Category: Travel

Dubrovnik in the Evening

By Ross in Travel on Wed 02 July 2014. Tags: Croatia

I decided not to linger in Montenegro, and I caught the 1555 bus to Dubrovnik, Croatia. When I got to the bus station, I was once again approached by people offering rooms. I ended up with a comfortable room to myself in the house of Ivana Duric, whose family has lived in Dubrovnik for many generations. It is a lovely old house, conveniently located about a fifteen minute walk from the old city. The house is surrounded by a stone wall, inside which is a lovely garden as well as several sleepy cats and one sleepy dog.

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After settling in, I walked to the old city. This is Bokar Fortress, one of the larger fortifications on the city walls.

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The Minceta Tower is the highest point of the city walls.

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I headed through the old city to the harbor, which I reached just after sunset.

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From the old port, I took this picture of swallows silhouetted against a bell tower.

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This is Dubrovnik Cathedral.

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And, finally, here is the crescent moon seen through the skyline.

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Kotor

By Ross in Travel on Wed 02 July 2014. Tags: Montenegro

The overnight bus left Ohrid around 2300. Shortly after departing, we crossed the border into Albania (Lake Ohrid is on the border, so you could actually swim to Albania, though I am not sure what would happen if you did that). We spent most of the wee hours of the morning in Albania, during which I got some fitful sleep, and crossed into Montenegro around sunrise.

Since I could not take a bus all the way to Croatia, I had to pick a city in Montenegro to stop at. I decided to avoid the beach resort of Budva and headed to Kotor, a historic port city located at the end of a bay which I have read is Europe's southernmost fjord. 

The old city is a small, triangular shaped maze of narrow, stone-paved streets and irregularly shaped squares. Cars are nowhere to be found. It has a Venetian feel to it, which is unsurprising given than it was under the control of Venice for over 300 years. 

Here is one of the gates in the city walls which surround the old city of Kotor.

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This is a sampling of the narrow alleys of Kotor.

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Here are some of the squares:

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This is the seventeenth century clock tower which is just opposite the main gate of the old city.

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The highlight of my visit to Kotor was the walk up the fortress walls, which wind up the hillside above the city. 

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There is a warning sign at the entrance, but it is unclear exactly what the risk is.

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The church of Our Lady of Health is located about a third of the way up.

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I got spectacular views of Kotor, and you can easily make out the triangular shape of the old city.

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This is a panorama showing the mountains and the bay behind the old city.

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Here is the Bay of Kotor. The first picture shows the position of the old city relative to the bay.

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This is Trg Sv Luka (St. Luke's square), seen from above.

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I finally reached the fortress at the top:

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Where I saw another pomegranate tree.

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As I hiked back down, I took this picture of colorful towels hung out to dry.

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Here is another alleyway and a closeup of the lamp which hangs there.

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I really like this small, vaulted tunnel.

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Finally, this dragon lives in the moat outside the city.

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Exploring Ohrid

By Ross in Travel on Tue 01 July 2014. Tags: Macedonia

Rafael left in the morning for Tirana, Albania. He is a artist and photographer, and before we parted ways, he gave me one of his metal engravings. Words failed me as I conveyed my thanks and appreciation for this gift. Since there is no way I could fit it in my backpack, I packed it between pieces of cardboard scrounged from a cardboard box and mailed it back to America.

My bus to Montenegro was not until 2230, so I had one more whole day to explore Ohrid.

There are some pretty gardens in the main square by the lake.

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Here is a picture of the town abutting the lake.

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I finally got some photos of the elusive lizards I have seen in Greece and Macedonia.

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This is the monastery of St. Panteleimon. St. Clement of Ohrid reputedly had it built over an older church, and he dedicated it to St. Panteleimon. It was converted to a mosque during the Ottoman period, and it has been reconstructed several times since, most recently in 2000. The first photo is from around noon, the second is from later in the evening.

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Next to the monastery is the ruins of a fourth century basilica, which came to the surface during an earthquake in the middle of the twentieth century. The floor mosaics are remarkably well preseved, and contain geometric, animal, and floral imagery.

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There are two baptistries, one adult-sized and one infant-sized. Note the octagonal shape of the adult baptismal font.

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The ruins of an ancient Greek temple were also unearthed near the site.

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I was told I had to visit the church of Mary Perivlepta to see the well-preserved frescoes. Here is the exterior of the church. The roof is currently being reconstructed.

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And here are some of the frescoes.

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Nearby is the old gates of the city. Here is a closeup of the iron scales reinforcing one of the gates.

