TRIP REPORT: LOT, Warsaw - Ohrid


Written by jsg

Balkan holiday part 3 - North Macedonia.

The last time I went on a holiday package was over 23 years ago, when I travelled to Malta for 2-week-holiday. Afterwards, I organised my holidays as do-it-yourself, which gives me more flexibility on an itinerary planning. I wanted to visit Ohrid Lake for some time, but there is no direct, nor indirect scheduled flights from Warsaw to Ohrid and I would either have to fly to Skopje and then further by bus, or travel to Krakow to take an Air Serbia flight via Belgrade. By chance, I discovered that a main tour operator in Poland offers a package holiday to Lake Ohrid with direct charter flight between Warsaw and Ohrid. So, I booked a 1-week holiday.

LO6453: Warsaw - Ohrid. Flight 6453 departs from Warsaw Airport at 16:30 and check-in starts 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure. As I am more than 15 minutes early, I need to wait for check-in to start. There is already a short queue for check-in desks 231-233, assigned for the flight. After several minutes, the ground staff asks some awaiting passengers if they are travelling to Macedonia and after confirmation, they inform us, check-in will commence shorty at the assigned desks. Indeed, the check-in starts on time and goes swiftly. Soon, it is my turn and I arrive at check-in desk 232 and place my luggage on the scale (20 kg of hold luggage and 5 kg of hand one is included in the package) and hand over my documents to a check-in agent. ‘Is it possible to receive a window seat?’ I ask the check-in agent. ‘Yes. Where would you like to sit?’ he asks. ‘I would like to sit ahead or behind the wind. I am OK with the rear part of the aircraft’, I reply. ‘What about the first row?’ he asks. 'I am happy with that!' I respond. After completion of check-in procedures, I move to the security and passport control. All these steps take 21 minutes, probably due to the beginning of the new school year, and many families have already returned from their holiday.

Boarding should commence at 16:00, but the start of boarding was moved to 16:10 and later to 16:15. Finally, the gate agents announce the boarding of the flight LO6453 at gate 15N.

After scanning my boarding card, I proceed down to the aircraft via an air bridge. Today’s flight is operated by the 4.8-year-old Boeing 737MAX8 (reg. number SP-LVF). Initially the flight was planned to be operated by Enter Air, which is a Warsaw-based airline specialising in charter flights to many holiday destinations, but later I was informed the flight will be operated by LOT Polish Airlines. This year, LOT has operated many charter flights from various airports in Poland, including direct flights from Warsaw and Katowice to Ohrid. I had mixed feelings about the swap of the carrier. On one hand, I was happy to travel by LOT as I used to fly with LOT on several charter flights in the past, including the mentioned earlier flight to Malta. On another hand, I have never flown on Enter Air and was keen to experience it and share it via a trip report.

Inside the aircraft, I take my assigned seat of 1F and to my contentment, I have nice legroom and as I soon find out, half of the row to myself, as both seats 1C and 1D are unoccupied.

Boarding is soon completed, and the doors are closed. The cabin crew welcomes passengers on behalf of the tour operator and the airline and stand by for a safety demonstration, which is conducted in Polish and in English. Once completed, push-back procedure starts then the 6-minute taxi takes us to runway RWY29 and finally we take off. After passing the town of Brwinów we turn left heading south-west.

After reaching cruising altitude, the cabin crew (1 male + 3 female) inform passengers about the possibility of using onboard Wi-Fi as well as about the onboard service, both complimentary and paid. The latter one includes also sandwiches (with cheese or with meat), which on scheduled international flights are offered as pre-order. In addition, they apologise to passengers, that tea and coffee will not be served this fine, but no reason was given why.

During the flight, I have a try and I connect to the entertainment system via onboard Wi-Fi. You can watch some movies, browse e-edition of in-flight magazine Kaleidoscope or SkyBar menu, take part in a survey, as well as be inspired by some travel guides.

In the meantime, the cabin crew distribute a sanitising wipe followed by complimentary service including a sweet bun (no savoury option was offered as on regular international flights) and a glass of still or sparkling water. I also decided to purchase a meat sandwich from the SkyBar and a can of Heineken beer for 34PLN total. After finishing onboard service, passengers can purchase items from catalogue Shop and More.

