Our journey began from Greece, as getting to North Macedonia from Thessaloniki is less costly and allows you to visit Florina, Bitola or Ohrid on the way.
The purpose of this journey was to attend the Architecture Students Assembly in Trpejca, a small village near Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia
I watched The Double Life of Veronique by Krzysztof Kieślowski the day before departure. Based on the film, it is possible to have a look-alike in another country ორ another city, who shares your interests, thoughts and dreams, or even lives the same life that you have. It turns out that the feeling of being present in more than one place at a time is not something you might encounter in movies only, and that travelling is a perfect chance to experience unexpected coincidences. Even though there was more orange than green and gold in my case, I still think that my story has a lot in common with the plot of this film.
As I stepped into the Thessaloniki bus station, which is a gigantic dome-like building with light permeating the space through the center of its roof only, I spotted a Greek girl, who oddly resembled someone I already knew—but I couldn’t tell who that was.
It turned out that our seats on the bus were side by side. I learned on the way that she, too, was studying architecture… Then, without thinking, I reached for the “Stumrad Maspindzeli” wristband I kept in a nearby compartment of my bag and asked her to come to Georgia. I told her how easy it is to get around here and shared stories about some of the buildings that we would get to see together… She took the wristband with pleasure and promised to visit Georgia. Ten days later, on my way back, we met again. Our seats were side by side this time as well… After making the same promise once again, she disappeared into the depth of the city, while Nika and I continued walking towards the coast. But I am certain that she will come. She, too, is an architect. Her name is Tanya and we even have the same rings…
We finally reached our destination. Trpejca, a tiny Balkan village, rests in the heart of the Galicica National Park, with a magnificent view of the iridescent waters of Lake Ohrid opening up from virtually any location.
There are about twenty houses in Trpejca. The local population is mostly comprised of the elderly. Their day begins at 6 am and they spend most of their time in their yards…
They press the grapes, air-dry pepper and prepare for the winter, greeting passers-by with “Zdravo” and inviting them in for a cup of coffee. They tell you their age with their fingers and keep trying to make conversation with their hands.
There are only two stores in the village, where one can mostly buy sweets and spices at a price much lower than in Georgia.
In the fall, Lake Ohrid is particularly transparent and warm. As you step into the water, you feel and see the fish swimming around you
Fishermen, scattered all over the tiny little white beach near harbors (wooden piers), catch the famous Ohrid Trout and prepare it with a traditional recipe at a local restaurant—Ribar. Ribar is the most renowned and crowded place in Trpejca (here, a breakfast will cost you as little as 2 Euros). Tourists usually take boats from the city of Ohrid and spend the entire day here.
A small fisherman beach, cozy and homey atmosphere, crystalline water, clear air, saturated with the mouth-watering scent of fried fish, and unforgettable sunsets, exuding the warmth of the Balkan sun… If this is what you’re looking to experience, then you must certainly visit Trpejca, “the Saint-Tropez of North Macedonia”, as locals like to call it lovingly…
The Ilinden memorial, also known as Makedonium, is located in the city of Kruševo, 2 hours away from Trpejca, and is dedicated to the participants of the so-called Ilinden uprising of 1903—an organized revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Built in the 1970s, this representation of futuristic architectural brutalism resembles a spaceship and fascinates us with its shapes and oval stained-glass windows to this day…
With arrival of the fall, tourists had already left Trpejca, but students managed to revive the locals in a way, extending the summer. The village is so small that each and every inhabitant knew us in person the next day. They, too, like Georgians, are extremely hospitable, and I had a feeling that I was still home…
One evening, we got a chance to taste local wine, which a representative of the French Embassy characterized as “magnificent wine from the Lake Ohrid vineyards, rich with history and combining French technology with local viticulture tradition”. Afterwards, he invited us to taste Macedonian Rkatsiteli!!!
Author Nita Ivanishvili
Photos Nita Ivanishvili