A couple of weeks ago I took a day trip down to Ohrid, which is the big resort city in Macedonia on Lake Ohrid. I met two Peace Corps friends there, and we were met by a lovely woman who is the Macedonian counterpart to a volunteer in Ohrid. She has a small tour business on the side. She loves Macedonia and Ohrid and is so happy to be able to show it off. She took us around town and gave us an impromptu tour, which was wonderful. Ohrid is a charming town. Unlike much of Macedonia which reflects its Yugoslav past in great concrete block buildings, Ohrid has retained its old charms - some small streets, old buildings, and lots of history - it's been a town for 8000 years. It's on the largest and one of the oldest lakes in Europe, Lake Ohrid. One of my friends is having a friend visit for New Year's, and Katerina had found an apartment for her to rent that was right on the lake, beautiful, and affordable. The picture above with the boats is a view from the balcony. The day was beautiful, warm, and it felt like I had landed on some other planet. I can hardly wait to go back- it's a perfect day trip from Gostivar. And at the end we were treated to the most beautiful sunset ever.
More about living in Macedonia: Electricity is very expensive compared to per capita earnings, so conservation is a way of life. It's amazing to think about how much we squander electricity. Here there are all sorts of ways to try to cut down on costs. First, there are low tariff and high tariff times, so you try to do your heavy electrical usage during the low times - 1-4 during the day and after 10 at night. My host mom would always do her ironing after 10. The hot water heaters are generally not automatic - you turn them on before you want to use them. I turn mine on when I go to bed at night so I can have a lovely warm shower in the morning. I'm lucky and have a separate small kitchen boiler for dishes, so the big one I can save just for showers. The heaters have heat absorbing stone built into them, so if you warm them during the low times they'll hold the heat all day. It also doubles as the dryer - I have a little washer in my apartment but dryers are unheard of. Everywhere you go, even at this time of year, you see laundry hanging outside of apartments. I have a dryer rack I put in front of the heater to dry my clothes, but I rotate them on and off the top of the big heater for quicker drying. All the rooms have doors so you can heat only the rooms you want. It all works well.
You wouldn't think things like stoves would be different, but it took me awhile to learn to use mine. I still don't understand it, but at least I can make it work now. Before I could get 3 burners to work, but not the big one I wanted to work or the oven. Twice I had my landlady in saying it was broken, and I finally saw the thing you have to turn on to make the oven and big burner work. It's a timer that will turn it off automatically after it's on for the time you set. The burners are different, too - solid rather than coils. They take a long time to heat up but then stay hot for a long time after they're turned off, so cooking techniques are different. There are lots of funny little things to learn!
Okay, enough for now. Hope you're all ready for Christmas!