Shine On Liberty Sun

All good things
19th September 2018

We woke up unnecessarily early this morning, It was only 6:30am and check-out of our apartment wasn't until 11am! Despite being up with the lark we still managed to pack in nine hours of sleep last night.

We sat on our balcony feeling a little sad that this would be our last breakfast here in Ohrid.  Julie shared our photo on Facebook whilst our friends were sharing photos of Storm Ali battering the UK.

"I'm even going to miss making toast in a dry frying pan!" I sighed. But all good things must come to an end.

"I could easily stay here another week" said Julie.  If only.

We had plenty of time to pack our suitcase and tidy the apartment before handing the keys over to Ivana's husband who was busy cleaning the apartment next door. We put our cases in the car and checked with him if it was ok to leave it there until this afternoon. I'm not too sure he understood us, but he nodded and smiled which we took for a "yes".  Our flight wasn't until 6pm so we had plenty of time left to explore some more of Ohrid.

Our first port of call was to try again to visit the nearby Church of the Holy Mary Perybleptos. This time we had cash in our pockets for the 100 denar entrance fee. We paid the guy sat in a little booth as we walked in and entered quite a dark space. Once our eyes adjusted we walked around a hallway with an exhibition of several black and white photographs of Ohrid.

There were some faded frescoes on the walls (obviously not where they had hung the photographs) and the  hallway seemed to wrap around an inner church.

Next, we entered this inner sanctum.  

"Wow" we both said in unison, The frescoes in here were fully restored to their original glory. The colours were rich and vivid and with a small exception, the entire surface from floor to dome and ceiling was painted in exceptional artwork. 

Julie and I took a moment. It was so impressive.

We left the Church of Holy Mary Perybleptos and made our way up the hill towards Samuel's Fort. We weren't going to visit the fort again, but were instead following alternative route down to the Church of St. John in Kaneo following a path through the trees.

It wasn't long before we reached the archaelogical site of Plaoshnik, the location of the grand literary school established by  St. Clement in the 9th century. We peeked at it over a wall wondering how we got in. We soon realised we had to leave the path down to Kaneo and follow a detour all the way around the site to the entrance to the Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon.  This we did and paid our 100 denars each to enter the grounds.

There wasn't much to see at the archaelogical site but every now and then a fragment of carved stone hinted at how magnificent the site must have been.

Julie had already lost interest in the rubble and was heading to the other side of he church to check out the view over the lake. I soon followed her, walking towards the church.

It was an impressive church, quite large in the typical Byzantine style, although what we saw today was a recent reconstruction. There's been a church here since Roman times, then in 863AD St. Clement comissioned the building of the church dedicated to St. Paneleimon. During the Ottoman occupation the church was demolished and replaced by a mosque.  That mosque, Imaret Camii, was only torn down in 2000!

I'm sure the Muslim community would have been enraged,it's not like Ohrid needed another church! But perhaps there was just enough justification as St.Clement's tomb still lays inside.

The closer I got the more impressed I was by the new church. Modern reconstructions often lack character, probably because the same level of craftmanship no longer exists but the Church of Saints Celement and Panteleimon was a masterpiece of brickwork. The complexity of the design for the roof and domes was stunning. 

In contrast, when we went inside, we were surprised to see a very austere church, with mostly plain painted walls. Perhaps it was due a fresco reconstruction in the near future.

We saw the tomb of St. Clement, through glass panels in the floor and walked around a small museum section but we didn't spend a great deal of time inside.

Instead we returned outside to the glorious sunshine and to continue admiring the craftmanship. 

Walking around the back of the church we came across remains of the Roman Basilica with a lovely mosaic tiled floor, protected only by a canopy. There was an image of a lion in a pit of snakes which was interesting, as well as another example of Early Christian use of the swastika, a very common symbol in the Hindu culture.

We decided to stop for a drink at a small cafe within the grounds of Plaoshnik. They had a lovely terrace out the back.

 I ordered a Macedonian coffee. I found it funny that they called it that but then again this cup of strong coffee sludge is often refered to as either Turkish or Greek coffee and as we were in neither of those countries, so why not call it their own.

It came  freshly brewed in a fabulous traditional copper pot. This is how it should always be served. After allowing it time to settle, I poured the coffee into my cup, stopping when I could see the consistency thickening. I ended up with a delicious cup of coffee without having to chew any of it!  

 We wrote our postcards despite knowing we probably wouldn't send them, We hadn't bought any postage stamps yet and were unlikey to go out of our way to find anywhere that sold them. 

We moved on, walking through the neighbourhood of Plaoshnik. When the road came to an end a path continued down towards the Church of St John in Kaneo. No matter from what angle you approach it has to be the best view in Ohrid!

We'd been here before so we didn't stop. We followed the path down to the pebbly beach, past a couple of bars and restaurants before deciding to stop for lunch.  We chose the restaurant called Kaneo. We knew the quality of the food was excellent as we had eaten here on Saturday.

As it was going to be our last blast we pushed the boat out, as they say. I ordered some stuffed zucchini, a dish of potato with chard, a potatoes filled with cheese, a Macedonian salad and Julie had "mignon". There was hardly any room on the table as the dishes kept on coming.

Then, with great ceremony the waiter brought out the mignon and placed it on the table next to us. He was followed by the chef carrying a hot frying pan. Thick slices of rare beef were laid out on the plate, topped with rosemary. The chef then poured the contents of the frying pan and the mignon sizzled.

We had saved the best meal until last. It was also the most expensive at 2450 denars but it was worth every penny. All the dishes were absolutely delicious.

Once we had finished eating we weren't rushed away by the staff so we spent some time watching swans paddle past. There was some sort of situation going on as two males appeared to be trying to impress. Both with necks coiled back into a perfect 'S' shape, wings and feathers puffed out to make them look as large as possible. They chased each other around. It was quite a display. 

In the end, one must have got tired of all the posturing and paddled off, leaving the victorious swan to ... well just bob about. It was quite the anti-climax.

With the show over we paid our bill and left. We walked back to the old town, over the ciff hugging boardwalk, past the Church of St. Sofia and up the hill to our car.

The drive to the airport was only 15 minutes. Along the way we stopped at a petrol station to fill the tank back up. It only took 1310 denars (£19) worth of fuel after our jaunt to Mavrovo.

When we got there we parked the car up by the Sharr Express car hire booth and dropped the keys into a deposit box. There was no staff about to carry out a hand over check so I took multiple photos of the car to prove it was left in good condition. I had read many stories of unscrupulous companies claiming damages after the customer returned home.

We wheeled our cases over an empty car park to the terminal building. After we checked-in our suitcases we swapped our flip-flops, shorts and t-shirts for more approriate clothing for the cooler British climate then sat in a small cafe to wait for the security gates to open.

It was now when Julie realised that in her hand luggage was an expensive bottle of Jo Malone perfume and some body lotion, both over the 100ml limit. We decided to smuggle them through rather than hand them over. 

When her bag got scanned, they weren't detected. Julie was thrilled and alarmed in equal measures that they didn't spot them!

We didn't have long to wait in the departures lounge. Only about enough time for two rounds of drinks then it was time to board the plane.

The sun was setting as we took off over Lake Ohrid. We sighed. It was back to the grindstone tomorrow.

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