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Lake Ohrid & Elbasan

We continue travelling to Lake Ohrid. First a bit inland to the north and then via Elbasan and Librazhd to Pogradec. The final destination is Camping Arbi on the south side of the lake in Albania, seems to be beautiful.


Lake Ohrid

Most of the lake belongs to northern Macedonia and only a third belongs to Albania. We choose to stay in Albania. It's a lovely place to rest for a few days and the weather is good. Cloud, sun occasionally rain up to 20 degrees - just like the Netherlands :-). It is the oldest lake in Europe and also one of the deepest. You can also eat tasty fish (kind of trout) from the lake and on the first evening at the campsite I do that. The fish is delicious! Just as well fish out the gauges, but it's very tasty.


Shopping in Pogradec

We found a Supermarket Spar in Pogradec and it turns out that it uses normal prices. Not those absurd prices like in Vlorë. It's a big store, but they don't have vegetables, fruit or bread. The meat is largely frozen or they are large rags at the butcher. However, parking is a thing. There is no large parking space and before you get to the store you drive through a fruit/fruit street. We are lucky to be able to park directly in front of the store.


After the visit to the Spar we will buy fruit and vegetables. Bananas, apples, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes together for €3.50! No money. On to the bakery, who has bread that resembles that of Dutch bread in shape. A white bread? €0.50!!! How cheap. With good luck we walk through the street opposite the bakery. It looks like a bazaar, but if it isn't, it sells everything. Everything is fake though! Rudolf knows how to pick up an adidas raincoat (he didn't bring it). At the end of the street is a large factory hall on the left and there are even more stalls in it. Clothes, dresses, jewellery, shoes, games they have it. It is striking that there are more sellers than buyers at the time we are there. It will probably get busier later in the day. It is very special to see and the sellers play a game of dominoes here and there. There is a good atmosphere everywhere and the Albanians also seem to like that they see us / tourists. A nice first acquaintance with Pogradec



Monastery of Sveti Naum

On Wednesday we go by bike to the monastery of Sveti Naum in northern Macedonia. Don't forget to bring your passport. The first part in Albania they are working with the road, luckily this is only 1 kilometre because it is full of holes, puddles of water, bumps it is not doable. From the border in northern Macedonia the road is very good. We cycle through the hills and forests to the monastery.


The monastery is well attended. At the time we arrive, two buses with schoolchildren have also arrived.

Upon entering there are many souvenir shops on the left, which detracts a bit to the area. A lot further you can already see the springs / large pond on the left and you can take a boat onto the lake. A little further you come to the monastery. In the monastery there is a church in the middle where the namesake of the church is buried. Legend has it that if you put an ear on the grave you can still hear his heartbeat. I know that now, but when we were there I was amazed at all those children who put their ears on the grave. We didn't understand it, but yes different country, different customs.



There are three other churches that you can see when you walk around the pond. It is a walk of about 4 kilometres. You only hear the birds and at the second church you have a beautiful seat where you look out over the lake. This was really enjoyable, just walking in the green and in the tranquillity. Just 7 kilometres back on the bike, again past the passport control of North Macedonia and along that of Albania. Then another piece of bumpy road, hole in the road and we are back at the campsite.


Lin

Lin is a village on a peninsula and you can already see it when you descend from the interior to Lake Ohrid. Lin is also in Albania. It really is a village, no big shops, beautiful cottages that are right on the lake, here and there a B&B. A village with lots of charm. We continue to the end and try to walk to the bunker. We didn't find these, but we might have had to take a different route. We do see people busy working in the small vegetable gardens. Potatoes, leeks, lettuce they try to provide their vegetables as much as possible themselves. All are so busy at work that they hardly notice us.



We should have walked to the constructed basilica afterwards, and then had been a little further on top of the bunker. We missed both but despite that we thought it was a nice village. From old dilapidated houses, sheep and donkeys that are just in the main street in sheds, to restored houses with a B&B in them.


Bay of Bones - village on stilts

IIn 1997, divers have found an old village underwater. More than 6,000 remains of piles have been found. This village has now been rebuilt above water and opened in 2008. The Bay of Bones is in northern Macedonia so we have to cross the border again, this time by car. For the first time, Albanian customs want to do a small check. Trunk has to be opened and he looks in at the bottom. Between the front passenger seat and rear seat we have a large bag of dog food. He has to get out, he wants to check this. In retrospect, we also wonder why we didn't take it out, but yes it's good and sturdy and is good for the balance of car versus caravan weight. He checks the bag and sees it's okay. I show you another photo of Misty and then he is completely satisfied and a big smile appears. We can continue, the barrier opens.



The Bay of Bones is a beautifully constructed village. The water is so clear that you can see the fish. We are lucky that a bus with schoolchildren is just leaving, so that the experience is as it should be. It is a lovely place to see and also quiet. You can also take a boat trip on Lake Ohrid from here. Some of the poles and objects they found are exhibited in a small museum, very nice to see.