Today’s flight path crosses over Opoczno (Poland), Bielsko-Biała (Poland), Banská Bystrica (Slovakia), east of the Hungarian capital of Budapest, Szeged (Hungary) and Novi Sad (Serbia). At 18:02 the captain provides some flight information and informs passengers that we are currently flying over the territory of Serbia. In addition, we were told, we should expect landing at the Ohrid Airport in approx. 40 minutes.

After passing Novi Sad, we turn right around Plav (Montenegro) and head in the direction of Struga (North Macedonia). After U-turn over the Ohrid Lake we touch down at Ohrid St. Paul the Apostle Airport.

After a short taxi, the aircraft parks in front of the terminal. We disembark via steps, then after a short walk I enter a tiny arrivals hall where my passport is checked. In the baggage reclaim area I collect my bag, pass customs clearance and head to the tour operator stand outside the terminal building, where I am greeted by a travel representative, receive a welcome pack and am instructed to take the small bus#2.

Flight statistics:

LF: 65 %
Distance: 1221 kms (659 nm)
Departure time (scheduled/actual): 16:30/17:01
Arrival time (scheduled/actual): 18:40/18:44
Flight duration (scheduled/actual): 2h 10 min/1 h 43 min

Ohrid Lake. Somewhere in the Miocene, between 4-10 million years ago, the Ohrid Lake basin was crated by a process called transtension. Although the exact age of the lake is still unknown, some geologists estimate the lake is 1.4-milion-year-old and was formed in late Miocene by tectonic graben during the Alpine orogeny. It is believed to be one of the oldest lakes in the world, and sometimes the term ‘ancient lake’ is used to emphasise its age. Apart from the age, the lake is also known for its clean and translucent water. When the sky above is bright and blue, you can see fish 22 meters below the surface.

The Ohrid Lake has been inhabited many centuries BC. The old remains of the dwellings were discovered in 1977 near the village of Peštani often referred to as the Bay of Bones. Excavations completed in this area showed remains of pile-dwelling, which were inhabited between 1200 BC till 700 AD. The excavation site is now a museum and reconstructed village gives a glimpse of how the dwellings looked in the ancient times.

In close vicinity of the Albanian border lies a mystic place of the Monastery of Saint Naum named after the medieval enlightener Saint Naum who founded it in the 9th century. Some believe the founder of the monastery is still present, and his heartbeat can still be heard if you place your ear to his tomb. While those who keep their feet firmly on the ground, the ‘heartbeat’ is nothing more than sounds of the rushing underground rivers.

Ohrid. When you arrive to Ohrid by boat, you can admire the view of the city. After leaving the boat, I pass a high pole crowned with a big Macedonian flag, then stroll through the picturesque streets filled with cafés, shops, and goldsmith outlets. At a neighbouring mosque, a muezzin calls followers for the afternoon pray, prompting believers to gather for their prayers. On my way to the Old Town, I pass some believers rushing to the mosque, tourists browsing the streets and the locals doing shopping. After climbing zillions of steps, I arrive at the Upper Gate which opens to the remains and ancient theatre and the Old Town with its distinctive architecture. The uniquely shaped 18th and 19th houses, with the upper stories projecting in an inverted pyramid shape, flank the streets of the Old Town. During the Ottoman rule.

On top of the hill, the Fortress of Samuel, which was constructed in the Byzantine times and rebuilt in the 10th century on order of Tsar Samuel, the ruler of Macedonia that spawned between the Danube and the Adriatic. The Tsar had moved the capital from Skopje to Ohrid, regarded then as an important cultural and military centre. From the fortress ramparts, the magnificent view extends over the town and the lake to the Albanian shore. 'Do I really need to leave Ohrid tomorrow', I ask myself.

LO6454: Ohrid - Warsaw. With the week holiday gone quickly, it is time to return home. The organised airport transfer departs a few minutes after 17:00. On the way, we pick up some more tourists from a neighbouring hotel and then drive directly to Ohrid Airport, where we arrive in less than 30 minutes.

Inside the small terminal building, 4 check-in desks are assigned for flight LO6454 and check-in of all the passengers take several minutes. My luggage is tagged to WAW and I receive a boarding card. There is a queue for the security control, so I walk outside and have a cup of coffee and a small bottle of water (230 MKD) in an outside bar, which is shaped as a typical house found in the Ohrid old town.

