Shine On Liberty Sun

Tomorrow's Another Day
15th September 2018

This morning I woke up with a sore throat. The first time I had felt unwell in such a long time. We hoped it wasn't the start of something worse. To wait for a much needed break only to get ill would be so disappointing.

After breakfast on the balcony we hung around the apartment for most of the morning. We could easily have chilled here all day but decided to pop out to have a closer look at the castle on the hill,to at least get something done today!

It wasn't far but the road up to it was the steepest we'd climbed in Ohrid.

Samuel's Fortress was built at the end of the 10th century, during the brief period when Ohrid was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire. It was a period of constant conflict with the Byzantine empire, so a decent fort was a necessity not a luxury. A couple of decades later the First Empire came crashing down with a crushing defeat at the Battle of Kalindor.

After an extensive restoration in 2003 the fort looked as good as new. Although looking at the different shades of stone it made me wonder how much of the impressive wall was actually original.

It was a little underwhelming when we walked inside. It basically opened out into a field, just some rough ground at the top of the hill.  There was nothing to see inside the castle, nothing to do either except walk along the ramparts. At least it was only 60 denars to enter. 

We began to climb up some steep steps to the top of the walls, but Julie lost her nerve. "I can't do it" she said, trembling as she returned back to ground level. I continued up and walked along the top, for as far as it was possible.

I stopped every now and then to admire the magnificent view over Ohrid's red roof tops. I could see the entire bay from here, the small port, the jetty jutting out for the sunbathers and swimmers, the tall  grasses at the far end, and the hills of the Galicica National Park rolling down to the lake, stretching South towards Albania.   

I could even see our apartment, right below the Church of the Holy Mary Perybleptos, a green parasol on our balcony acting as a convenient marker flag.

From here I could see the entire city. I hadn't realised how large Ohrid was until I looked in the opposite direction and saw it sprawling out North towards the airport, around 150 square miles of it apparently.

The accesible section of the ramparts soon came to an end so I returned the way I came and rejoined Julie who had been waiting for me. She had been watching people, and especially little children, bound up the steps and had decided "well, if they can do it, so can I"

We climbed the steps up to the right of the entrance, not the left which I had already done. Julie may have built up some courage to begin with, but it soon deserted her. She struggled through quivering hands and trembling knees to reach the top. But reach it she did.

It didn't get any easier for her as she shuffled along the ramparts, clinging to the walls for dear life. Rather disappointingly, after the momentus effort to get this far, there wasn't much of a view along this section. All was obscured by tall trees.

Despite this we felt some sense of acheivement before we slowly made our way back down to solid ground, where I half expected Julie to kiss the floor!

We left the fort and stopped at a small cafe called the Fort Cafe for a coffee.  It was so peaceful here, with the murmur of chatter in the background the only sound. We chilled back some more and ordered a beer & wine to extend our stay.

 It was time for lunch and if the cafe served food other than cakes we would have stayed even longer but they did not. So we made our way back down the hill, stopping a few times at small souvenir shops looking for postcards to send home.


When we reached the Upper Gate we stopped to have a closer look. The actual gates were still attached, huge wooden doors protected by iron sheets, laid out like a fish scales. Then we noticed the arch itself was constructed from several pieces of reclaimed stone, many of which had visible inscripions in cyrillic. It was all very fascinating, even more so than the fort!

Back in our apartment we set about making lunch. We didn't have much in, just some mushrooms and potatoes.  "It's not a meal unless it has potato" was one of Julie's catchphrases so we were fine. We could make a meal of it.

I added an egg into the pan for my lunch, stiring it in to make some kind of broken omelette and topped it with a slice of fried tomato. It was incredibly delicious, even if I do say so myself. The flavours from the mushrooms were sensational, as if they had just been picked from the forest this morning.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon on our balcony. A ittle later I went back into the kitchen for some leftovers and coined a word to describe a second lunch. You have breakfast, brunch, lunch and then ...  scrunch!

After we scrunched we slept.

A few hours later we woke up. I wasn't feeling well, all shivery and flu-like and really felt like staying in bed, however Manchester United were playing this evening and I knew an Irish pub was showing the game, so I dragged myself up and out.

We rolled down the hill to the harbour front where we sat outside Alexandrija (a bar/hotel) for a drink. It was a pleasant start to the evening.

 We got talking about tomorrow and our big day out and realised we could do with some cash for the journey. So I set off to find the nearest ATM whilst Julie ordered another drink. It wasn't far, literaly just around the corner. 

Unfortunately there were two old German guys struggling to get any cash out. It had worked for the first one, but not the other. He couldn't get anything out. He kept on trying with the same result. Eventually he gave up and stepped away, muttering.

I then put my card in, with the same result. Having selected my language preference, the screen was clearly telling me it had run out of money. It felt so frustrating.

Instead of rejoining Julie I decided to carry on to Old Bazaar street to find another ATM, which worked.

I then got a little distracted by a merry group dressed in traditional costume, waving a flag that wasn't the red and yellow of the sun, but one that harked back to a time behind the "iron curtain" with its Russian influenced colours of red, blue and white.  Who's flag it was I don't know. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has always had a red and yellow flag.

I don't know if it was a political statement or not, but they were enjoying themsleves, as were the tourists. The locals weren't paying them much attention though.

By the time I got back to Julie she was upset. She'd been worrying herself sick, wondering where I'd gone, letting her worse case scenario imagination get the better of her. It seemed to have knocked her off kilter for the rest of the evening.

We made it to Dublin, one of a few Irish bars in Ohrid. United were playing away, against Watford, an awkward side, difficult to play against, and had decent results against United in the past few seasons.

We shared a piss poor pizza in a smoke filled bar, which was technically outside but was enclosed by an awning. We weren't in a good place, I was feeling increasingly groggy and on edge courtesy of another disjointed United performance and Julie was still shook up after the earlier incident.

She couldn't take anymore and after twenty minutes went outside to release some of the tension. To help her do that she befriended the local stray dog. It was a Jack Russell cross of some description, a breed that wasn't her favourite but she said that this little scamp had bags of character and that you couldn't help but like him.

Inside I was losing the will to watch anymore of the game, despite United being 2-0 by half time. I wasn't feeling well at all and just wanted to go home to bed. All that smoke didn't help either. (It really is a filthy habit.)

We walked back along the harbour front, mostly in silence, both of us in subdued moods. By the time we reached the old town we decided to stop for something to eat. We had left most of the pizza in the Irish bar, it was that bad.

Opposite the church of St. Sofia we walked inside an inviting restaurant but after sitting down and browsing the menu we walked back out again. We couldn't see anything we liked.

On the opposite side of the square was Via Sacra, a restaurant in which we had already eaten on our first day, albeit only a cake and coffee. It was a warm evening so we sat at the tables outside overlooking the church. It was a lovely setting.

I decided to give their pizza a try whilst Julie had some chicken with potatoes. Perhaps because we weren't in good moods, but we didn't enjoy the food.

We paid our bill and marched up the hill, both grumbling all the way, muttering to ourselves under our breath.

The sooner we got to bed and to sleep the better. Tomorrow's another day.

  Next Day >>>  

ęCopyright 2018 Colin Owen