Shopping in Pogradec - part 2

On the way back from Bay of Bones we are going to do small shopping at the Spar and buy vegetables from the greengrocer. We are waiting at the greengrocer in the hall on the cassière. She is busy facettimising with another woman. She tries to weigh our stuff and talk at the same time. Then Rudolf does something crazy, he waves while the cashier is weighing, at the woman on the phone with which she is facettiming. This woman also spontaneously swings back. The cassière laughs, it turns out to be her daughter who studies in Germany. A small conversation ensues between us and her daughter in German. The cassière has to laugh a lot about it. Nice outing at the greengrocer.


Camping Arbi

We stayed longer than we wanted, but it was also so tasty and relaxing by Lake Ohrid. We eventually had to leave, because there was a group trip from the ACSI on Saturday so all the places were served. The campsite is definitely recommended, good places, good electricity, good sanitary facilities. The owner and his wife maintain the campsite well. The owner's son also helps and speaks good English. He also loves music and plays guitar.


On the way from Ohrid to Elbasan we meet a lot of Dutch people on the route with large ACSI stickers on the windows. The nice thing is that we all wave and signal at each other. You don't meet so many Dutch people in Albania yet, especially many Germans, so we are waving and signalling the entire route. How Albania continues to surprise us so much!


Elbasan

In Elbasan we are at camping Fridolin. A basic campsite with lots of chickens and ducks that roam freely. There are also a lot of hives and there is the possibility to have your car or camper repaired. The owner speaks German and is also working on the construction of additional toilets. Because now the whole campsite (max 10 pitches) does with 1 toilet that also includes that one shower. So it takes a while to adjust, but there is good news the owner just prepared 3 toilets and showers today. From next week there will also be hot water. He is working hard for his campsite.



Why Elbasan? It is skipped by all group trips, the city has little tourist to see so that's why it is. First we go to Kombinatie Metalurgjik the old steel mills of the city. During communism, this was an important project of the then President Hoxha. The Chinese also invested. More than 12,000 people worked at its heyday. In the nineties everything fell into disrepair. I had understood through another blog that you can photograph beautifully deserted places here. This turns out to be partly true. A large part is now being guarded and there are fences around it. Another part has been renewed and a small part is not yet surrounding fences. The abandoned buildings are very beautiful and it would be a shame to just break down like that. You can exhibit a beautiful exhibition about Elbasan or put communism in a large factory hall. Or have a group of graffity artists or land-art artists hold an exhibition. It would be a nice tourist attraction for Elbasan. Later in the evening, the campsite owner tells that it is all contaminated soil, all chemistry / poison is in the ground. That it is not a beautiful area and the soil should be remediated up to 20 metres deep.



On to the city centre then. As we walk to the old city wall in the city centre, we hear a lot of honking in the distance. Very slowly a procession of cars comes in with people waving profusely. As it turns out, it turns out is a couple who have just been married. They drive slowly, wave red white ribbons, and wave profusely at everyone. Wow what a beautiful experience to experience. I almost feel like going with them. In the city, the old city wall is still standing, it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Inside the ancient walls is the royal mosque, which is Albania's oldest mosque. Elbasan is still seen as the centre of Albania's Islam. After all, when we are there, we doubt whether we can go in we have shorts on. To make matters worse, the call for prayer has just begun and many men enter the mosque. Then there's a man who says we're welcome, that it's no problem that we have shorts. We are tourists, he says. We can experience how the men go to prayer. Never seen before, but quietly we are in the back of space. We don't film or take pictures. Special to experience.



A little further on is the St. Mary's Church. The Orthodox priest, father Nicola, is present with his wife himself. He no longer runs smoothly because of Parkinson's disease. He takes us through his church and explains it in half Italian. There are two frescos that are still original. There are holes in the ground in front of the church for air for the catacombs. These were 4 metres deep and quite long. (Not quite understood how long) There was also a tunnel he tells, unfortunately not to visit everything has been rebuilt. The balcony is clearly of Islam and in the middle of the church on the floor is an Israeli season. The woman slides the rug up for this. On the table on it are photos of father Nicola in his younger years and one with his father. The father studied in Italy, which is why he also speaks some Italian. Then he asks our names and if we are 'amici' (friends). We both say no immediately and show our wedding rings. His wife immediately says 'Familia', si familia. Then he unexpectedly grabs our hands and puts them on top of each other and puts his hands on it. For a minute he holds these and blesses us. At least that's how it feels, he blesses our marriage, our togetherness, our health. We both get emotional. He concludes with 'Amen' and I say that too. We look at each other with a big smile and a kiss follows. His wife nods that was the right thing to do. WOW! What an experience! Outside we are both upset for a while, this was very special. Tomorrow we continue towards Tirana, but every time Albania continues to surprise us. With the way they drive (almost southern Italian), yet being polite and waiting, you also get plenty of space at the pedestrian crossing. They drive cars, bicycles, tractors, scooters, donkeys on the main road and they walk here too. There are no bus stops, but in several places along the way you see groups of people waiting for the bus. Sometimes a large group, sometimes as a couple. The organisation behind this is not clear to me, but it is not necessary. It works for them. As soon as you say hello, a smile appears on the face. The big roads are good, the smaller roads are not. These consist of gravel or sand, if you want to drive here make sure you have a good 4WD or good camper. At large gas stations and supermarkets you can pay with your debit card and at a number of larger restaurants too, but also make sure you have enough cash with you.



On to Tirana tomorrow. Warm regards from Elbasan




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