Explore Discover Inspire

Six years of adventure with pics to prove it.

Damascus, Syria

Filed under: Syria,Walks — she_travels at 8:42 pm on Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Asian friend was going else where, we parted ways the following morning.

The bus station looks more like a cafe than a terminal..I was told the buses to Damascus were hourly…hard to know how they sort that out.

While I was waiting on the ticket guy  to give me my passport back an English voice behind me said “Did I see you walking with an Asian girl yesterday?”  I turned to see a young -ish blonde guy who sounded Canadian.  “Yes,  she was going north, I am going south we came here from Hama together. ” We chatted about this/ that and nothing. When it was time to broad  the driver told the Canadian “One, Two”. I was already in seat four…the Canadian sat next to me, “I think the driver wants to keep an eye on us.” He promptly went to sleep once the bus was moving.  Why is it people pay good money to see a new place and poof they fall asleep. How do ya see it when your asleep?

Snoozing boy woke up when we hit a snarl in traffic just outside of Damascus, seems a big truck was changing a tire in the middle of the road. He asked if I wanted to share a taxi in to the city center near the Old City.  I said I would if there were no other option, the city bus in Aleppo was so cheap it’s not worth mentioning  the price.

We took the bus.

By  the by ~ Wikipedia has this and much more to say about Damascus: “Carbon-14 dating at Tell Ramad, on the outskirts of Damascus, suggests that the site may have been occupied since the second half of the seventh millennium BC, possibly around 6300 BC. However, evidence of settlement in the wider Barada basin dating back to 9000 BC exists, although no large-scale settlement was present within Damascus walls until the second millennium BC. The city is considered by historians to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.”

Let’s go for a walk, maybe get lost a few times.

I love this picture!

Friday morning…all the shops are closed!

More closed shops, all the doors, and two mosque.

Imagine this place with all the doors open, goods flowing out in to the street,  masses of people shopping, strolling and taking in the scents, sounds and culture. Dang but I do love visiting new places!

Look at all the building wackiness going on here.

Bit of this pieces of that.

Another souq… I was good and lost, didn’t matter much.

This and that.

The old city is a wacky place, ya have cramped quarters like the ones with all manner of building material and ya come around a corner to a courtyard kinda place with outdoor cafes, people sitting about chatting while sampling the tea or a part ruin of sometime older.

At two different times I was lost outside of the old city wall. I kept thinking of I just follow the wall around I would end up some place I had been before. At this point I could not see the wall to my right but I knew it was back there someplace so I cut though this residential area where you can bet few have seen someone like me.

K then, I found myself in a bit of a dark space with not much of anything going on the round another corner..this. What the heck? They having a party? It is Friday yes?

Look what I found!!And a rainbow umbrella to boot.

The rainbow umbrella is right behind me. I am thinking the mass of people had just come from the mosque. In the corner to my right I found this…

They were feeding the birds.

Looking back the way I had come.

I was SO running out of days by the time I arrived in Damascus… I was headed for Antakya, Turkey then the seventeen hour bus ride back to Istanbul.

Palmyra, Syria

Filed under: Educational,Syria — she_travels at 7:09 pm on Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Asian gal was leaving  the Riad hotel at the same time I was the following morning. The dude who runs the place mentioned to both of us we were going  the same place, why not go together. Sure, why not. We walked from the hotel to the correct bus station, she had a Lonely Planet guide book in her hand. I was pleased as punch in my role as second, she knew were she was going and was getting all the stares from men.

There was a small amount of confusion with the bus guys…they knew exactly what was going on and moving/talking very fast..in the end we stuffed ourselves and our bags in to the very back of a chock a block full minivan. I am not talking just the seats I am saying  there was NO space for another body in that van. We were going from Hama to Homs, anyone will tell you Homs is in the center of Syria, because of the the bus system is a bit of a challenge.  I did not know this until we arrived in Homs long about noon. One of the  bus stations from a bridge we used to cross the street.

We didn’t have all four of our feet on the ground headed  for this bus station when someone behind us said…hmmm, I don’t remember but I do know he was talking to us. When I turned I saw two police,  one of the guys said “Were are you going?”  I looked at my Asian friend, nothing.  I looked back at the policeman, “The bus station” and pointed behind me. The cop crunched up his face before he repeated the question… language barrier ya know.  I smiled “Palmyra”.  “No, Palmyra” pointing at the huge arse bus station then he pointed the other direction, sure enough another bus station.  “Passport?”  I dug mine out handed to him…then he took my Asian friend’s passport. I have found many people wish to see one’s passport in this part of the world, I have nothing to hide so why not just hand it over. I am a  little unnerved when the person who took my little blue book which gets  me out of any county and back in to my own disappears but it’s not like you can stop them so ya take a deep breath and allow the will of the gods to take care of ya.

