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Balkan trivia: Best time to visit Ohrid

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Come whenever, but be sure to stay during the most vivid winter day. That’s 19th of January. It is an orthodox holiday and it is one that got mixed with the tradition. Everybody is celebrating, no matter what religion. It is the day when Christ got baptized in the water of Jordan. For more than 2000 years the water on this day is considered as holy. Many people are willing to enter the ice cold water. It is a similar tradition in Russia, where Putin got in the water too.

Let me explain from the start what to expect if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Ohrid during this day. Traditionally, there is a crew from the old part of the town, Varosh. They are training for this event during the year. Again traditionally, they are the winners of this day. We are getting to the part of what it is to win. In the morning the orthodox priest, in a very official and festive maneer, is saying prayers and with this ritual, the water is becoming holy. After he finishes with the prayers, he throws the holy cross in the water and hundreds of people jump in the water to swim and to find the cross. The one who does, usually a Varosh crew member, will be happy and blessed during the year that follows. The ones that enter just to swim are guaranteed to be healthy and strong, since the water is holy. This tradition makes sense, since most viruses are non-resistant to low temperatures. The people remain healthy longer.

If you are not an extreme culture tester, you can just enjoy the festive atmosphere of the town that is spiced up with traditional music and free muled rakia in every local café or restaurant you visit. In the restaurants you can also get pacha, an extreme winter food that is symbol for this day. It is not over! On 20th, the tradition continues in a similar manner of winter swim and sharing food and drinks. This day, only the fishermen take part. At least it was like this in the past. People are putting in the water three barrels full of wine. Two of them are full of white wine, and one is red. The winner is the one who gets the barrel with the red wine in it. This day, on the lake coast, it is prepared a big pot of traditional fish soup, and it is shared with people around. While being in Ohrid for these two days you will accumulate festive energy for the year that follows. The muled rakia that is for free everywhere these days and can give you a huge hangover, so be aware!


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The author

Zlata Golaboska

Zlata Golaboska

I am Zlata and I am an architect living in the Balkans. I am passionate about cities, how people influence architecture and vice versa, and how places change our lives.

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