A visit to Ohrid- The Jewel of Macedonia
Starting my Cult voyage I somehow feel I should begin the trip from the ‘upside-down’, the south-west corner of my country. Ohrid, a UNESCO heritage site since 1980, nestled between high mountains up to 2,800m and the picturesque Lake Ohrid.
It is one of the deepest and oldest lake in Europe, preserving a unique aquatic ecosystem that is of worldwide importance. Moreover, it represents the heart of the pan-Slavic literacy.
The lake is shared with Albania, densely surrounded by villages and resorts settlements and it is a “must-see” tourist attraction. Close by, on the other side of the mountain, there is its sister lake Prespa spilling its water underneath the massif.
What makes Ohrid so special?
– An Illyrian settlement existed on the hill in north-west of the city in the 5th century BC and was then fortified in the 4th century BC (UNESCO, 19920- 2015)
– It was the kingdom center of the ruler Samuel (976-1014) of the First Bulgarian Empire
– Today it is a historical monument with lots of archeological finds
– It was home to one of Europe’s first universities in the Plaošnik Monastery, and was an important hub of trading and the arts.
– Has 365 churches, one for each day of the year
– Besides being a holy center of the region, it is also the source of knowledge and pan-Slavic literacy where it was firstly used in Saint Panteleimon church. The brothers St. Cyril and Methodius (the principal Christian missionaries) were translating the Bible into Old Church alphabet (Wikipedia). Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they received the title “Apostles to the Slavs“. The early Cyrilic alphabet was developed and later finalized and spread by their students St. Kliment and Naum.
– In the very same church, Saint Panteleimon, St. Kliment is buried and if you get close you can hear the beat of his heart.
– The deepest and oldest lake in Europe, 30 kilometers (18 miles) long and round 288 meters (945 feet) deep 164m -average and maximum of 289 meters. It belong to a group of Dessaret basins that originated from a geotectonic depression during the Pliocene epoch up to five million years ago on the western side of the Dinaric Alps (Exploringmacedonia, 2013)
– Nature center for conservation of biodiversity and landscape, ecological importance as biotopes.
-“Living fossil museum” and endemic species found only in this lake.
– Because of its very old age, geographic position, surroundings from mountains and hills, and its condition still oligotrophic, Ohrid lake continues to have a great collection of plants and animals which are unique in the world (Unesco 1992-2015)