The cop handed our passports back to us saying “Welcome to Syria.”

Have I mentioned, people who seems to know little to no English know enough to say Welcome to Syria.  While I was wandering the Aleppo Citadel three random ladies walked right up to me, asked where I was from and said “Welcome to Syria.” Every time I buy a bus ticket, every time I pay for food, every accommodation when handing your passport back “Welcome to Syria.” It is delightful.

There was a guy in the Aleppo souqs who asked if I would like to see his original silver jewelry. I didn’t see any reason not to..we passed a soap merchant who wanted badly to sell me some soap, when I said “No thank you” he said “I don’t think you like my soap.” I told him I would imagine his soup was very nice but I didn’t need any. He smiled saying “Welcome to Syria.”

The silver smith managed to get me truly and completely lost which was not big deal cause I had been lost  that day twice already, thing about getting lost, if you keep walking sooner or later you will find yourself again. If not there are always people about to point. Did I mention I started snapping a shot of where my accommodation was so if worse came to worse I  could whip out my camera to show someone where I wanted to go.

The silver smith was very nice showed me all his fancy things and told me his brother was number two world champion Mr. Universe, “Yes, my brother knows Arnold Schwarzenegger.”   I was rewarded with another “Welcome to Syria” before leaving his shop wondering how in earth I would find my way back.

Right  then, with our passports back in hand and a “Welcome to Syria” we wandered down the street to the second bus station. Both of us  were looking,  with no success,  for a sign which said “Palmyra” to indicate which counter sold bus tickets to where we were headed, thank goodness we were saved by a gentlemen asking where we were going.  My new friend told him so he could point us the right way.  Two ticket counters said no bus until 530, we ended up, after much consideration taking a shared taxi. It was about $19 us each which is a huge amount but we were hungry, kept thinking we would stop for food but never did, and just wanted to have the matter settled.  Mind you all our consideration and conversation was being listened to intently by three taxi guys surrounding us. There are days where ya just get tired of thinking and go with the easiest path, usually that is more expensive. Ahh,  well the taxi driver has to feed his family too.

My new friend dozed in the back seat for better part of the two hour drive while I soaked up the landscape from the passenger seat. It was fairly hazy in Homs, it did not improve as we sped down a two lane road at 120kph (approx 80)  east.  When the driver noticed me glancing at the speedometer he grinned.

Once out of the city of Homs the land turned to agriculture, fields of this and that before turning to more arid terrain.  I asked the driver if the haze was dust from the desert. He shrugged, I don’t know if it was the language barrier or because he did not know.

I would just make out something on a hill in the distance when he asked the two of us if we wanted to stop at the citadel. I don’t think either one of us answered him for fear he would want more money. In the end he made the choice himself.

Palmyra from the citadel:

Yeah, I know, yuck!   huh?

Have a peek at this one :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Palmyre_Vue_Generale.jpg

Same shot…different day. See the green out there? The locals have made “gardens” they invite tourists to have tea and chat. Had I seen the green from the citadel I would have had more  info to work with once in town, as it was when someone said “Come see my garden.” I was confused. Ahh well, next time camel ride and a spot of tea in the garden.

See the race track? Who would have thought, horse racing. Ok,  next time, camel ride, spot of tea in the garden and a bit of horse racing. In the left corner, bridge across the moat.

When we landed in town the taxi guy dropped up at the hotel my new friend had chosen from her lonely planet. He asked for more cash and I told him I was sorry but I didn’t understand the stop would cost more. My friend said she didn’t have any more money..he was not happy but goodness me the bus would have cost maybe three bucks.

We dropped our bags in the room, thankfully,  we were off for some food. The town is laid out in a grid pattern, all the buildings look exactly the same. She was not having any luck finding anything she really wanted to eat so we went back to the place I nixed cause if the construction noise, it seems one of the few places selling food.  The noise inside was not nearly as bed and BOY am I glad we made the choice. I had garlic chicken that was so yummy I would hop a plane right now to get more. The owner offered us fresh lemonade with mint…it didn’t sound all that great to me but heck I was willing to give anything a go.  I kid you not this concoction was the most refreshing beverage I had had in a long time.  Ok next time, camel ride, spot of tea in the garden and a bit of horse racing while sipping on fresh lemonade with mint.

Off  to the ruins before dark. It is walkable from town.

From Wikipedia: “In ancient times it was an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 180 km southwest of the Euphrates at Deir ez-Zor. It has long been a vital caravan city for travelers crossing the Syrian desert and was known as the Bride of the Desert. The earliest documented reference to the city by its Semitic name Tadmor, Tadmur or Tudmur is recorded in Babylonian tablets found in Mari. The Semitic name means “the town that repels” in Amorite and “the indomitable town” in Aramaic.”

