Shine On Liberty Sun

Dr Falafel and the Bogoslovs
14th September 2018

Being a creature of habit I was up again at 6:15am this morning, rummaging in the fridge for a yogurt. Thankfully today's dairy offering was an improvement on yesterday's. Starvation abated I returned to bed for a few hours. 

When Julie woke we had breakfast on the balcony. This morning all we had in the house was tinned tomatoes and yesterday's bead. There may also have been a little piece of my thumb in there somewhere as I almost lost a digit trying to cut oranges in half with a bread knife. I didn't bleed much which was a relief but I did lose a fap of skin. Literally adding insult to injury the orange juice turn out to be disappointingly bland, certainly not worth mutilating myself for.

News came from home when Hannah phoned to let us know that the date for her procedure had been brought forward to Monday. After having six children it was time to make sure there was no more! Julie was a little upset and worried to think she was going for surgery whilst we were out of the country. 

We began today by having a closer look at what looked like a tiny church or at least a barn with cross on the roof built in the garden of our apartment building. I assumed it was the church of Sveti Dimitrij as that's what our apartment was called. The door was padlocked so we moved on.

We followed the same steep path as yesterday, in between the houses with their hanging sun-dried peppers and the faint exotic music coming from someone's kitchen, soon reaching the square of Saint Sophia. At the church, instead of heading (left) towards the harbour as we did yesterday we continued to the right, towards the lake, stopping briefly to admire the colonaded facade at the back of the church.

There was also something like an auditorium here. Whether it was ancient or not I couldn't tell, but it seemed set up for outdoor performances with the church as the stage and backdrop. 

We reached a boardwalk over the lake. Julie wasn't especially confident in its rickety construction but to reach the Church of St. John at Kaneo from here we had to follow it. Other than a few loose and uneven boards it was prefectly safe and it wasn't long before the path returned us to dry land.

It continued to lead us past several lakeside side restaurants and bars, one even had a nice little shingle beach with loungers. Then at the end of this cove, Kaneo beach, the path stepped steeply up the side of the cliff to reach the entrance to the 13th century church.  

A sign above the gate welcomed us in cyryllic to Tserkva Sv.Jovan Tshogosaov ?  My limited understanding of the alphabet meant I lost it towards the end as it actually spelt bogoslov, Bulgarian for "theologian".

The church is dedicated to Saint John the Theologian, also known as St. John of Patmos, who had other nicknames such as  John the Divine and John the Relevator. Some believed him to also be the Apostle John and author of the Book of Revelations, the one about the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

We walked around the church, admiring its brickwork. That sounds like such a peculiar thing to say but it was true. We marvelled at the medieval craftmanship, especially around the dome. 

I knew that the best view of the church was from above. Not an aerial view but just looking down at it from a little further up the hill. All the tourist information pages uses this image to promote Macedonia. It's the country's most iconic sight, their "leaning tower", their "taj mahal".

So to get the photo I craved I followed the path up the hillside whilst Julie sat in the shade of a tree at the front of the church.

It was well worth the effort. It was more than just a view, it was a wish fulfilment, from seeing the picture in a glossy magazine to standing here looking at it with my own eyes. It was an emotional moment.

It was a spectacular sight. Seeing it from this perspective you could really appreciate its breathtaking location on the cliff's edge, overlooking Lake Ohrid. 

I returned back down and we went inside the church, paying 100 denars for the privilege. Photos weren't allowed and it was such a small space there wasn't a nook nor cranny where I could discreetly take a quick snapshot. 

It was quite dark inside but we were drawn to the frescoes behind the altar.

As we returned down the steps towards the shingle beach Julie suggested we catch a boat to the harbour.

It cost 500 denars, (about £7.50) a little more than I expected but at least it saved Julie from having to struggle over the rickety boardwalk. It was only a short distance to the harbour. He did ask if we wanted a more scenic journey, to include seeing the church from the lake but we were fine with just a taxi service. 

We reached the harbour and he pulled up by some steps. Getting out of the bobbing boat was a challenge, we had to time it just right or it could have been a disaster.

