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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.

Hama

Filed under: Syria — she_travels at 6:08 pm on Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hama, Syria is famous for it’s water wheels. Sadly the water level was down so they were not turning when I was there but even so they are very cool.

This may end up in the 2010 favs pile.

Cool  huh?

Park, entry.

Feeding the geese.

Mish mash buildings.

Did ya want a pair of shoes?

Perhaps some shampoo?

Do ya even believe the color?

This guy was selling hot beverages from his bike.

Balloon guy for the tourists.

The kid was selling what not’s… I think the coffee guy was his father but the guy never once said anything to the kid.

I stayed at the Riad Hotel which is run buy a Syrian who learned his English from Aussies. This Arab guys sounds like as Aussie….I had to laugh…alot…the good news  he does too.  He suggested I go with a tour the following day to see many of the sites about Hama. I was cool with that.

Next up…. the Day Tour from Hama.

Aleppo ~ Redux

Filed under: Syria — she_travels at 5:07 pm on Sunday, May 2, 2010

If there is nothing else, and there is plenty, to love about Aleppo it is this.

Signage in English with places of interest in brown..woohoo! I don’t think I saw the sign that said Aleppo Citadel, I think I was following the Old Bazaars sign.

The butcher shops amazed me..over and over.

Musta been to early in the day for the shops to be open but look at that building!

Yes, before the shops opened.

I noticed the green coat 1st, then the not covered heads, between the two they were a dead give away for tourist…now the question..where are they going?  I had lost the bazaar signs so I was just wandering about.

Well looky here  Aleppo Citadel I believe.

The Citadel of Aleppo is a large medieval fortified palace in the center of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period.

Much more can be found on Wikipedia.

Come on…this is just cool..it’s out of a movie with a moat and bridge.

Shall we see if there is a dragon at  the gate?

Many of the next few are from inside the walls.

I think some of this is resonstruction.

The view was fairly amazing!

This was not about the birds.

Another one of  those…sun there not here pics. The green dome of a mosque is a nice touch.

One of those old and new pics… new being the wall of rounded glass, old being the building across the street.

This was the inside of the downstairs of this place.

Another from what felt like under the place.

Souqs (suq) I am not sure how it is spelled,  are for the most part narrow streets, some covered some not covered with smallish shops on either side. Much like what they were calling Bazaar in Turkey. Maybe souq is the old world word.

Anywho, the guy above was the belt maker…you can see his stacks of belts what you can’t see is the sewing machine in the back with stakes of leather about.

Do you even believe this building!

I could not pass up a pic of this shop, I waited a good 20 minutes for traffic of both people and cars to get a good shot. Was worth the wait.

I took a wrong/right turn and ended up back in the souqs.

Spices? and  I think the stuff in the rounded tin to the right is raw honey.

Mix your own scent.

String anyone?

I was fairly well lost by this point so I decided to go back in the souqs one more time.

This gal saw my camera. I was attempting a pic of the sheep skins behind her….she jumped right in front  of the camera. I showed her the pic, she smiled and waved then disappeared in to the crowd.

Ahh, sheep wool in the raw.

The building of shops that was closed on the way up in the morning…seems I am not as lost as all that, or not any more at least.  I have become very accustom to being lost and it doesn’t bother me much.

I musta gone back to the hotel cause this was taken from my balcony.  See the three ladies in black? One is completely covered, one has her eyes showing and one has her whole face showing.  The boy on front and the man behind where with them.

This was also from the balcony, he is grilling something and I am hoping it is chicken.

I was becoming more accustom to the men openly staring at me, on some occasion I felt  the need to say something.

I was waiting to cross the street when I noticed a guy of 30 something looking me up and down. I thought he was checking out my green shoes (everyone should have a pair of green Crockadiles). I pointed to the shoes smiling and said “Green Shoes”  then ran across the street headed for the guy in the pic above.  I was so very disappointed when I found out he was grilling lamb, I had tried it twice and truly did not like the stuff..so back across the street foraging for food I go.

Just around the bend I realized I have a tail, the green shoe guy was walking with me.  “One” he says.  I held my hands palm up, ” I do not understand.” “Two” is his reply.  I still don’t get it…  Then he points to me “One”  pats himself “Two”   Yeah, ok you can count in English, “I am sorry I still do not understand.”  My reward is “three”   In my head I am thinking really hard to come up with the answer… one two thee…one two three… I am still running one two three around in my head when he says “SIX!”   Right, one two three six..it makes perfect sense now…. what the hell? I know I am just lookin at this guy like he fell in from mars. He musta felt it cause he reaches in his pocket, pulls out a clip of Syrian notes…bonces against the money with his index finger and says “SEX!”  My look went from mars to the outer reaches of the universe as I said loudly with much confusion “Did you just ask me for money for sex? Are you a complete nutter? NO! NO!”

