MACEDONIA – BULGARIA (27.06 – 04.07.2018)

Macedonia - a land of mountains and lakes. Did you know that for its area of only 25 700 the Republic of Macedonia boasts 50 lakes and 16 mountains above 2000 m high? What can be a better destination for a boutique women's spiritual journey? At the end of June I started my next trip to this little jewel in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula - a blend of natural wonders, ancient civilizations, hospitable people and delicious food.

At the beginning the weather wasn't very favourable, but even the first stop Kratovo - a small picturesque town - bewitched us in the drizzle with its impressive old bridges and towers.

We proceeded through villages in mountainous landscape until in the twilight we arrived in Skopje - the capital city. Everybody is impressed by the grandeur of its modern buildings and statues of old time heroes and medieval enlighteners. It is well-known as a place where the present century meets the 19th in the old town with its winding streets, Turkish restaurants and colourful little shops. But what charmed my women's group was the romantic atmosphere of Skopje by night. The tasty dinner by the river just made it unforgettable.

On the next day after breakfast we drove to the mystical Matka gorge, where we enjoyed a boat ride (despite the weather), visited a cave and made a cycle to merge with nature.

Back to Skopje we took the cable car to the Millennium Cross on Vodno Mountain - an impressive 66-metre tall structure built to commemorate the 2000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. Again mist and drizzle - quite a haunting experience, but on the next day we managed to catch a more cheerful glimpse.

The third day found us on the way to Ohrid, but not on the boring highway. We chose the mountain road where we had a sweet stopover by Mavrovo lake, spiritual break in Bigorski Monastery and trout lunch by the Debur lake.

Ohrid - the "Jerusalem of the Balkans"! They say it used to have 365 churches - one for each day of the year. Ohrid, together with its famous Ohrid Lake, is one of the few site in the world enlisted in UNESCO's World Heritage both as a Cultural and Natural site. And at last sunshine - our senses are fully opened to perceive the beauties of this magical place.

One of the must-sees in Macedonia is the St. Naum's Monastery - holy not only because of its religious statute but because it is the resting place of one of the five disciples of Cyril and Methodius, the creators' of the Slavonic alphabet. Under the initiative and encouragement of the Bulgarian rulers, Naum continued his work on the Cyrillic script in Ohrid - an important centre of Slavic learning, which was in the boundaries of the First Bulgarian Empire in those days. The royal behavior of the peacocks walking freely around leaves without doubt who are the real guardians of this heavenly place.

On the way to Bitola we crossed the Galicica National Park so that we could enjoy a breathtaking view from above both of Ohrid and Prespa lakes. (In the pic below) you can see behind us not only the Ohrid Lake but also the shore of Albania - our next destination.

What is a tour without wine tasting? We spent our last night in Macedonia in Popova Kula Winery - a real temple of wine among a quiet nature.

And of course a real end of the tour - SPA pampering in the luxurious PIRIN hotel in Sandanski, Bulgaria.