September 23: Albania to Macedonia

The weather couldn't be more beautiful for riding. The morning air has a slight chill to it, but the day promises to be sunny and warm with the temperatures in the low 70s. No wind in the morning to speak of and what is there is headed in the same direction as the group. Down the bike path alongside the Lake Ohrid and then up into the mountains! The plan for today is for the group to ride to Albania for lunch and then overnight again in Macedonia at the St Naum Monastery.

The path starts innocent enough winding around the various parks outside the city of Ohrid. After joining the main road to the south the road begins its way up the mountainside with a twist here and a turn there. Without being able to see too far up the road it is hard to determine if the top is close or only an illusion of the mind. Each turn brings another incline -- 10%, then 12%, then 15% -- the breath patterns on each rider begins to sound more like a pant than a deep breath. "I think I can, I think I can, I know I can" races through many minds. Some tackle the road with gusto, others with survival on their faces, others with hope the end is near. Over 5 miles of climbing with beautiful vistas, but steep inclines!!! AND THEN -- the top!! Shifting into a higher gear and down one sails for about a mile to see the road once again go up!! A long steady pedal is required -- a hard concentration -- and a determination to make it wins the day. Once on top it is a long winding road down requiring only an occasional braking to the border between Macedonia and Albania.

(Albania is a small country with Adriatic and Ionian coastlines and an interior crossed by the Albanian Alps.)

Border crossing is an experience. Twenty-five passports are collected, stamped and then redistributed on the other side of the line. A quick ride through "No Man's Land" and it is the Albanian pass control. All cleared and off to lunch in a restaurant at the lake's edge. Four courses later it is back on the bikes and back up that mountain only to re-cross from Albania back into Macedonia and on to the Monastery of St Naum (the evening's lodging).

The Monastery of St Naum was founded by St Naum during the 6th century. Naum was credited to many miracles during his years as a monk. One of the more famous legends is that one day he witnesses a young girl bathing in the lake -- her uniqueness was that she had no hair on her body. Story goes that he placed his hands on her head only to have hair start to appear several days later. Her father, a wealthy lord of the area wanted to reward Naum with his daughter as a bride, but Naum refused and asked for a piece of land instead. The Monastery of St. Naum is built on this land and survives as a sacred place to this day. It is said that he is buried within the chapel and if one places one's ear on the stone covering his coffin, one can hear his heart beating!

A quiet, peaceful place to rest before tomorrow's ride down from Galicica Pass!! Elevation: 5000'

Getting Organized in the Morning

Jackie and Kathy Patiently Waiting to Ride!

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A View From Above

Sue

 

And Up We Go!!

Albania

Kathy

Natural Springs at Monastery

Kathy and Jackie

Typical Bedroom in Monastery

Sitting Room within Bedroom

View of Chapel from Window

Courtyard

Lake Entrance

Miracle Mosaic Over Entrance

Wild Peacocks Roaming the Grounds

The Chapel of the Monastery of St. Naum