The queue has almost gone, and I walk inside. On my way I had a quick chat with a travel representative. I was told today’s flight to Warsaw is the last one, and in the next week there will be one more rotation from Katowice (LO6437/LO6438) for this summer season. The security check takes a few minutes and I enter airside departure, where I take a seat. The area is not large, but there is a café, a small duty-free shop and … one gate. I cannot recall if I have seen a one-gate-airport, but I guess due to the small volume of traffic one gate is enough.

A few minutes before 19:00, the ground staff announces boarding at gate 1. After scanning my boarding card and cross-checking with my passport, I leave the terminal building and walk to the 11.5-year-old Embraer 195LR (reg. number SP-LND).

Inside, I am greeted by the male purser (Artur) and a female crew member and take my assigned seat of 6D. At 19:10 boarding is completed, and the cabin crew conduct the safety demo in Polish and in English. After completing the demo, we wait a few minutes in idle. Then the captain makes an announcement, that due to only one operational runway at Warsaw airport, our departure would be in 20 minutes.

Finally, we are ready to depart and after a short taxi we take off and take the direction of Skopje. After switching off the “fasten seat belt” sign, the cabin crew distribute sanitising wipes and commence on board service: sweet snack (a blueberry bun) and a glass of still or sparkling water. From the paid service, I take a meat sandwich and a small bottle of spicy tomato juice for 29 PLN. In contrast to scheduled international flights, where tea and coffee is offered for free, on charter flights, passengers can purchase a cup of tea or coffee for 8PLN. Later the cabin crew commence duty-free sales excluding alcohol and cigarettes as they cannot be offered on flights to Warsaw from non-EU countries.

During the flight I repeat some German vocabulary as I have a German lesson tomorrow, make notes about this trip and look through the window trying to recognise where we are. After passing Skopje, we turn left and fly over the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Szeged and Szolnok (Hungary), Poprad (Slovakia), entering Polish airspace at the village of Biały Potok. Further we fly over Kielce and Kampinos National Park, where we make a U-turn before final approach into Warsaw Airport.

After taxing, we park in the front of the terminal building and disembark via an air bridge. After passport control, I go to the baggage reclaim area and wait for my luggage. It takes approx. 20 minutes for my luggage to appear on belt#2.

Flight statistics:

LF: 98 %
Distance: 1221 kms (659 nm)
Departure time (scheduled/actual): 19:35/19:51
Arrival time (scheduled/actual): 21:40/21:41
Flight duration (scheduled/actual): 2h 05 min/1 h 50 min

The long-awaited holiday had gone, and so did summer. For two weeks I visited 5 countries and explored or re-explored several places. I travelled 5,961 km (3219 nm) including 5,801 km (3133 nm) by air and 160 km by road. It took me 13h 35 to move around the Balkans, which of 10 h 03 mins were spent in the air and 3 h 32 mins on the road. Even though I was travelling across the Balkans, I never felt alien nor unwelcome in any place or country I have visited. I believe some people would call it the Slavic soul. Balkan holiday - part 1 | Balkan holiday - part 2.

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  1. Anonymous09:28

    Very good trip report.

  2. Anonymous09:41

    Amazing trip report and nice LF on the return trip - would have not expected

    1. Anonymous09:51

      its the last flight of the season

    2. Anonymous11:40

      The 65% on the 737 max are 98% on the Embraer E195.

  3. Anonymous09:55

    im pretty sure there are two gates in that boarding area :) Great trip report

    1. Now I know there are two gates 🙂

  4. Anonymous10:31

    Very well wrote! You have a talent for writing.

  5. Anonymous11:15

    A lot of LOT trip reports recently

    1. Anonymous21:25

      And all of them rather positive. It seems that LOT is doing something right... Perhaps it would be good for the ex-YU carriers to see if there are things worth copying.

  6. Anonymous12:09

    Great report and glad you enjoyed my city :) Just a small correction, the airport has 2 gates;)

    1. Thank you. And thank you for clarification re: number of gates.

  7. Thank you for the stats. I am surprised Romanian tourists are on 4th position of nationals visiting NMK

  8. Anonymous09:42

    Very detailed report indeed. I am surprised that the boarding announcement in Warsaw airport are in Polish for an international flight.


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