 Back on dry land we walked up Old Bazaar Street, the main shopping street, where I stopped at souvenir shop to buy myself a flag for my burgoening collection. I don't know why I still do this. It's not like I have them displayed in a mancave, instead they're kept in a box in the attic. However, even if I wasn't a vexillophile I would have still wanted the flag of "the new liberty sun". It's such an bright and uplifting banner.

We decided to stop for coffee at what seemed to be a popular local cafe. We soon noticed most of the clientele were men of a certain age, senior citizens and they were all writting on little slips of paper. It turned out we were sat outside a betting shop! Despite this, it was waiter service and the coffee was very good. Better than we've had in many coffee shops!  

Pepped up with caffeine we continued along the shiny marble tiled pedestrianised Old Bazaar Street. Not all the stores here were tourist traps, it was a living breathing high street with pharmacists, opticians, tattoo parlours and so on.

There was even a seedy looking casino on a corner, right next to the Ali Pasha Mosque which made it feel even more inappropriate.    

At the end of the street we reached an empty fountain, near to the Halveti Hayeti Tekke mosque. This area of Ohrid certainly had more of an Ottoman influence. Turkish stereotypes galore filled the street,  a restaurant serving shawarma, a baklava store and a barber shop, a celebration of a proud culture.

We were on the lookout for a cafe called Dr. Falafel but had reached the end of the street without finding it, so we backed on ourselves, returning to the waterless fountain. And there it was, right in front of us.

The original plan wasn't to eat here today, but just to find it so we knew where it was for later in the week. However, I got carried away and we found ourselves inside. 

It was a really small place, with only a handful of tables. As the name suggested all they had on the menu was falafel. Julie's not fussed by them but I love them. The prices were very reasonable with a falafel salad platter and soft drink for 200 denars (£2.94)!

To make it even more impressive value for money it turned out to be absolutely delicious. The falafels, drizzled with a tahini sauce, were small but tasted amazing,  and the hummus was smooth and unctuous drizzled with a chilli sauce, olive oil and a few whole chickpeas. It was also served warmed which was a first. Even the shredded carrot tasted great!

It was all accompanied by a rustic bread like a Moroccan khob to mop it all up. I left my plate as clean as it was the day it was made.

We left Dr. Falafel and walked back down Old Bazaar Street back to the port area, via the Ramstore supermarket. We stocked up on supplies and a packet of sticky plasters to keep my wound clean.

Julie was now getting hungry so we started looking for somewhere else to eat. We ended up at a hotel and restaurant called Aleksandrija located right on the front. We sat at the water's edge and ordered lunch.

I had already eaten but it didn't stop me from ordering a side dish so Julie wasn't eating alone.  It was simply described as a "Macedonian dish".  It turned out to be like a braised brassiac ratatouie, with brocolli florets, shredded cabbage, and shredded carrot in a fresh tomato sauce served in a very rustic  "traditional" clay pot. It may have been basic peasant fodder but it tasted surprisingly delicious.

Julie really enjoyed her meal of meat and two veg (pork, carrots and potatoes) and we spent a really pleasant half an hour sat at the quayside in the glorious sunshine. The temperature reached 30C today.

We paid our bill of 1830 denars or £27 (which included two drinks each) and made our way back up to the apartments.

Whether or not it was the big lunch or the hot temperature but the hike up the hill was especially hard work. Julie's fitbit registered an alarming heart rate of 152 bpm. She had to sit down halfway up to catch her breath.

We reached the apartment about 2:30pm. It was time for a proper siesta. Curtains were drawn and we caught a little nap for a few hours.

When we got dressed we showered and got dressed for dinner. We had a reservation at Restaurant Kaneo. Today seemed to be nothing more than wandering around Ohrid, in between meals!

After the struggle of walking up the hill earlier we decided to find an alternative route down. There was a road, that at first gently rolled down past the local convenience store. It may have been a longer way down but at least we would not be a sweaty blob at the bottom.

 However, when we were "neither up nor down" the road soon got a little steeper and our walking style quickly became a short stepping shuffle. 

Shortly after passing the tiny little church of St. Varvara, we took a break from our march when we came to the archaelogical site of Mancevci, shoe-horned in between the houses.  It was free to enter, so we did.

