Macedonia: Lake On Me

I always like blog posts about lakes since they give me the opportunity to use a whole series of terrible lake-based puns. There are obviously a whole wealth of lake related activities you can do in Ohrid, from boat rides to monastery visits to even nipping across the border to Albania if you fancy it. What I was really after at the end of my European jaunt was a good beach. Fortunately, there are plenty dotted around the gigantic lake. The main issue is getting to them.

With the help of Google Maps, I managed to trace some beaches to the south of the town and decided to have a little walk to see what they were like. The walk took me down the promenade through the Dutch Park and then past the Cuba Libre Bar. About 20 minutes later, I reached what I thought would be quite a big beach. As it turned out, it had been taken over by those old enemies of mine, the hotel complexes. There was a mere slither of beach left and the bulk of that was taken up by sun loungers for hotel guests only.

Undeterred, I decided to press on to the next beach along the road to see if that was any better. I basically kept going straight along the road which was almost completely empty. After going straight on at a roundabout, things were on the up when I saw an entrance to a beach and sure enough, this was what I’d been looking for. I think it’s called Gorica Beach but I’m not sure. Like the ones in Serbia, it was a black stone beach and it was pretty busy because of the scorching weather. It was equipped with a mini mart and restaurants so I could happily spend the day there and go salmon-coloured in the burning Ohrid sunshine.

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Still getting used to the concept of a stone beach…

The views out to the lake were fantastic – still just a mass of blue. And cold, reasonably cheap cans of Skopsko were stocked in the mini mart (55 MKD) so I was all set. It definitely stops the locals from having to traipse to Albania or Greece to get their beach fixes. Apparently there are beaches dotted all the way down the lake, gradually getting more secluded and untouched (ie. better) the further south you go. It’d be pretty good to hire out some transport and just beach hop. Who needs the likes of Indonesia when you’ve got Macedonia?!

The walk back was about 45 minutes or so and again was just in a straight line, so if you’re eager for a beach but don’t fancy paying the taxi fare, it’s pretty easy to get to. There are a couple of really tiny beaches dotted along the coast around the old town but these are incredibly small, whereas Gorica Beach had plenty of room to sunbathe.

The other thing there’s an abundance of in Ohrid, like the rest of the Balkans, is cheap food. There are loads eateries spanning the length of the promenade, particularly around the main square. If you can get a good seat, you’ve got the perfect view of the lake. Whilst these are more expensive than your typical Macedonian fare, they’re still pretty cheap and you get a view to die for. At Saraishte restaurant, I enjoyed a big and tasty pizza with a beer for 300 MKD (just under £5) right on the edge of the lake.

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Good food + good sunsets – what more do you need?

The other food place I felt obliged to try out was Dr. Falafel which is just down the main shopping street off Ohrid’s main square. When I visited, Dr. Falafel was rated the top eatery in Ohrid on TripAdvisor (I think it’s been knocked off now) which I thought was quite funny since it was just a takeaway falafel place. Since I’d never had falafel before, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to give it a go. It was something like 100 MKD for a huge falafel wrap complete with all the trimmings. It was super tasty and very filling. I couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t really an Ohrid delicacy but it was very yummy. Fair play Dr. Falafel.

All that remained in Ohrid was to enjoy a couple of not-pints of Skopsko and watch my final spectacular Ohrid sunset before heading off. I feel like Ohrid’s got the right balance. There’s a tourist industry here and it gives it a degree of atmosphere and buzz, yet the stunning beauty of the lake and its surroundings is untouched. It deserves to be more discovered but a large part of me hopes it never does.

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