Life in Lake Ohrid

Celebrating somewhere between its four millionth and ten millionth birthday this year is Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in Europe. A fathomless beauty surrounded by the Jablanica, Mokra, and Galicica mountains, many come to experience its splendour on their Macedonia holidays.

The lake is also called the “Museum of Living Fossils”, and many of the organisms which flourish in its depths can only be seen as fossils in other places. One area, called “Trout Lake” abounds with life, its waters rich in plankton and sea plants, and its shores home to the Ferruginous Duck, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Dalmatian Pelican, and other avian species.

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Man plays a big part in Ohrid’s aquatic life too. Local fishermen reel in eels, crabs, and shellfish, then export them around the world. In turn, some of the globe’s best swimmers fly in to compete in the Ohrid Swimming Marathon each summer, a 30-kilometre course from the monastery of St. Naum to the town harbour. In 2008, Bulgaria’s Petar Stoychev and Germany’s Stefanie Biller won the men’s and women’s divisions respectively, in a span of six hours.

Macedonian art can be observed by the lake, in the monastery of St. Naum and in the church of St. Bogorodica Zahumska – Zaum. Both are domed structures in a cruciform shape, filled with frescoes and icons. Sitting on the lake’s eastern shore, St. Zaum’s walls are covered with lively-coloured life-sized portraits of the saints, the Virgin Mary, and Christ, done in a style much different from the fashion in 1361. On the south-eastern side of Lake Ohrid, almost every inch of St. Naum is painted with scenes from his life. The five miracles he performed are depicted, including “Harnessing the Bear.”

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