The kingdom of Macedonia that emerged in the 7th century BC extended over today's northern Greece and Macedonia. Its kings Philip II and his son Alexander the Great extended its power in the 4th century BC over not only Greece but also the Persian Empire, including Egypt and lands as far east as the fringes of India.
Macedonia was however defeated by Rome in 197 and 168 BC and annexed as a Roman province in 146 BC. When the Roman Empire split into west and east in 395 AD, Macedonia came under the rule of distant Byzantium that could not prevent the massive migrations of pagan Slavs in the 6th and 7th centuries.
In the 7th century, fierce Bulgar tribes crossed the Danube and established the
First Bulgar Empire that expanded as far as Macedonia. Tzar Boris I converted to Christianity
and imposed it on his Slav subjects. The Bulgar Empire reached its zenith under Tzar
Simeon in the 10th century but the Byzantines overran it and the capital was moved
from Veliki Preslav in eastern Bulgaria to Ohrid, now in Macedonia, where Tzar Samuel
built a great fortress from which he reigned over a reduced Bulgaria. Two centuries
later the Bulgars rebelled against the Byzantines and established a second Bulgarian
Empire that reached its zenith under Tzar Ivan Asen II in the 13th century.
Conquered by the Ottoman Turkish army in the first half of the 15th century, Macedonia remained a part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly half a millennium, during which it gained a substantial Turkish minority. After the revival of Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian statehood in the 19th century, Macedonia became a focus of the national ambitions of all three governments who divided Macedonia among themselves during the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-13).
Southern Macedonia, annexed by Greece, became overwhelmingly Greek in ethnic composition after the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey that followed WW I. Nnorthern Macedonia was joined to Serbia to become part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918 and later in 1946, a member of the communist Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia from which it seceded in September 1991 to become an independent state.
Die-hard opposition from the Greek government to its initial name of "Macedonia" led to the adoption of the ridiculous name of "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (F.Y.R.M.), by the United Nations in 1995.
|Atlapedia CIA Country Reports Lonely Planet Traveldocs Wikipedia|
Ohrid on the lake of the same name is a well developed tourist destination. It has everything, beautiful scenery, Roman and ancient Christian ruins, an old city surrounded by city walls and a medieval fortress, fine Orthodox churches and a great variety of tourist shops, restaurants, bars and accommodations.
The other side of the lake, belonging to Albania, is just as nice but it has been completely isolated from the rest of the world during Hoxha's paranoid communist rule and consequently has remained undeveloped. Day tours around the lake are now available so tourists coming to Ohrid can go slumming in Albania.
Here is the southern end of Sveti Kiliment Ohridski, Ohrid's main pedestrian mall where tourists normally flock to the terraces, cafes and boutiques. There were some tourists but not a third of the the usual crowd for this season.
Below left, the home of the Robevi family that has become the National Museum and below right, Car Samoil street where the museum is located.
I met the two girls on the left in the National Museum where had a pleasant chat with them before going on to visit the Sveti Sofiya church up the street. They were high school students on a day tour from a nearby Macedonian town. We met time and time again as we toured the sights, so often that it became a joke as we good humouredly accused each other of harassment. We met again as I was getting ready to take a picture of Orhid's famous plane tree so they posed for me in front of it with three other girls of their group. It was fun meeting them and I wish them all the best if they see their picture.
The plane tree behind this fountain at the northern end of Sveti Kliment Ohridski street is claimed to be 900 years old.
Below left, the street where I stayed with the Jankovska family and on the right, Sonia Jankovska, her son Filip and her mother Milka.
At the end of Car Samoil street is this 11th century Church dedicated to Sveti Sofija (holy wisdom).
Further east we come to this newly built church of St-Clement on the grounds of an ancient basilica (The red roof on the right shelters some mosaics associated with the ruined basilica.)
This Gorna Gate was the northern entrance of the old Ohrid.
Inside the old city we come to this other gate in the enclosure of an ancient church whose white belfry is visible in this picture.
This 13th century Church of the Mother of God became the cathedral church of the Ohrid Archbishopric and was renamed St-Clement when Sveti Sofiya was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman occupation.
Ohrid is quite prosperous as you can see from this picture of a street in the old city.
The Romans built this amphitheatre in classical times when Ohrid was known as Lynchnidos (city of light).
The Ohrid fortress overlooking the city, (and the amphitheatre in the foreground), was built by Tzar Samuel who reigned 38 years from 976 to 1014 when Ohrid was the capital of what was left of the First Bulgar Empire after Byzantium overran most of it.
Here is the formidable gate of Tzar Samuel's fortress.
There is nothing left inside the fortress but it is nonetheless a popular tourist attraction. The well restored walls now enclose an open air theatre stage used during the Ohrid Summer Festival.
The view from the walls of the fortress over the city, the lake and the neighbouring countryside, explains its popularity with the tourists.
I found Ohrid to be a delightful place and recommend it but I don't know what it's like when it's crowded with tourists!
Getting here from Albania was a little awkward but there was an excellent bus service to my next stop Skopje. (It did however go through Tetovo which had recently been plagued by ethnic-religious violence between Orthodox Macedonians and Muslim Albanians.)
Macedonia, like Serbia with Kosovo, includes territories that were the home of ethnic Albanians during the Turkish occupation. The Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority expose their struggle on the Internet.