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vicino a Kallamas, Korçë (Albania)
This hike is 13 km with about 400 m ascent. It was one of the most beautiful hikes we did in 2019.
In 2016 I spotted the cave church and hermitage of St Bogorodica on the cliffs of the Albanian part of Lake Prespa. We were in a boat on our way back from the uninhabited island Golem Grad (Big City, also known as Snake Island or Pelican Island) in the Macedonian part of Lake Prespa. In 2019 we finally got the chance to visit the cave church and hermitage of St Bogorodica!
Getting to the village Tuminec (previously named Kallamas) in Albania was a small adventure by itself and took some thinking and planning. When you want to enter Albania with a Macedonian car, the car needs to have a “green card” to show it is insured. Unfortunately the car of my in-laws did not have this green card and obtaining one seemed complicated and expensive, since we only intended to go to Albania for a single day. So we drove from Ohrid to Resen (45 minutes) and tried to find a taxi that could bring us to Tuminec in Albania. This was not as straightforward as we hoped. The taxi company that I had arranged through internet suddenly told us that they would only take us to the border with Albania and not to Tuminec, which is 6 km into Albania. After a lot of asking around we found a taxi with a green card who took us from Resen to Tuminec for 1000 denars (about 17 euros), another 45 minutes driving including crossing the border. This friendly and capable taxi driver in Resen is called Erdinc, +389 (0)70 907 533.
In Tuminec there is an information panel that describes the hike. A version of the hike is also described on the website of Prespa National Park: http://prespanationalpark.gov.al/package/kallamas-trail?lang=en .
Tuminec is a rural village. We saw many men and woman working in the fields using traditional tools, people on horses, cattle walking freely around. Most if not all inhabitants are all from Macedonian decent and speak Macedonian. The serenity of the village and the beauty of the surrounding mountains and Lake Prespa grabbed us.
The first 7 kilometers are flat and follow the shore of Lake Prespa. Because most of the trail consists of small white rocks, you will walk slower than you would expect. The sun reflects quite a lot on the lake and the white rocks, make sure you take your sunglasses! Also sun cream and head protection are no luxury, because there hardly is any shadow during this hike.
Along the shore and in the lake we saw several pelicans, great cormorants and herons. And many, many dead snakes along the shore, including a huge living one. There are several quite shallow caves in the cliffs along the shore (indicated with a green waypoint in the map).
After about 3.5 km there is a small Chapel dedicated to St Ana and 1 km later you reach the Monastery of St Marina (St Marena). Since the church is closed, prepare yourself better than we did and ask for the key in Tuminec before you start the hike! The key likely can be got at the shop in Tuminec.
The monastery provides some welcome shadow and is a good place for a picnic. The current church appears to date back to 1888. According to some sources there is also a cave church from the 14th century in the vicinity (100 m north of the monastery?) but I only found this out later. On the evening of July 29th and during the day of July 30th there is a big feast where hundreds of people come to celebrate at the monastery of St Marina.
After the Monastery of St Marina, the trail becomes a bit less easy to walk and you’ll have to pass some bigger rocks. Not too much effort, but you may need to use your hands here and there.
Before you reach the best part of this hike, the cave church of St Bogorodica, you’ll pass a small metal chapel and some more shallow caves. Finally, about 1.5 km from the Monastery of St Marina, you’ve reached the cave church and hermitage of St Bogorodica. The cave church and the two rooms above it are from the 14th century and built ingenuously into the cliffs. The cave church itself contains some relatively well-preserved frescoes. The stairs to the 2nd and 3rd floor take some courage to use! It is easy to imagine the life of the monks who lived here centuries ago when you admire the view over Lake Prespa from the 3rd floor.
500 m after the cave church St Bogorodica, you follow the trail uphill to the left, just before the border with Macedonia. This is a steep and demanding climb of about 200 m, but you will be rewarded with some good views of Lake Prespa if you don’t forget to look back!
After walking 2 kilometers on a plateau, you start descending back to Tuminec, with good views of the village. The last part you have to zig-zag your way down and try to find an entrance into the village.
In Tuminec we visited the church of St George & St Nikolas. This church is a single building, and apparently the church is named depending on the door that you use to enter it! An interesting detail is the old Macedonian flag in the yard of the church, stressing the Macedonian heritage of Tuminec.
In the graveyard there is another old church, the church of St Dimitri (Demetrius). It may even date back to the 12th century but it is difficult to find information about it. Next to the old church is the grave of a priest.
Supposedly, there is also an archaeological site somewhere below the village of Tuminec, closer to the lake. We did not attempt to find it.
We called Erdinc the taxidriver from Resen (+389 (0)70 907 533) who picked us up 40 minutes later and took us back to Resen for another 1000 denars (17 euros).
The burning sun, the difficult rocky terrain along the lake and the climbing in the end make this hike harder than expected based on the specs of 13 km and 400 m climbing. The stunning surroundings of Lake Prespa, the many birds including elegant pelicans and the marvellous old cave church and hermitage of St Bogorodica make this a very special and highly recommendable hike. 5 out of 5 points!