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New Europe

Day Twenty-eight: Ohrid

Ohrid, Macedonia 
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Life on the streets of Ohrid, ancient town and centre of Macedonian tourism.
Michael Palin - New EuropeI ask how they get on with their neighbours across the water. Vasil says they have good relations with the Albanians, though there are issues about dumping waste in the famously pristine waters of the lake.

Other neighbours are more problematical. After the break-up of Yugoslavia the Greeks insisted that if Macedonia were to be given independence it should be called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrm), to distinguish it from the Macedonian region of northern Greece. It was only in 2003 that, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, the Greek government issued visas for Macedonians to visit relatives on the Greek side.

There's even been a long-running dispute over ownership of Alexander the Great, who was born in what is now Greece, but spoke Macedonian.

Kaliopi spreads her hands, helplessly.

'I don't understand what is "Fyrm", it's nothing to me.'

But the Greeks take it very seriously. Vasil was at a recent arts festival in the Ukraine from which the Greek contingent walked out after the organisers referred to him as being from the Republic of Macedonia.

Kaliopi's love for her country seems unequivocal, like their love for her. She struggles to find the words to best express the relationship.

'I am like paprika for the Macedonian people!' she declares, which takes me a bit by surprise.

'Paprika?'

She nods eagerly.

'Because the Macedonian cannot live without paprika, and maybe that is the best compliment for me.'

Paprika or otherwise, it's significant that when she goes on to talk about the many new projects she has with Vasil the one that enthuses her most is a musical of the life of Marshal Tito.

Macedonian she may be on her passport, but Yugoslavia still exerts a powerful spell.
Ohrid, Macedonia 
click to enlarge 
file size
Life on the streets of Ohrid, ancient town and centre of Macedonian tourism.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Twenty-eight: Ohrid
  • Country/sea: Macedonia
  • Place: Ohrid
  • Book page no: 68

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