Have ya ever heard  the expression ‘His face fell’… I am telling you I think this guy has been practicing it in the mirror…like it was going to help any. I kid you not,  he went from a hopeful young man to a lost sad basset hound in the matter of seconds. The dude was a pouting basset hound. I walked off, when he caught up to me he had recovered his hopeful look. He decided,  as many men do,  that he did not heard NO and asked again. “SEX!”  I said no again and again, he made the pouting basset hound face…. he perked up tried one more time…this time I said “NO” and flicked my hand in his direction “NO,  find someone to bother.”

It occurred to me much later the poor guy was trying to find the right word for sex….he knew it sounded like a number but was having trouble getting his brain to sort out  the right word. All in all the whole thing was funny and not at any point did I feel threatened. What a wacky place this is..the chicks are covered in black and the guys go about offering money to tourists for sex.  Wacky!

Back to the search for food…

It would seem I found the new part of Aleppo.

With plenty of people out spending.

They may wear black in public but behind closed doors woohoo the color!

I have no idea where the building was..old though  huh?

My favorite from Aleppo.

Aleppo

Filed under: Syria — she_travels at 1:02 pm on Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ya know, I don’t think it was dark when I arrived in Aleppo, but it must have been getting close cause the 1st pics are at night.

Anywho, I could see the taxi guys lined up and ready to pounce before I got off the bus. I was pleased as punch the universe saw fit to tell my bladder I had to visit  the ladies, actually I may adopt  this tactic in future travels, I had to visit  the ladies before I say anything to any taxi guy about where I am going or how I am going to get  there…this way..I can Breath and believe in with this sort of travel breathing is paramount.

As I was telling yet another taxi guy I had to go to the ladies (what I did was point to the WC sign) I saw a green bus pull in to the station. I asked the taxi guy if the bus went to the “Centrum”…he looked at me ( dude was CUTE!) ,  in perfect English said “I will take you anywhere  you want to do go for 150sp.”  He farther attempted to tell me the bus didn’t go to where I wanted to. No worries, I still have to visit  the ladies.

While I was in the ladies room I realized I didn’t have what it took to pay the potty man. Yeah, I had a 500sp note on me but the guy was going to want some fraction of that…what to do,  what to do… Ermm, many places in the world will take $us. I had a few dollars on me.

I went out to pay the guy and offered him either or he snapped up the us dollar fast. I don’t remember change but I didn’t care then it occurred to me to ask “Bus to Centrum?”  When he nodded I showed him the 500sp note again, he understood and handed me a coin from his potty money.  I later found out it was  a 10. Now if ya wanna do the math, $1us is 45sp. This was a 10 coin. Talk about a fraction of  what the taxi guy wanted.

When I walked back the direction I had come the taxi guy who had said he would take me any where looked at me. I raised the coin in my hand and nodded in the direction of the bus. A big ole grin showed on his face, did I figure it out or was I about to get lost? Either way… it should be fun.

I got on the bus, handed the driver the coin the potty guy had given me. The bus driver produced a very small bit of paper he put in a machine (click) one way, turned it around, click a second time then handed the now cut off edges bit of paper to me.  Yea, ok, wacky..why twice?

I was paying very close attention to where I was and where I was going. Aleppo, thank goodness, signs both in Arabic and English….when I realized there was a chance the bus was going some place other than the center of town I popped up to the driver.  I pointed ahead saying “Are you going that way?”  He shook his head and pointed to my right. Cool, time to hop off  the bus and hoof it. I gave him a smile and a wave.

I had walked many 5 blocks when I came upon about four banks in a row. I was rather excited about this cause there is much discussion on the web about not being able to find a bank in Aleppo which will  give western ATM cards money. The exchange rate is always better if ya just get money out of your own account and ya don’t have to worry as much about getting taken.

I continued to walk past  the banks and realized I may be too far..I have no idea why I thought this being I didn’t have a map or anything to say so.  I saw several people coming toward me “Hotels?”  One of the ladies pointed back the way I had come and maybe to the right, I turned back the way I had come.  I was not sure so when I saw a police man a bit father down the hill I asked again pointed to what was now my right.  “Hotels”  He nodded and pointed through what seems a dark closed street.

I was not even out of the cops view before I saw the lights and many people….one more bend in the turn and I was standing in view of the clock tower.

The place was chock a block full of people! Including a swarm of people to my right watching a monster TV screen. I was not paying much attention to what was on.

Handmade soap is one of Aleppo’s claims to fame.

I had to find a place to sleep… there were a ton of them around but goodness me everyone was full. I finally happened upon a place I was willing to pay for but silly me I didn’t have enough money. The guy was very accommodating,  told me I could pay him the following day.  It was still pleseant out even though it was after dark, there were plenty of people in the streets so I decided I would pop back to the bank street to get some cash.

