Friday, November 17, 2006

They call it the Pearl of the Balkans

About six years ago I hosted a Macedonian journalist doing an internship at our newspaper in my Florida house. He didn't like Florida at all, found our stories at the newspaper boring and he pined for home. He ran up an $1,800 bill phoning his wife daily. And he painted Skopje and Lake Ohrid in his country as the best city and most beautiful lake in the world.

Who would ever have thought that old Darko may have been right.

We had to drive through a raging snow storm to get to Ohrid from Tetovo. I felt guilty that I'd insisted we try to get here in November and if it had been possible to turn back I would have urged it.

They say the last time it snowed in Ohrid was 10 years ago. Hawley and I, veterans of the first rainy weekend in Hvar in a decade, wondered if our bad luck was at work again.

But the snow subsided as we piled our stuff into a room at the Millenium Palace and walked along the lake to town.

We shopped in some wonderful little jewelry stores selling Ohrid pearls and coral and then went to Antica for dinner. This was special.

The lake is home to an array of unique wildlike including Ohrid trout -- pastrmka. It's flakey and tender and pink as salmon. We had it with amazing ajvar and bolnica wine and walnut birthday cake and it ranks as one of the best dinners I've ever had. Plus the waiter was attentive and funny and we were feted by a bank of men with violins and guitars.

"Do you know that song they're playing," I asked Svjetlana about one particularly beautiful melody.

"Some old Macedonian piece I think," she said.

It was Moon River.

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