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Despite a small permanent population of only about 40,000, the town of Ohrid in Macedonia attracts more than 2 million visitors annually, from every corner of the world. Surrounding Ohrid’s picturesque lake were 365 enchanting churches, which inspired the nickname, “Jerusalem of the Balkans.” In 1980, the small town was designated a UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage site due to its culture, history, and natural landscape. The heavy flow of tourists for decades has invigorated its local economy.
I was lucky to get the chance to visit such an attraction. During my stay, I visited a small, well-preserved church with floor space of less than 20 square meters. Over 300 years ago, local residents built the church on the hillside with simple material, despite their meager incomes, and it remains under strong protection with its original look preserved. “How can such a humble structure be preserved so well for three centuries?” I asked my tour guide. “Through the power of faith,” he asserted. For generations, the locals have remained committed to protection and restoration, so applying for World Cultural Heritage status came naturally.