Lake Ohrid, Europe’s oldest, is Macedonia’s #1 tourist draw. The most likely international visitor to Lake Ohrid is not an American like me. He is from The Netherlands. As Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil increased travel to Savannah, Our Dutch Friend A. den Doolaard, a best seller by Ohrid author Misho Yuzmeski, created interest in Ohrid. It’s about a Dutch writer, appeals to those who like Macedonian history, and is available in the town of Ohrid and probably in Amsterdam but not on Amazon. Our Lake Ohrid guide Katrina, a fiery Macedonian, told us about this book with a bit of amazement as we approached one of the Lake’s biggest attractions–Museum on Water and Bay of the Bones.
Unique and truly amazing even if you’re not Dutch, the Museum on Water is actually a neolithic village built atop this lake. The original one was abandoned after The Bronze Age. Some objects found in the lake are estimated to be 4,000-years-old. By the Iron Age, this was already an old community. Wooden piles and much more were found in the water and studied by a research team between 1997 and 2005. Scientists learned that there were at least 24 prehistoric plaster and wood houses on a platform extended over Lake Ohrid. Trapdoors gave access to the lake underneath the houses. Baskets were lowered to catch fish that fed people and horses. The sophisticated ancient village had 21 rectangular homes and 3 round meeting buildings that reminded me of southwest U.S. kivas. By 2010 the village was being reconstructed and a museum to display found artifacts was being built.
Scientists learned a lot about life in this village from what they found under the water. The women lived longer than the men, who usually died by the age of 30 probably from living above water, hard work, being around animals, and having multiple wives. Children were roped to the houses by their feet. Ceramic pottery and totems were found, so were bones and a lot of deer antlers. Authorities figure that the antlers were used for religious purposes and speculate that storms might have caused villagers to believe that the area was cursed and that the antlers protected them.