So many times we’ve followed the tourist trail. We’ve frequented the kind of well-trodden backpacker route where your onward ticket is arranged by the friendly ex-pat hostel manager before you even consider where to go next. If you’re ever in doubt about a tour or a guesthouse up the road, there is sure to be a crayon and marker poster or a tattered binder to show you the way.
This is simply not the case in Albania or Macedonia. There’s no bus station with a list of departures. There’s no schedule to consult. The guide book is trying to be vague. The hotel manager, although friendly, either has no answers or is quickly contradicted. And to make matters worse, it’s low season.
So we go forward wondering where we’ll end up and if all of the confusion and backtracking will even be worth the effort. I’d like you to know that in the case of Ohrid, Macedonia, it is.
After the stress of three taxi rides, a sketchy border crossing and a derelict minibus careening around blind curves on a mountain ridge, Ohrid is a breath of fresh air. It’s a place where picturesque coffee shops squeeze into 3 meters of land tucked between cliffs and water and are accessed only by a boardwalk along the shore. Byzantine-era churches occupy rocky precipices where flowers manage to sprout from stone. There is a shop where they are still using a Gutenberg-style printing press (one of only seven in the world) on handmade paper. Any more charm and you’d gag on it.
According to our hotel receptionist, buses in Macedonia only run back and forth between here and Skopje and we have no plans to go to Skopje. So it seems we could be stuck here forever. We can’t complain.