A Travellerspoint blog


Cracs and Crumbles

We left Lebanon via the north and thought we'd squeeze in a little more of Syria.

There's a castle just north of the lebanese border called Crac de Chevalier which is supposed to be one of the most intact and most like you'd imagine a castle to look like castles you're ever likely to see. And it was. It's not a pretty fairy tale castle, it's more like a tank of a castle: perched on top of a hill, inpenetrable, guarding the only break in the mountain range that links the east of the middle east to the coast. Only problem is if you surround it for three months you starve out the people inside which is exactly what the arabs did to the crusaders. obvious really.

We indulged in a really good guide, went in every one of the many many guards rooms rooms, ran about the place taking silly pictures of us in all positions. Castle thoroughly done. tick.

Arrived that night in Palmyra which is one of those places you have to visit in Syria. It's an old ruined roman city plonked in the middle of the desert. And like all the historical sites (sights?) here there are no attendants watching your every move, in this case there wasn't even a fence or entrance fee. We ate in a restaurant overlooking the ruins and thought we'd check out the edge but ended up wandering through the whole ruins by the light of the moon and lights of the central colonnade.

When we got back we booked a taxi to take us to the top of a nearby hill to watch the sunrise over the ruins but the taxi never turned up (grr) so we just walked there and walked around again by sunrise instead. The light and the softness of the colours of the soft beige sandstone ruins and pastels of the sky was so calming, and the temperature and breeze at that time of the morning was just perfect. One upside to exploring the ruins again was that we managed to walk over to the nearby oasis. There is a old old village integrated with the oasis and it looked idyllic.

We left that afternoon and on our way to a new country - Jordan. Better get the new book out :)

Posted by rachndave 10:12 Archived in Syria Tagged ruins Comments (1)

Lost at last


A new country with new money, personalities, language, shapes and sounds.

Not too much to report from Damascus because we spent two days just wandering around the souks and streets of the old town. the main covered souk is wide, dark and cool with quite modern shops lining the sides - at night, after ramadan fast is broken this street is heaving with interesting looking people - arabs in robes and tea towels, families, nomads, tourists. There are hunderds of tiny lights in the roof that look scattered and random just like stars, a very pretty sight that looks like a design feature until you read that they are bullet holes made by french fighters in the 1925 war. After walking along this long arcade you are greeted by crumbling roman arches, an enormous marble floored mosque and the entrance to the old town via streets shaded by overhead vines.

The streets in most places look to me like medieval english cottages straight out of shakespeare's day or the old streets of York with their narrow streets of plastered mud walls and overhanging first floors supported by diagonal wooden struts. I was always on the look out for a washer woman throwing dirty water out of the top window. Other architecture in the old town looked to me like spanish or italian design with ornate balconies and decorated window arches. Many of the cafes and hotels, and the tranquil little art gallery we stopped in at, had cool central courtyards with fountains and vines. This is the first time we've been able to get tea during the day! and we had our first beer in a month!

After being properly lost in the streets (this made us very happy, after failing to ever get lost in venice, morocco or yazd - those places that tell you to get lost in their streets but somehow you never really can) we rewarded ourselves for this achievement by sitting for a few hours on the streets of the old town listening to the old story teller inside banging his stick on his table of tea (apparently he was telling a story about an Arab champion who was captured and fought bravely to escape...we have to await tomorrow to find out the end and start the next tale) while we drank lemonade, tea and smoked our ever-replenishing shisha and chatting to shock-of-all-shocks *actual* tourists. We havent seen any of those in a long while. It's very nice to talk at last to other travelers and exchange stories and tips for onward countries, yet at the same time we all seem to look and act the same and it has actually felt very, erm, exclusive(?) to be in a country where you cant spot the travelers a mile off.

Although we both loved Damascus we have decided not to spend too much time in Syria because we'd rather spend more time in Lebanon and Jordan so we're in Beirut now, although it's pretty quiet on the streets because it's Eid today so imagine walking the streets on Christmas day and that's what it feels like. I like the feel of this city though, and there's supposed to be a music festival in the university district over the next few days so maybe things will pick up tonight. I'll report back later.

Posted by rachndave 05:15 Archived in Syria Tagged walking travelers Comments (1)

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