Last Sunday, all of the Vatasha volunteers got to head out of town for the day on an adventure! Zoki, the President of Vatasha who works at the Municipality and drove us to our site visits and has arranged for us to go visit a winery tomorrow/get free wine for Thanksgiving and is an all around awesome person, pulled some strings and arranged a trip for all of us and a member from each of our host families to go to Ohrid for the day. Unfortunately our family was feeling under the weather and no one could go, but it was still fun to be out with everyone (and all of our collective moms and babas).
While we all thought that we were basically going to be dropped off in Ohrid to explore for the day, Zoki was so eager to show us everything the area has to offer that we ended up seeing four different cities around the lake. The drive there was almost three hours and through some pretty small/windy roads, and but when we got to the top of the mountain and stopped to look at the view it was totally worth it (also, my SeaBands from CVS are the best $10 investment I’ve ever made – almost no carsickness!) The first place we stopped once we got to the lake is famous for the monastery on top of the hill that overlooks the lake, as well as a very fancy restaurant where we stopped for coffee. The funniest part of our stop was when Melissa and Janna wanted to take pictures on the branch of a tree that hung out over the lake…and then Melissa fell in and was soaked up to the knee. Which wouldn’t have been a huge deal, except we were traveling with half a dozen Macedonian Moms in tow, and so she was quick wrapped in a blanket and seated by the fire in said fancy restaurant, where her socks and shoes were steamed dry. All of the moms now joke about how she went for a swim.
Next up was the city of Ohrid, which is beautiful and lovely, especially since we had perfect Fall weather on our side. We started at a fortress that overlooks the entire lake, and then walked down through the town past old churches and through cobblestone streets to the center and the lake shore. After we rounded up all of the moms and babas, we headed to Struga. Since Ohrid is in the western part of Macedonia, the area has a pretty mixed population of Albanians (who are mostly Muslim) and Macedonians. When we arrived in Struga, the call to prayer was coming from a few of the mosques around town. We walked down the canal and around the town before being ushered back to our van and driven to our final stop, Vevchina. It’s worth noting here that by this time none of us were really sure of the itinerary, and were also starving and getting a little cranky. But when we arrived in Vevchina, a village just into the mountains, there were beautiful natural springs and a cozy restaurant where we finally had a late lunch together. It was a really nice end to our day of sightseeing, and I can’t wait to get back to the lake and spend more time relaxing and exploring.