Citadel on the hill, soccer in the valley.

Camel, I asked the guy who offered me a ride if that was a baby, it was far smaller then the others. He said “No, she is just smaller.”

Tell me that is not COOL! I know we have seen a few this trip but come on…that’s COOL!

Sure enough in all this desert…GREEN!

Round rocks? how is that done ages ago?

To the left my new friend, to the right tour buses, and in the center Palmyra.

This stuff it still standing after how long? Does it not boggle the mind?

I made a new friend  that evening, we had tea in his friend’s shop during which he asked me to have a stroll in the desert with him. The guy is Bedouin has never traveled more than four hours from his home and speaks three languages. He was cute and fun..the following morning I met him at 530a to see  the sunrise, sadly cause of the wacky haze stuff…not so much sun..but pics.

Not so much with the sun.

That one is a bit clearer..wow,  you can see the citadel walls.

Next up, Damascus.

Krac des Chevaliers

Filed under: Educational,Syria — she_travels at 2:48 pm on Sunday, May 16, 2010

From Wikipedia:

“Krak des Chevaliers, transliterated Crac des Chevaliers, is a Crusader fortress in Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval military castles in the world.

The castle is located east of Tripoli, Lebanon, in the Homs Gap, atop a 650-metre-high hill along the only route from Antioch to Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of many fortresses that were part of a defensive network along the border of the old Crusader states. The fortress controlled the road to the Mediterranean, and from this base, the Hospitallers could exert some influence over Lake Homs to the east to control the fishing industry and watch for Muslim armies gathering in Syria.

The original fortress at this location had been built in 1031 for the emir of Aleppo.”

There is oodles of info about the web on this huge castle.

Think ramp as the one Gandolf rode the white house up in the second Lord of the Rings film.

The light was a bit funny for  the camera but I wanted you to see curve of the wall and ceiling.

The grand hall.

The Canadians and I did not decide what this space was about, perhaps just look out tower…look at the carvings in top of the pillar, never mind how the thing flows into the ceiling.

I was confounded my the ceilings.

Moat at the bottom of the slanted wall.

Several levels of space.

Can’t forget the view. One has to be able to see one’s enemies approach if one is going survive.

Back down the ramp…

And the pic everyone who has ever goggled Krak des Chevaliers has seen, the only difference is… I snapped this myself. The place is HUGE to say the least.

Day Tour From Hama

Filed under: Syria — she_travels at 8:59 pm on Sunday, May 2, 2010

There were several stops on the itinerary..I was not really paying much attention to anything other than Krak des Chevaliers,  the premiere castle in the country. Anything else,  along with seeing some county side,  was going to be icing .

Citadel of Shayzar was first on the list. By the by ~ I had come on the journey with a couple from Canada and a driver in a  car, no mini van chock a block full of folk and bonus! I was the lucky gal in the front seat.

“Shayzar is built along the banks of the Orontes River just northwest of Hama, the Syrian town of Shayzar was, for much of its history, a strategic prize for the Muslim and Christian forces who battled for control of the region at the turn of the first millennium.”

Front gate.

I am on the other side of the moat.

Moat from the other side.

and the view!

Some rebel has a pink house.

The fruit trees are thinking it’s spring.

I think maybe Apamea was next…

“Apamea is especially distinguished for its high walls and the main thoroughfare surrounded by columns with twisted fluting. The street, known as the Cardo Maximus to the Romans, is 1.85 km long and 87 meters wide, running directly from north to south. It was lined on both sides with civic and religious buildings.”

Different rocks, different ages.

Can ya believe the arch is still standing?

Citadel at Masyaf was next on the list…

From the pamphlet I was given:

“Masyaf Citadel is one of  the best preserved castles of the Syrian Coastal mountains, it was once the headquarters of the Islamic Nazari Ismaili state. The origins if the fortified site and town date back at least to the 8th century BC. Traces of the Greek,  Roman and Byzantine eras still remain. ”

This place has four levels.

and let us not forget the view!

Look at those razor rocks they are building around.

Most of town is on the opposite side of the hill.

On to Saint George Monastery..

“It is said that the monastery was built over remains of an ancient statue of the god Homerus by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I sometime in the 5th century. The monastery occupies a 6,000 m² land and was built entirely from Byzantine styled stone. The modern church was rebuilt in 1857. Most of the older monastery’s items are preserved and displayed in the monastery. Its entrance features a triple arch and two central supporting columns of Byzantine origin.”

The newer part…cool ceiling.. huh?

Three arch doorway.

The original older part.

Bit of a view from the courtyard.

That is Krac des Chevaliers in the distance.

I am whipped gang..I have been at this all day. I might still have time to finish before I go to Washington next week.

Krac the castle is next…next time.