Imagine my surprise when I realized I had a tag along, he was not moving properly, perhaps a limp, he may have been a half a bubble off of level what I do remember very clearly was “kiss kiss kiss”  in my ear.  Dude was thinking some random chick walking down the street was going to stop to  give him a kiss?  I sped up my walk, pretty much left him standing there. I was careful to make sure no one was paying any attention to me at the bank. The 1st three did not work…then I started reading signs…some of  the banks say ‘Of Syria” these I think have blocks so the system can’t find my account in the states.  The fourth bank saw fit to give me cash.

On the way back, mind you it is still dark, there was a group of four people who passed me, two ladies and two guys, the ladies where walking arm and arm with the men.  I about fainted when one of the guys looked over his should past his ladies ear to look at me…I can tell you she was just as surprised cause she jerked his arm and said some thing.  In this land, short, round with big breasts is exotic. It takes some getting used to.

I went back past the huge TV screen to find out it was something political… ok,  time to get off the streets before some thing truly wacky happens.

I was very much looking forward to a nice warm shower…silly me I did not ask about hot water. NONE!  Phooey.

The next morning at 8a, I went looking for other accommodation, found the Tourist Hotel, he didn’t have a single but gave me a double (two double beds) with a baloney for $900. The 1st was a single for $600. The balcony alone was worth the extra six dollars. Course the bathroom was shared across the hall.

I had a lovely shower before heading off to see what Aleppo was all about in the day light.

Mardin, Turkey to Aleppo, Syria

Filed under: Syria,Turkey — she_travels at 11:57 am on Sunday, May 2, 2010

Couple of things about Mardin… I spent the better part of a day snapping pics and wandering through the walkways in the old city. I saw few people until  closer to the main street.

The Ptt (postman) noticed me while he was talking to someone in a car. I thought he was going to come across the street to say some thing but he didn’t.  About forty minutes later I was standing in a mud patch above the new city looking for a way down the hill (I had taken the bus up)..when I saw the path people had been taking for ages I turned…to find the Ptt guy looking right at me.  His English was only slightly better then my Turkish. He wanted to know where I was from where I was going who I was with and if I was going to walk down the hill. I answered all his questions while showing him the camera so he understood I had stopped for the photos.  One becomes accustom to this sort of encounter in this place, everyone is so darn friendly they just wanna have a chat with ya.

When I was half way down the hill I realized I was almost in the parking lot of an honest to goodness store, I was not sure if  they were selling only clothes but figured if there was food to be had I could go for a hunk of cheese.  I walked through the automatic doors to be completely dumbfounded, I was standing in the veggie/bakery section of a Safeway, ok it was Megg-something or other but dang it looked like Safeway to me.

One truly should not pass up a bakery in any country… the two gals behind the counter were all kinds of chatty, “Where are you from, What is your name, Are you here alone”  We decided I would have a bit of several of the offered items,   she cut them in bite sized bits and I was on my way.  These two gals were the second I had spoken with, the 1st being the ladies on the bus in Anamur, the German chick doesn’t count, she is German.

On to the border…

Right then, one can get to about anywhere from anywhere in this part of the world, the only snag is how many transfers, at what price,  to what mode of transport you might have to take.

Mom and I did a day in Thailand(2008) , maybe I will remember all of it, here goes..  walked to the river boat, river boat to the skytrain, skytrain to the last stop,  bus to the airport,  a plane to Phuket,  bus to the ferry dock, ferry to Ko PhiPhi, and walked to the accommodation.  I have a vague memory of Mom saying “Let’s don’t do that again.”

I took a big bus from Mardin to Nusaybin, the driver kicked me out in a parking lot with a couple fruit sellers and what looked like taxi drivers.  I thought I could see the way to  “town” but that didn’t really mean I had any idea where the border gate was so…. to any of  the men willing to listen, I said “Dolmus? Syria?” They (maybe 4 guys) collectively said “no Dolmus, Taxi” I replied “Aww come on, Dolmus?”  I was rewarded with smiles and more negatives than the 1st time. I tell ya there must be something in my voice that brings the men in this country out of the wood work.

Ok, no dolmus….. “How far to Syria?  Walk?” as I mimed walking.  The 1st response was 2k… shezz I can do 2k easy…then someone behind me said 10k.  We, all the men and I,  chatted a bit about just how far it was when someone had the for thought to go get one of the cars they use as taxi. In the end with all of us laughing and me saying “ok , ok, ok,  I tossed my bag in the little truck,  gave the guy 10 lira and let him take me where he would.

As we approached the border I realized I could have walked it but I may never have found the actual border. The giggles alone where worth the 10 lira.