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Walking back down to the lake, I passed the ancient theater.

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Here is the castle looming over the entire city.

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Here are some narrow streets in the old city.

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I was entertained by this tangle of wires.

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This is the main shopping street of the city. The paving stones have been polished from all the foot traffic.

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I visited the church of St. John at Kaneo at sunset. It is dramatically situated on a cliff overlooking Lake Ohrid.

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Finally, I watched the sunset over the water.

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And got these photos of this statue in the twilight. (I am still trying to figure out who the statue represents.)

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Welcome to Ohrid

By Ross in Travel on Mon 30 June 2014. Tags: Macedonia

When I got off the bus in Ohrid, I was approached by two people. The first was a woman inquiring whether I needed a place to stay (this is apparently how one finds lodging in Ohrid). The second was Rafael, a solo traveler from Brazil. He asked if I knew where I was going. When I said that I had no idea, he laughed and said we should hang out, since we were in the same boat. He also suggested we share a room, and he bargained her for a room with two twin beds for 5 euro each. Cheapest accommodations by far, so no complaints on my part.

After dropping off our bags, we set out to take a walk. We walked down into the old part of town, then up the hill and out the gate to the old city, where we got a good view of the old city walls.

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Along the way, I saw this turtle in the middle of the trail.

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We continued to wander more or less aimlessly, until we took a trail which dipped down to a nice, secluded area of the lake. (It turned out to not be as secluded as we had originally thought, as there were some naturalist swimmers nearby; we saw them later dressed as hippies and playing in a band, complete with didgeridoo.) Lake Ohrid is a natural, fresh water lake, and is one of the best lakes I have ever swum in. The water was cool and refreshing as well as reasonably choppy for a lake of its size (30 km in length; they have a swim race across the lake each summer.)

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After drying off, we went in search of food. First, I stopped in a market and bought some freshly picked raspberries. 

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We then found a place to eat, and had Macedonian wine along with bread served with href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajvar">ajvar, a relish consisting of red bell peppers and garlic. You can buy jars of it in supermarkets in Macedonia.

After dinner, we walked back to the lake. Along the way, we passed this accordion player.

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There are large statues in Ohrid as well. This is St. Clement of Ohrid (one of many saints who bear that name).

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I like this picture of the lamp against the darkening sky.

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Here is the crescent moon over Ohrid.

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And some boats moored at the pier.

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Here is Ohrid lit up at night.

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And finally, here is the castle above the city.

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Escape from Skopje

By Ross in Travel on Mon 30 June 2014. Tags: Macedonia

When I woke up, the first order of business was figuring out how to leave Skopje. My rough sketch of an itinerary looked like this: Skopje -> Some city in Montenegro -> Dubrovnik. The problem, as I soon learned, is that travel in the Balkans is far from straightforward. From what I gather, there are many private bus companies in Macedonia in addition to a public bus service. No one knows the schedule for anyone else's buses, and any information found on the internet bears little resemblance to reality. The only way to sort this out was to walk to the bus station and ask around, so that is what I did.

Here is the single photo I took of the Muslim quarter. A large section of the Muslim quarter is paved with stones like these, and no cars are allowed. This is one of the wider streets. Many of the streets are no more than glorified alleys, and very few of them are marked.

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As I retraced my route from yesterday back to the bus station, I passed this fountain is dedicated to Alexander the Great. There are four colossal statues, including one of Alexander's pregnant mother and this closeup of Alexander breastfeeding.

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I crossed the Stone Bridge to Macedonia Square, which was almost empty in the morning. The statue of the Warrior on a Horse (which may or may not be Alexander the Great) is front and center.

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Here is the Stone Bridge, with a scupture of the Boatmen of Thessaloniki in the foreground.

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Here we have some architecture from the iron curtain era.

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Here are the new bridges with Macedonian heroes in the daylight.

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And here are some of the new buildings along the Varder.

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When I got to the bus station, I asked around about buses to Montenegro. Some of the private companies either did not have any buses at all or none until tomorrow. There was a overnight public bus to Podgorica which left sometime around 2100. There was also the possiblity of taking a bus to Pristina, Kosovo and figuring it out from there. For whatever reason, I was itching to get out of Skopje, so I asked when the next bus was to Ohrid, a historic town on Lake Ohrid which I had read was beautiful and is a favorite vacation spot for Macedonians. It turned out that there was a bus in ten minutes, so I bought a ticket, grabbed some food from the nearby convenience store, and hopped aboard.