Later on, the trip took place in Ohrid, the city known for its beautiful clean lake bearing the same name. The lake of Ohrid is one of the deepest lakes in Europe, attracting an ample number of tourists from the whole world. A fun fact about this city and lake is that UNESCO gave a deadline for the city holders to extend the protection of the area and to regulate urban development. If not met, UNESCO will add Ohrid to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.
We spent almost 3 days in Ohrid, during which we saw everything that the city and lake had to offer. The first stop was, unsurprisingly, the most Instagram-friendly spot – the Church of Saint John. We reached it during our walk across the lake coast surrounded by almost untouched nature. We also bumped into the regular meeting of Interpol officials, which was happening at that time in Ohrid – proof that Ohrid is indeed attracting not only tourists but high-ranking officials as well. For instance, the Vila Biljana complex, which includes the villa of the president, the villa of the prime minister and several villas of public administration, is also located there.
The city centre of Ohrid bears all signs of a European touristic destination. The main street is filled with small shops offering everything from flip-flops to traditional Ohrid pearls. Apparently, every shop is holding a monopole for the one and only true Ohrid-based pearls.
On our way back to Skopje, we also had a chance to visit the Monastery of Saint Neum, known for the possession of gracious peacocks. We’ve been lucky enough to see them showing their colourful feathers. The Lake of Prespa, another beautiful lake, was also visited, which offered us a look at the place where three borders meet – Albanian, Greek and Macedonian. From there, we went straight back to Skopje. However, another surprising observation was seeing many closed and boarded-up houses. They all looked very nice, even luxurious, but were unoccupied. This is due to the fact that most of its residents reside outside of the country, primarily in Western countries, and that they only visit North Macedonia for a few months a year to enjoy their hard-spent money.
The journey eventually came to an end on May 9 when we arrived safely in Bratislava. Despite the trip being relatively quick, it was packed with experiences. Me as an intern, had a chance to travel across North Macedonia and develop my first-hand opinion of the country. And the opinion is undoubtedly positive. Seeing this country through my own eyes removed all prejudices I previously held and shaped my perception. I certainly recommend visiting North Macedonia and experiencing all of the paradoxes on your own. Last but not least, I want to express my gratitude to Strategic Analysis for giving me this opportunity since I am convinced that if I travel to North Macedonia with a different group, I would never be able to obtain the same level of complex insight that I have right now.
Chiara Mihalčatinová is a student of International Relations and Diplomacy at Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica and an Intern within the Strategic Analysis Young Leaders Programme.
Disclaimer: The authors of the photos in this article are Petra Bošková and Chiara Mihlačatinová.