BALKAN CONGRESS PEARL
Lake Ohrid was, in my youth, a compulsory topic in geography. I remember that it issupposed to be one of the oldest lakes, similar to Lake Baikal and the lake with the funny name, Tititaka. I also remember that Lake Prespa and Lake Ohrid are connected underground and are full of endemic species. I can certainly confirm that Macedonia is a land of beautiful national parks and the lake is one of the biggest Macedonian natural pearls – a kind of Macedonian sea. Despite enormous natural conditions, Ohrid is one of the most overlooked meeting destinations in the region, although it attracts a lot of tourists from the former Yugoslavia and is considered the most elite destination for wealthy Macedonians.
Jeruzalem of Europe
The coast of Lake Ohrid has been inhabited from prehistoric times. The oldest settlement originates from 6000 BC, as evidenced by more than 170 archeological finds. The Jerusalem of Europe, as they say of Ohrid, is full of treasures, both underground and underwater, and has been UNESCO protected for 30 years. The city where 365 churches once stood, one for each day, has typical architecture with narrow streets and tunnels, over which grew tall houses with fantastic views of the lake and snowy mountains behind.
In Macedonia you have to visit at least two or three sacral attractions. One of the most famous is the Monastery of St. Naum. It stands on a high cliff above Lake Ohrid, about 15 minutes walk from the Albanian border. St. Naum was assistant to St Clement of Ohrid, a disciple of Cyril and Methodius, and he spent the last years of his life there. One of the most visited tourist places in Macedonia is definitely worth the visit, not only because of the monastery but also because of the attractive park, nice beach and river springs not far from the lake. The springs are supplied from Lake Prespa, which is accessable by the winding road which runs through Mt Galičica, part of which is protected as a national park. The road itself is worth the effort as it offers the most unique views of Lake Ohrid.
St. Sofia – a very special venue
The church from the eighth or ninth century is one of the most important medieval buildings in Macedonia, with rich paintings where motifs from the Old and New Testaments combine on blue arches and walls. During the Turkish ambush of Ohrid, they turned the church into a mosque and after their departure both Orthodox and Catholic rituals took place in St Sofia. Today, the church no longer serves as a religious building but, due to extraordinary acoustics, it is used for concerts. The motif of the church is depicted on the Macedonian 1,000 dinar banknote.
Above the town of Ohrid is the magnificent Samuel mansion which was built in the 11thcentury. Before that, the fortress probably built by Filip II during the 4th Century B.C. stood on the same place. During the reign of Czar Samuel, Ohrid was the capital of the Bulgarian Empire. The fort was reconstructed in 2003 and it offers a magnificent view of the city and the lake. With a little effort it can be a superb venue for events.
Few know that only the Talev and Filev families deal with the traditional production of Ohrid pearls. These pearls are made from pastrmka fish scales, the fish that lives in Lake Ohrid, but precise production remains a mystery. The manufacturers are fighting unfair competition, which sell cheaper pearls from an unknown destination. You can receive a guarantee only from the two families, otherwise it is difficult to separate the fakes from the originals.
The main attraction of Ohrid is its narrow streets lined with restored Ottoman buildings. The tourist bustle does not die late into the night, as a number of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops invite you to explore! Ohrid is known as the dance mecca of Eastern Europe and so the city is suitable for all of those who are looking for fun. If you want to have fun until the early hours, Ohrid is certainly a good choice, with a lot also happening on the beaches. The nightclubs are only a few steps away from one another, taxis are cheap and so you can go on a Dznightclub hikedz.
Macedonian tradition of viticulture
The Macedonian tradition of viticulture dates back to the Roman period. Due to its exceptional geographical position, the intertwining of two climates – Mediterranean in the south and Continental in the north, the good texture of soil which supplies ground water, the local winegrowers centuries ago cultivated a special kind of grape which give the wine a specific taste and aroma. The center of wine events is the Skovin winery, in the city centre, which is an indispensable tourist attraction where they are glad to host larger congress groups.
Museum on water
For diving enthusiasts Lake Ohrid is real discovery. The water is crystal clear and, on a sunny day, there is nothing better than discovering the treasures of the lake in the middle of endless games of underwater light and shadows. The biggest underwater surprise is the remains of homes and items of the original settlers from the Bronze Age.
Ohrid also offers a very special tourist destination concept and presentation of culture and history, an exceptional archeological complex known as the Bay of Bones, which is an authentic reconstruction of the stilt dwellings which from 1200 B.C. to 700 B.C. covered 8,500m2. The museum offers a good historical overview and gives a sense of how people lived. Above the bay rises the Gradišče hill on which a Roman fort once sat.
Vox Populi of the congress industry
Currently, the entire congress offer of the destination is based around hotels with meeting facilities. The flagship destination is the Inex Gorica hotel which was once a residence of President Tito. The residence includes a small congress center for up to 400 participants. Among the largest congress hotels is the Metropol Lake hotel with three hotel buildings. The conference center comprises 2,500 m2 with 10 conference halls and, according to the owner, is the largest in Macedonia.
Hotel Granit is a typical representation of a medium-sized hotel and offers conference facilities and three conference rooms with capacity for 120 to 300 participants. There is no lack of small hotels with conference facilities in the city, the most representative are the Royal View Hotel with two conference halls, the Hotel Garden, Hotel Belvedere, Hotel Cingo and others.
There are also many travel agencies which are designated as DMC or PCO agencies, including the most specialized agency, Vis Poj. Ohrid is also covered by agencies from Skopje and the neighboring countries. Serious and strategic meetings destination management currently does not exist in Ohrid, which is certainly the biggest weakness of a destination with such outstanding potential and an incredible concentration of special venues.
WHAT'S HOT IN 2016
QUALITY MEETINGS DESTINATION
5 – excellent meetings destination
4 – quality meetings destination
3 – reccommendable meetings destination
2 – average meetings destination
1 – so so
|OHRID INDIVIDUAL GRADES 2016|
|Natural and cultural factors:||4.70|
|General and transport infrastructure:||4.16|
|Numbeo quality of life Index:||3.20|
|Global Peace Index:||2.94|
BEST INCENTIVE IDEA
COMPARISION WITH THE REGION
One of the main Macedonian tourist centers is becoming increasingly more important as a meeting center. At first glance, it differs from competing regional destinations due to its reasonable prices. The difference is also in the structure of the offer which is primarily adapted to leisure tourism. Ohrid is, in summer, a mass tourist destination with all the challenges that that brings. Out of season it can be a very interesting meeting destination, if rapid development will be followed by the upgraded offer that congress guests expect. The first step is related to performance of providers and the establishment of a Convention Bureau.
OHRID “PASTRMKA” – a special type of fish, found only in Lake Ohrid. Restaurants prepare their traditional dish using it and which they proudly advertise.