The border looking toward Turkey.

Looking toward Syria. Yeah, I really am the only one out here… I was just as surprised as you.

When crossing borders there is always a bit of confusion. They are all kinda the same, or the ones I have been through are but ya still get a case of the “where, who, should I”‘ going on in your head.

When I got down to the building with the rust-ish roof you can just see,  there was a  group/line of about six people. Some discussion was had about where and to whom I was to give my passport, being American it goes to someone other than the guy having a peek at the Turkish/Syrian passports.  While I was waiting for the guy to give it back a heavy set older lady in a dark long coat and scarf over her head walked right up to me, took my coat collar on both sides and with a smile showed me in no uncertain terms I was to zip my coat in an attempt to hide my breasts.  Mind you, I was wearing a shirt under my coat which covered all of my skin. This was my introduction to Syria, cover as much as possible weather and heat be damned.

With the Turkish exit stamp I walked to the closed gate beyond the building, one of the two  guards asked for my passport when I gave it to him he walked off.  I started to follow my passport through  the gate when the second guard stopped me. One tends to listen to anyone in a military uniform,  as with many borders these guys were carrying automatic weapons… one truly respects anything these guys have to say.   I was not overly concerned about getting through cause of pass port issues, I had sent my passport to Wash DC to get the visa before I left the states . Now, it was all about waiting to see what happened next.

The passport stealing guard  came back but without my passport, he motioned me to follow him. We were headed to a building marked “Welcome to Syria”.

Most of  the people who were in the Turkey exit line were in this room with a counter and passport guys on the other side. The gate guard said something to one of the men behind the counter. This new guy  asked my name, I think just to make sure I was the American he was looking for,  I was the only one around for miles. This was were something very strange happened, the passport guys starting talking to me, I mean conversation talking, they were laughing and smiling, it was a little unnerving cause most border guys, shezz,  if you can get them to look at you, you are doing well.

At some point they became serious asked me my name again, where I was going, where I was coming from, what my travel plan was, they asked both my mother and my father’s names.  When they had all the answers they wanted I was rewarded with smiles, waves  and chorus of “Welcome to Syria” from all of them, including some of the people waiting to  get their passports back.  Friendly doesn’t even come close to describing with these people are.

There was one more guard who stopped me to ask where I was going.  While I was looking for the answer in my note book ( I wanted to tell him the town name not just Syria) he waved me past..I think he got tired of waiting on me to find the answer.

One more gate and I was,  yet again,  in the middle of a flock of men (taxi guys).  There was some discussion about where I was going (hotel, bank, bus station) and how much it was going to cost.. I think I was taken (for to much money) but there are days ya just can’t keep track of everything.

The taxi guy took me from the border through the town of Qamishle to the bus station. He showed me the correct place to buy  a ticket to Aleppo.  I didn’t know it at the time but the bus guys in Syria not only want your passport but take it away…I was a tad concerned but decided I best go with the flow. I paid for the ticket, was told which bus and what time (10 minutes) but my passport had not come back yet. When it did the guy said “The police want to speak with you.”  Right then, what is a gal to do but go see the police.

Come to find out the guy who had taken my passport was the only English speaker around, he ended up being translator between the cops and me. The questions were the same as the border.. my name, where I was going, where I was coming from, what my travel plan was, they asked both my mother and my father’s names. Once the police guy had written down all my answers I was given my passport back and ushered to my assigned seat on the bus.

Enough of the text…pics comin at ya.

I know its fuzzy, I was not in the front seat. Adobe home on all that green field.

One can tell exactly where the water runs.  Yes, those are sheeps.

It felt like a check point but I am not clear on what was up.

I think that black sticky up plant out there is for fire fuel to cook with.

No, help with  the man/female signage for bathrooms, thank goodness the ladies on the bus adopted me.

This says male. They look darn close to me.  In most of the areas I was in, larger towns they had WC signs like Turkey.

Th edge of one of  the towns we rolled past.

Grain elevator? Gotta get the seeds from all these green fields to someplace.

We found a lake…ya know I think that trip was five hours or so…I know it was dark by  the time I arrived in Aleppo.

Much like in Turkey, trees to harvest.

A bit closer to Aleppo. This looks to be the last of  the trip, ahh yes I remember this is why….

Trees along  the road.

Next up… Aleppo.

Fast Fast

Filed under: Syria — she_travels at 7:27 am on Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hey Gang, I am in Syria having a grand time. Internet is nonexistent in accommodation at my price level and cafes are few and far between.

I will be here a few days then busing it 8 hours back to the border of Turkey and Syria. I think I will hop a plane to Istanbul. I have had quite enough of buses.

Anywho, I am safe and sound…not a worry in the word.

I have several stories and a photo or two to share one I can use my computer again.