Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Naumin' Aroun'

Naumin' Aroun', Naumin' Aroun'. A monastery made for young adults, by young adults.

The Monastery of Saint Naum lies just inside the Macedonian border, near where we crossed over from Albania. It was founded by Saint Naum himself at the turn of the tenth century, although much of what remains today dates back only to the 16th or 17th centuries.

The monastery church
Something went wrong with the latest anti-tobacco advertising
According to one website we consulted, the peacocks of Saint Naum will "welcome you with their screams". This turns out to be very true. I've only ever seen peacocks one or so at a time, and haven't previously noticed much screaming, but there's peacocks running around all over the monastery, screaming their little heads off in welcome.

Not heeding the anti-peacock warnings
The church is liberally covered all over the walls and ceilings with frescoes from the 16th-17th centuries. A lot of the frescoes and icons we saw in Albania and Macedonia were deliberately and literally defaced, or had the eyes excised. I'm a bit confused as to why, since I don't think there was a Protestant-style movement in the region - could it have been done during the Communist period?

You can see two of these faces are scratched out - we saw too many similarly disfigured for this to be just by chance

Ceiling inside St Naum's
Legend has it that if you press your ear to Saint Naum's tomb, you can hear his heartbeat. I tried, despite the tomb being covered with a probably gross cloth, and could kind of hear something. Jules didn't, though. A Guardian article I read posited that it was the sound of "water dripping somewhere in the monastery", but I think it's much more likely to be the same effect as holding a seashell to your ear, i.e.  your own heartbeat. Proof at last that Jules is a zombie.

Inside a different, newer church built over a natural pool at the spot where three springs converge. Supposedly the water helps women conceive, so I didn't get any closer
We found Rachel Dolezal's sunscreen in the gift shop. How's that for a topical reference? Seriously though, think harder about appropriate names for sunblock, Macedonia.
The main church above, with the frescoes and tomb of St Naum, is the chief attraction as far as the monastery goes. I think, however, the site is a major tourist destination mostly because of its location. As you walk through the grounds, on one side you have Lake Ohrid, which appears mostly placid, as lakes do. On the other side, though, water rushes from a smaller lake through a stream into Lake Ohrid. This smaller lake contains many springs (which ultimately themselves are filled by water flowing underground from the nearby Lake Prespa) which feed Lake Ohrid.

There is a cottage industry taking tourists on boat trips around the smaller lake, which we partook of. The springs were nowhere near as big and obvious as the one at the Blue Eye, rather, you had to look quite closely and listen to the guide's local knowledge to spot them, which was pretty cool. The water, filtered through layers of karst rock on its way out of Lake Prespa and back into Lake Ohrid, is very pure (or so we were told), and we had a little drink leaning out of our boat.

Water bubbling up from these springs reminded me of bubbling mud at Rotorua
After we had finished our boat trip, a walk around the small lake, and lunch, we moved a few feet to Saint Naum's beach on the shores of Lake Ohrid itself. After sunbathing, we took a dip in the lake, which we shared with hundreds of tiny fish. The lake is so clear (with visibility up to 22 metres/66 feet) that we could look down and see the fish swimming all around us - and sometimes feel them brushing against our legs or arms. Quite bizarre! Finally, a trout sighting (maybe?) for my Dad!

1 comment:

  1. I demand proof! Trout or no trout?


Feed the Comment Monster! Rawrrrr