And all that started with my inner desire to cross as many borders as that is possible in exact situation. Lake Ohrid is comfortably settled down in between Macedonia and Albania. To visit this lake was one of the musts during my trip in Macedonia, so at the same time I could not resist to smell Albanian air too.
It sounds very attractive seeing Albania’s capital city Tirana, which is just around 140 km away from Ohrid. However, this plan can be done only if a traveller has time or is ready to have a few sleepless nights. Firstly, buses from this area are operating not on the very comfortable hours. Secondly, to cover this short enough distance takes around 8-9 hours. The briefest possible way to make Tirana in the shortest period of time could be taking a night bus from Struga (around 15 km away from Ohrid), arrive in the morning, have a full day in the capital of Albania and then return to Struga with the next night’s bus. If speaking frankly, my getting-older-bones were not ready for such venture and unfortunately I didn’t have time to spend extra full day in Tirana. So, I gave up with the idea of visiting exactly this place and started collecting information, which Albanian town could be the most convenient to see by considering my situation. I’ve spoken with different locals in Ohrid and nearly all of them suggested me to go to Pogradec, small town just next to the border, at the Southern part of Lake Ohrid. Funny, because all the people, who were not related together, repeated the same story too: “From time to time we are going to Pogradec, because there is a good fish restaurant, famous for quality and low prices. So, we pack together with all the family and go there to have a nice lunch.”
I decided to trust in local Macedonians and follow their suggestion. So, how to get from Ohrid to Pogradec? First of all for a new travelers thinking about heading up to there should be helpful to get to know that there is not any direct transportation between towns. The best way is to take a bus from Ohrid to Monastery of Saint Naum, which is just a few kilometers away from the border. I had plans to explore it too, but after seeing that tranquility and stray dogs hanging around, I decided to ask the driver if he could bring me at the border, instead of getting out from the bus. And, he agreed to do this favor for me. By the way, this is the rule number one – always speak with locals. Usually in such countries they are really trying to help the foreigners and sometimes can surprisingly do extra than you should actually get for the price you’ve paid.
After reaching the border between Macedonia and Albania, waits another journey – reaching Pogradec, which is around 6 kilometers away. As there are no operating buses, that can be done on foot or by hitchhiking. I am not a big fan of the previous way of travelling, but sometimes it can save your precious time. So, when I saw a car stopped for the check at the border, I just waved for the couple inside. Without any words they understood what I wanted and with the smiles on their faces agreed to wait till I finish my control and get some new passport stamps. So, I literally crossed a border between two countries on foot and then jumped into the tiny red car with Ohrid-born Macedonians, who were heading to the fishing shop in Pogradec. They not only gave me a lift to Pogradec, but later brought me back to Ohrid too. Not a bad deal!
Of course, it is possible to hitchhike all the way from Ohrid to Pogradec and back. But that, I believe, is more likely to happen smoothly in summer because on February there was no traffic between Macedonia and Albania at all. I got absolutely lucky to meet those people at the border, otherwise quite a way on foot could be waiting for me…
By the way, on our way back to Macedonia we experienced a serious control at the border. The officer opened all the doors, checked out all the car and even asked me to show what I was bringing in a small plastic back. “There is a problem with drug smuggling from Albania”, I was explained by a driver about this unexpected serious check at the border.
If the traveler decides to go from Ohrid to Pogradec or any other Albanian town to the same direction, could make stops in my previously mentioned Monastery of Saint Naum or the Bay of the Bones museum on water too (both are in Macedonian territory). But one must be always aware about the bus timetables, if that is a chosen transportation, because buses between Ohrid and Saint Naum are not running very frequently.
To be continued with a story about Pogradec itself…