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LA Times mit Bericht über Ohrid

Das renommierte amerikanische Medium LA Times berichtete vergangenen Sonntag ausführlich über Ohrid. Als eines "der angenehmen Überraschungen Europas" wird Ohrid und Makedonien beschrieben. Margo Pfeiff ist die Autorin des Artikels, sie besuchte Makedonien im Mai und vermittelt den amerikanischen Lesern ihre Eindrücke von Skopje, Mavrovo und Ohrid. Sie bezeichnet Makedonien als Highlight ihrer Europareisen.
Nachfolgend ein paar Ausschnitte des Artikels, den ganzen Artikel könnt Ihr HIER lesen.

Macedonia, a landlocked Balkan country squeezed between Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Albania and Kosovo,  is one of Europe’s best surprises.

Wildly mountainous with spectacular rivers, peaks and national parks, it is also rich with the cultural mementos of a long, turbulent history of invasions and occupations by Persians, Romans and Ottoman Turks.

Roughly the size of Vermont, Macedonia (pronounced locally “Mack-edonia”) today has a parliamentary democracy and is a safe, friendly and inexpensive country in which to travel. Best of all, with tourism in its infancy, it is still charmingly unpretentious and warmly welcoming.

Macedonia’s easily accessible wilderness is custom-made for outdoor activities, so I also threw myself into hiking, easy rock climbing, mountain biking, caving and paddling at the hands of knowledgeable, certified guides, a good idea in a country with undecipherable Cyrillic writing and limited English speakers outside of the main cities.

The tales of their past adventures and the lives they lead in this little-known enclave of Europe would become some of my trip’s many highlights.

Skopje, Macedonia

A bleached blond in a tight, bright 1960s-era chartreuse jumpsuit and a fashionista in a chic black dress and stilettos represented some of the quirky fashions passing my perch in the Art Nouveau-styled Restaurant Pelister, where I sipped local red wine overlooking Skopje’s vast downtown Macedonia Square.

The capital, a 2,500-year-old city of 500,000, is a fascinating jumble of cultural experiences and architecture from Roman to Byzantine, Ottoman to Yugoslav and contemporary.

Even the traffic on the almost-empty roads was notable with its Soviet-era vintage vehicles such as Russian Ladas, tiny Fiat 500-like Zastava 750s, Czech-made Skodas and the infamous Yugo, which Time magazine rated the worst car of all time.

It was easy to stroll through the centuries in Skopje. On the outskirts I walked through fields of bright red poppies amid 2nd century Roman ruins of the city then known as Skupi.

From atop the grand 6th century walls of the Skopje Fortress there are views of elegant Orthodox churches, as well as the National Gallery of Macedonia, which is housed in a splendid 15th century Turkish hamam, and some of the 10 15th century mosques restored after a devastating 6.0 earthquake in 1963 destroyed 80% of regal old Skopje.

But I have a particular passion for Communist-era concrete — Brutalist architecture such as  the sturdy lotus flower-like central post office, chunky fountains and apartment buildings — that now has a cool, retro feel.

It seemed as if half of Skopje was out on the wide boulevards on Sunday afternoon buying popcorn and ice cream from vendors, strolling across the iconic 15th century Stone Bridge crossing the Vardar River and heading toward the main square past an astonishing number of huge, new neoclassical buildings and giant sculptures.

Part of the Skopje 2014 urban project, they have all popped up since 2010. It’s part of the government’s plan to rebuild the capital as a historic city with roots back to Alexander the Great, who rides larger than life on horseback atop a pedestal in Macedonia Square.

Mavrovo National Park

Macedonia has a wild side: More than 75% of the country is mountainous, with 16 peaks rising above 6,500 feet, and more than 50 lakes.

Vast forests of pine, beech and oak are home to brown bears, European bison, lynx, wolves, wild boar and deer. The wilderness starts within Skopje’s city’s limits on Mt. Vodno, where hiking trails can be accessed by a scenic cable-car ride.

Guides Meto and Danko of Macedonia Experience led us 30 minutes west of of Skopje, where we laced up hiking boots and trekked 90 minutes into Matka Canyon to reach the exquisite pre-17th century St. Nicholas Monastery, its interior adorned with frescoes.

 We climbed for hours before hiking to the bottom of the canyon, where we hopped into kayaks and paddled for three tranquil miles along the base of steep cliffs lining narrow Lake Matka.

Our destination was Vrelo, one of 10 caves in the canyon. It was an easy stroll among sparkling stalactites and screeching bats to the cave’s two lakes, one of which may well be the world’s deepest underwater cave.

Ohrid, Macedonia

Purple-blossomed jacaranda trees lined the walkway along turquoise Ohrid Lake’s shoreline, where swans drifted in the shallows and brightly painted taxi boats zipped past.

Ohrid is one of Europe’s oldest human settlements, first mentioned in Greek documents from 353 BC, and the lake, more than 3 million years old, is Europe’s oldest and one of the oldest in the world, containing flora and fauna dating to the Tertiary Period.

The city of 42,000 is mellow, a favorite holiday destination for Macedonians. Ohrid’s Old Town and the lake are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

I started the morning alongside locals sipping Turkish coffee and eating fresh cherry strudel at a main square cafe.

Then I strolled Old Town’s hilly maze of narrow, winding cobblestone streets lined with rosemary, roses and stone houses with red tile roofs. St. John at Kaneo, one of Macedonia’s iconic Orthodox churches, perched on a high point above the lake.

Farther up I reached St. Panteleimon church and monastery with its remarkable floor mosaics. Then I came upon an ancient Roman amphitheater once used as a gladiatorial venue and now the site of summer concerts.

Crowning Ohrid’s hilltop is Samuel’s Fortress, built in the 10th century by the Bulgarian Empire. Its wide stone walls, with views across the lake toward Albania on the far shore, are a nice place for a stroll.

As night fell, I made my way down to the shoreline, where family restaurants are built over the water. I ordered the local fish soup and grilled trout pulled fresh that day from the lake.

The water splashed gently beneath the planks under my feet as lanterns swayed in the breeze and the sound of music drifted from another cafe. No crowds, no pressure to leave, no shock when the friendly waiter brought my bill. Europe just doesn’t get any better than this.