17 September 2011

Saturday’s run from Skopje to Ohrid was relatively short with a fair bit of Macedonian motorways to get to the country’s most popular destination. So I decided to take the scenic route via Debar which was a little longer and skirted the Albanian border.

Before setting out I took a short walk around central Skopje. There is a fair bit of reconstruction going on so not much interesting architecture to see. It was all a little communist era looking to be honest although there were some great statues in the main square and a stone bridge which crosses the Vardar River to the city fort and the old town. I didn’t make it to the old town but could see the Ottoman influence in the area surrounding the fort.

Here are some of the sights of central Skopje.

After negotiating the traffic west out of Skopje and several toll booths (they seemed to come up every 5 minutes) I finally made it onto the scenic road. I made a good choice as the road surface was fine and the scenery pleasant.

It’s nice to get off the main drag as often as possible, provided the surface is suitable for the Family Truckster and it is navigable to my intended destination. The first criteria was certainly met but the entire Western Balkans is a little bit hit and miss on the GPS. I have paper maps as well but in some countries only the major roads are displayed on the GPS. Luckily Macedonia was one of the better countries in terms of GPS mapping.

But today I did not have the scenic route programmed into the GPS. The road signs were fine and I found my way relatively easily to Debar with only a couple of stops to consult the paper map I always carry in the back pocket of my jacket.

Finding signs in Debar showing the route to Ohrid was tough though and as I headed out of town I soon noticed I was going in the wrong direction; north west instead of south east. Not too much time was lost, although on getting back into town I did pass down the middle of what seemed like a very busy pedestrian only market. No one really rushed to get out of my way and I got some funny looks , but no one really seemed put out. It may have been the most interesting thing to happen here in some time even! There is nothing touristy about Debar.

The rest of the way to Ohrid was plain sailing, but on my arrival, finding the old town again proved challenging. But you always make it and I had my hotel of choice to myself. The downside was I had to pay the weekend rate, even though I would stay only one night. Never mind, I’d already sweated a gallon getting there. I’d pass out if I kept on riding looking for somewhere else.

My host Ivan was most enthusiastic in selling the sights of Ohrid to me, suggesting I stay the extra day anyway since I would pay for it regardless. He gave me a map of the old town and pointed me in the right direction for the lake, churches and restaurants. It was very comfortable at Villa Forum and my one night stay was most pleasant.

As was Ohrid. But I’m getting lazy now. I did wander around but not as much as I could have. Or would have had I not done so much of this already on my Turkey motorcycle tour. It’s almost like I have seen these Churches and Mosques already, and the old towns have a Turkish bazaar feel to them. The Ottoman architecture I became accustomed to in Safranbolu and Antalya is recognisable to me now and on display in Ohrid. The arrow cobbled streets even have a familiar feel under foot.

The lake was nice though and being a landlocked country I could understand it’s appeal to Macedonians. Many people were swimming or lying on deckchairs in the sun.

Here are my favourite images from Ohrid.



Distance travelled today 130 miles (209km), cumulative 7,650 miles (12,311km).