Jan 13, 2015

Jan 6 - 9: Ohrid - a panegyric

The pearl of Macedonia. The Jerusalem of the Balkans. With a reported 365 churches, chapels, and monasteries in Ohrid, it is theoretically possible to attend services in a different church each day for a year. Saints Kliment and Naum established a hospital and a university here in the 10th century, and their relics remain as a solace for the faithful. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovich was the bishop of Ohrid for 21 years, until he was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1941 and eventually transferred to Dachau.

What more can I say? I could try to describe the physical beauty of the lake and the old city on the hills and the broad sweep of the lakeshore promenade. I could talk about the way the lake shimmers in the sun, and the colours it revealed to me: purple, aquamarine, grey, green, a dozen shades of blue, clear as glass, and fiery orange reflecting the clouds at sunset.‎ I could tell you how the white and cream buildings of the city gleam, bearing witness to the validity of the name "City of Light" as Lynchidinos was known.

Or more than the physical beauty of the place, there is the profound spirituality of the people: the despairing activist who has accomplished more than she will ever know, the ‎mostly secular Muslim psychologist who mourns with those who mourn and rejoices with those who rejoice, the faithful Orthodox woman who is more gifted than she dares imagine, the family who is raucous and joyful and accomplished -- I didn't just meet these people in my three days in Ohrid, I got to know them.

I could compile a list of the churches I visited, the Liturgies I attended, the sites I visited, and yes, that is something I have done in my notebook, but this post isn't about that. This post is about why I hope to return to the Balkans after celebrating Pascha in Jerusalem (God willing!). This post is about Ohrid in the spring, when the snow has melted and the flowers burst into bloom and the trees are vibrant and green and the sun is unfailingly warm and bright and the nights full of song and laughter.

Rome is magnificent and I have written at great length about my experiences in the Eternal City‎, but for me, Ohrid remains unspeakable.


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