It was the remains of a 5th century basilica. Despite its importance it was open to the elements with only a canopy for shelter.  The eyes were first drawn to a partial reconstruction of a colonade, with three doric columns supporting two red brick arches.  However, it's main attraction was a mosaic floor, stretching all the way down one side, and other mosaic pieces mounted on the wall.

I was fascinated by the "painting by numbers" method to creating an image. It was remarkable how they managed to get so much detail into their design using just pieces of stones. There was also a number of swastikas in  the design. I wasn't excpecting to see them here, not because of its 20th century Nazi symbolism but because it's an ancient Hindu symbol. How did it find it's way into an early Christian basillica? Was it replicating rugs from the East or was it just a coincidental symmetrical pattern? I'm sure the answer is out there somewhere.

Anyway, we moved on, reaching St. Sofia, and continued down the lake, following the route we took this morning. That route included the rickety boardwalk that Julie loved so much.  

We often walk hand in hand, it's just natural to reach out, to hold, to touch but sometimes it's to steady yourself because you think you're going to fall into the lake!

We walked cautiously along the wooden path, pausing briefly to admire a swan that had decided to take a break from all that paddling and sit on a rock instead. It looked like it had damaged a wing, as it hadn't tucked it in properly.

We arrived at the restaurant far too early for our reservation, so we continued walking to Kaneo beach and had a drink at the bar.

The sun was setting and whilst Julie enjoyed her glass of Macedonian wine I decided to run up the steps to the Church of St. John. It was an opportunity not to be missed.

What was already a beautiful view was now enhanced by the warm colours of the sunset. It was a stunning and literally breathtaking view, especially as I had ran up the hill to reach the spot before the sun dropped from the sky. I may have been out of breath but my God, it was worth it. 

Not wanting to leave Julie on her own for too long I didn't hang around for long. I rejoined her for another drink at Kaneo beach before making our way over to the restaurant for our 7pm reservation.

Like many of the restaurants in this area, the dining area was out on a wooden platform over the water.   

Our table was at the front, overlooking the lake, with  the last of the sunlight fading fast and the church now in silhouette. The gentle lapping of the waves completed this idyllic setting.


The menu had plenty of non-meat choices for me which was a bonus. I started with a warm goat's cheese salad, followed by gnocchi in a truffle sauce and we ordered cheesy jacket potatoes to share. Julie had smoked salmon followed by a roast chicken dish.

The food was faultless, wonderful flavours and good portions. The staff were also extremely pleasant.

The bill came 2700 denars (£39) which was the most we'd spent on a meal so far, but considering that the bottle of wine (which was also incrediblydelicious) was 1000 denars then it was still good value for the excellent quality.

We were not rushed from our table so we sat there, finishing our wine, enjoying the moment. 

The weather then began to change, the wind picked up and the gentle lapping of the waves soon beacame a firm slapping. The table nearest the side even had to move as they were getting soaked by the splashing. 

As we left the restaurant Julie suddenly realised that the only way back was over the rickety boardwalk ... in the dark!

She was getting quite anxious about it but when we got there it was all very well lit up with lamps every 10 metres or so. We strolled arm in arm over the water planning tomorrows itinerary.

In no time we were passing the illuminated back of St. Sofia which looked stunning. We took a seat in the auditorium for a while to admire it all and contemplate what life must have been like here during its 15th century heyday.

From there we followed the road up, the one we had walked down earlier, past the archaelogical site of Mancevci and the tiny Church of St. Varvara. The hill felt steeper walking up. It also felt a lot further!  There was a lot of huffing and puffing going on.

It was dark, but street lights lit the way. Their unique shape reminded me a little of the traditional houses, with the larger overhanging second floor. 

Our conversation, as it so often does, gravitated towards food, what and where we were going to eat tomorrow, when right on queue a little pizza delivery van with three wheels scooted past us, leaving behind a cloud of oregano. "Mmm, pizza" we both said. We tried to catch its name but we missed it.

At the top of the hill, we popped in the convenience store for some chocolate for our dessert then sat on our balcony munching away reflecting on what a lovely day we had.

  Next Day >>>  

©Copyright 2018 Colin Owen