Ohrid is the kind of place I thought existed only in movies about a middle aged woman starting her life over abroad. It’s an absolutely gorgeous place to visit, and I have a feeling it would also be pretty nice to live in.
Since we came out of season, the city was calm and quiet, probably in contrast to how busy it is in the summer. The entire center of the city hangs over Lake Ohrid, and many of the meandering streets go steeply up and down between homes. A good number of places were open, but not very busy. And that’s kind of a cool atmosphere to have a drink or maybe sit and read or write. The lake, which you can see from pretty much everywhere, is such a calming turquoise plane. I could definitely see it every day and never stop appreciating its beauty. Ohrid might be kind of boring over a very long period of time, with a lot of bars closing at midnight and very few events outside of peak season. And during peak season, it might be kind of frustrating with so many people around.
The food in Ohrid did not disappoint. It has a lot of traditional national dishes like pork in a pot and cooked cheese (which is actually like a lasagna), as well as some local specialties like Ohrid cake. People love their coffee here, and on any given weekday, a lakeside cafe will be full of people just having an espresso and enjoying the view. My only complaint about the food is that because March is not a popular time of year for visitors, some restaurants and bars were closed. And it’s disappointing to pick out a place to eat based on internet reviews and go over there only to find it locked up. I can’t imagine having that experience for the majority of the year.
So far, the Macedonian people have been the kindest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met. And especially the ones in Ohrid. They’re honest and friendly without being overbearing. It’s the kind of place where kids say hi to you on the street and adults smile as you walk past. It definitely adds to the small town feel that I appreciate so much. I also picture it being the kind of small town where people end up referring to you fondly as “the American” or in my case, “the girl with the gnome.” They would probably get to know my order at the cafe and ask me where I’m traveling next within a month.
Within the walls of the upper gate of Ohrid, which mark the beginning of the center of town, there didn’t seem to be any public transportation. In fact, the innkeeper at our villa was taking cabs herself. The good thing is that the cab drivers are generally honest and cabs are readily available in different parts of town. A cab to the Ohrid Bus Station which is quite a ways out of city center costs about $2-3. So if you don’t want to exercise on the way to dinner, you can take a cheap taxi.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been around the South Slavic language so long already, but it’s oddly starting to make sense to me. It’s like if you can figure out the few characters that are not part of the English alphabet, you can plug it into other words. Like a cipher. That being said, I’m not sure that I want to live in a city where I have to crack the code to the language so I can decide what to order for dinner. Another thing that bugs me about Ohrid is how many people smoke and how many people smoke indoors. Some restaurants have a smoking section, but certain cafes and bars are just a free for all, and smoking is far too common for my liking.
Total Livability Score: 5.5/10
If you pick the right time of year, which I have it on good authority is after peak season in September, living there would probably be lovely and rejuvenating. Retiring there would also be nice. But I think I would get restless after a long time.