including the pelican. The park has a surface of 2080 sq. ha. with natural shores of moors and reeds covered with willow trees. The park is protected and is under the patronage of various international organisations including EUONATUR.
The old church dedicated to St. George is situated near the village of Kurbinovo, hidden away in an idyllic clearing as on the approaches to Mount Pelister above Lake Prespa. It is a modest building with magnificent frescoes painted in 1191. The extraordinary wall decoration of this church is one of Macedonia’s best examples of mediaeval painting.
The Slivnica monastery and its church, dedicated to the Mother of God, are situated some three kilometres from the village of Slivnica. The monastery complex consists of a modest church that was built and decorated in 17th century, and auxiliary buildings, built in the 19th century. The wall paintings are well preserved demonstrating the stylistic characteristics of wall painting from the beginning of the 17th century in Macedonia.
Located on the Eastern shores of Prespa Lake, below the Baba Mountain, with its 16th century St. Petka church, picturesque Brajcino has typical village architecture of big houses with massive walls made out of green stone granite reflecting the once prosperous status of this fertile agricultural area when trading agriculture goods was the main source of income generation. The river Brajcinska Reka flows through the village into Prespa Lake. You can fish for trout in the river, enjoy a picnic with roasted lamb, home made leek or cheese pies or other specialities such as fresh yogurt prepared by the villagers, visit the old water mills by the river and taste the home made brandy (rakija) that is still made in the traditional way.
Close to the village of Brajcino there is another impressive village combining a mixture of village and town architecture. In the hills above the village there are two churches devoted to St. Peter and St. Paul.
Archaeological excavations undertaken on the island have shown that it was inhabited from Hellenistic to mediaeval times. Traces of the various historical periods can be found on the island, including two 14th century churches, St. Peter and St. Demetrios. Today the island is uninhabited. As part of Galicica National Park, its rare plant and animal life that have been preserved through the centuries, are strictly protected. Boat trips may be taken around the island, and escorted land trips are available under the auspices of the park authorities. Treasure of this region are birds, which are the found for existence of Prespa Park.
The village of Konjsko is located on Lake Prespa near where the borders of Macedonia, Greece, and Albania intersect. The village contains the protected remains of an ancient settlement and nearby is one of the prettiest beaches on the lake with the little cave church of St. Elias.
On the western shore of Prepa Lake amid rich forest there is the centre for respiratory diseases, Otesevo. The centre benefits from excellent natural conditions such as high altitude, oxygen rich unpolluted air and many sunny days.