old town & architecture, Ohrid
The old part of Ohrid is a wonderful experience. The whole area, including the lake, is a World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO. Just wandering around the old cobbled streets as they wind up and down the hillside along the lake shore. There are some great old buildings dotted about, and you'll catch great views of the lake poking through the gaps in between them.
Despite Ohrid being a busy tourist destination, the back streets of the town are surprisingly empty of people, and so walking around is peaceful and relaxing.
Ohrid's real importance as a city began with Tsar Samuil's decision to make it the capital of what has become known as The First Bulgarian Empire in the late 10th century. During this period the fortress was constructed as were the defensive walls around the city as fortification against the Byzantines with whom Samuil was in conflict.
Ohrid's importance continued after the Byzantine overthrow of the Bulgarian's and the city, within its walls, became a relatively prosperous centre of trade and culture.
The modern-day remnants of the walls, which have been variously restored, can be seen around the two main gates - the upper gate, next to Tsar Samuil's fortress, and the lower gate which is just off the main square down towards the lakefront.
Ohrid is a fascinatingly diverse little city with pretty much something for everyone. Being compact it is easily walkable (if you don't mind a few hills) and all the major sites can be visited in a relatively short time (depending on how long you want to devote to each).
If you are short of time, or have very specific interests, then there are plenty of resources available (including of course here on VT) to help you plan your trip but if you're in no rush than just wander and get a feel for the place.
Personally the only planned bit of my two days here, apart from the VT Euromeet dinners, was a systematic investigation of the city's bars. However I do have one golden rule in life - I never have a drink until I've done something either constructive, energetic or creative!
Here in Ohrid this was easily achieved - a wander from the main square, through the old city, up to the fortress of Tsar Samuel with the camera in hand more than adequately covered all three preconditions.
Wandering though should be done with open eyes, rather than blinkered by focusing on the goals, and so here's a few pics from my route (in no particular order):
One of the first things we saw on our excellent guided tour of Ohrid was the stunning building you can see, and I just knew it was going to be a great city to explore. This is the Robev / Robevi family home. Whatever their name, they were a rich and influential family in Ohrid. They had initially buit a home here in 1827 which fell prey to arson by a local criminal in 1862. I don't know what the original looked like but it certainly created space for what you see today so perhaps for the best.
The family moved to Bitola and the premises served as a military billet in the First World War, it's latest incarnation is as a museum housing, amongst other things, the torso of the goddess Isis, apparently one of the archaeological treasures of Macedonia. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit, which is a shame as I would have liked to have seen inside. Perhaps the reader will have the chance.
During the Ottoman rule the Turks built many buildings in Ohrid to satisfy their needs. Among them are several mosques, but also a Clock Tower (Saat Kula).
Ohrid's Clock Tower was erected in 1726 by the nobleman Sulejman Aga.
The top of the stone tower is encased with wood and the clock is illuminated by night.
Ohrid's Clock Tower stands somewhere behind the Church of the Holy Mother at Kamensko. Both buildings are situated just above the old Turkish bazaar area.
The Haji Turgut Mosque, which is also known as Cross Mosque, was erected in 1466 on the site of the former St. Kyriakia Church. It is the oldest mosque in Ohrid.
A legend says that the minaret of the mosque collapsed several times until the Turks placed the original cross of the former church on top of the minaret.
The Haji Turgut Mosque is located a 15 minutes walk north east of the lake front. It stands at the corner of the streets Sedmi Noemvri and Marko Nestoroski.
The Ali Pasha Mosque was built in 1573 by Suleyman Pasha. At this time it also served as a religious secondary school.
Later in 1823 the mosque was readpated by the vizir Ali Pasha, hence the name.
The mosque underwent massive reconstructions at the beginning of the current century.
The Ali Pasha Mosque is situated right in the heart of Ohrid's old Turkish bazaar area. It can be found at the pedestrianised street Kliment Ohridski.
The Zejnel Abedin Mosque was built together with a religious school (madrassa) in 1564.
Later in 1590 it was converted into a a Tekke of the first Persian dervish.
In 1720 a burial chamber (turbeh) was added to the mosque complex.
The Zejnel Abedin Mosque is situated in the northern part of Ohrid's busy pedestrianised city centre. It can be found at the pedestrianised street Goce Delcev near the Krusevska Republika Square.
The Upper Gate (Gorna Porta) is part of Ohrid's city fortifications, which were errected around the 10th century. The city used to have 4 gates: Front Gate, Water Gate, Lower Gate and Upper Gate.
The latter one is the only entirely preserved gate. It was connected with the Ancient Theatre and built with stone blocks from Greek-Roman buildings.
The Upper Gate is situated somewhere below Samuel's Fortress and just above the Ancient Theatre.
Ohrid has a very unique and distinctive architectual style in the old town section. Tiny cobbled streets, meander upwards, the old houses overhanging, creating light and shades, a sense of history. Some of the houses are so picture perfect, they are like those doll houses that make you long to have a peek inside and discover exactly what they look like on the inside. In autumn colourful strings of dried red chillies hang on the outside walls competing with the potted geraniums for attention. I found that I enjoyed the adventure of exploring Ohrid without a map or guides, rather just wondering on our own, taking our time. The old centre is too small to get lost in, and you are virtually guaranteed to come across some wonderful surprises. I found that this was the best way to get the feel of the place. Only then could I trully appreciate the wonderful churches etc.
The city architecture of Ohrid has some very fine examples of Byzantic and oriental houses. I would point out at some facades inlayed with the wooden layers.
I found the houses very beautiful in their simplicity.
Most of them date from 18th and 19th century.
The old town is simply charming. The narrow cobbled streets leading up the hill, the beautiful old balcan style arhitecture that I adore and fantastic views down, towards the lake, that is what I call a delight.
The early Christian basilica, whose original name is unknown, is opulently ornamented by floor mosaics, whose excavation started in 1961 and ended several years later. The most beautiful are those located in the baptistery. The scenes on the mosaics are related to water. There are three representations of the fountain of life, each having a pair of animals. On the angles the four Eden rivers are depicted in the shape of human figures (with water flowing out of their mouths). The church was probably built and decorated in the 5th century.
During the Turkish rule in Ohrid, many of the Christian churches were converted into mosques. It is estimated that these churches were demolished in the course of 15th century. Some of those structures serve as a churches again but there are plenty of mosques and Islamic monuments all around the town and in surrounding. Mosques are typical example of Turkish architecture on Blakans and some of them are really fine gems.
Not far form Fortress is the Gorna Porta (Upper Gate) which has suffered numerous alternations in the course of time and which until 1912, was regularly closed at night and opened in the morning. Unce upon a time old fortified town of Ohrid had four main gates. One is located in the lower part of the town near the lake (The Lower Gate), the second in the upper part (The Upper Gate), the third in the eastern wall (The Main Gate), and the forth in the northern wall (The Iron Gate).