Monday, November 12, 2007

Departing Syria

Arriving at the airport found that there was security before you could get to the counter to check luggage. There was a hole in the wall to put your bags in and a little way over was tan opening for people to be checked. In the list of forbotten objects was sharp objects (knives, scissors, …, swords). How many people try to take swords on a plane and why list swords specifically? Of course there is a sword that barely fits in the biggest duffle bag I could buy in Damascus. As there is no one on this side of the wall to discuss the issue I go for it and send the bag through the hole in the wall x-ray machine. Then it takes ten minutes to get through the queue to get searched and pass to through the wall. I find the bag is sitting on a counter with four men sitting around it. So I walk over, pick it up as the guys seemed a little distracted and head for the airline counter. No one stops me. In the line for the airline I realize I left another bag back at security as I was making a break for it with the forbidden stuff. I leave my big duffle bag in line and hurry back to security 150ft away. I find my other bag and as I approach the airline counter my big duffle bag is no longer there. I though I was not looking at the bag for less than 30 seconds. I spot it in an empty slot at the counter. I go to retrieve the bag and find I have been moved to the front of the queue. The airline accepts the bag and places a “security check” sticker on the bag. I feel happy and safe. In Chicago I am question about why I was Syria and Lebanon and I kept refraining from the answer I wanted to give was “they have the best training camps”. So immigration does not invite me to visit sunny Cuba. I pickup my luggage and head through customs with nothing to declare. They x-ray everything and do not comment on the sword or the three bottles of wine in the big duffle bag. Check my duffle again and watch them throw the bag on the conveyor belt with a big thump. Good new the truck made it to the repair shop 40 miles away after I put three quarts 40 weight (all the nearest gas station had) in the bone dry differential. All the wine made it so we need to have a Lebanese wine tasting party.

Love and Kisses

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Interesting Encounter in Damascus

I got into a heavy discussion with one of the other guests at the hotel. He was a young Iraqi doctor who was on two weeks vacation. He lives in Sunni triangle which he called the death triangle and has seen a good bit of the conflict. He could stay in Syria and work as a doctor, but he loves his home and wants to return. He also wanted the US out, so the civil war will happen and after 6 months the conflict would be decided. He believed the daily killing would be over, as he reports over 1 million Iraqi dead to the current date. He believes the US troops are just prolonging the civil war and the civil war needs to run its course to allow a stable government to form. Noting nothing is going to change Bush in office for another year. He had difficulties understand how our government could continue in Iraq while a majority of Americans want the US out. Explaining how our government works seem inadequate to someone suffering its bureaucratic and political inefficiencies. He also wanted to know how life in America was. I did not feel right when I told him that most Americans are living a good life and most people feel no effects of the Iraq war. I found it difficult trying to discuss life in America to someone dealing with the effects of our government trying to impose its will on his country and lives with regular killings. I wished him luck as he is a neurosurgeon and he knows he is a target as a doctor for kidnappers or just get shot. Kidnappers believe doctors have lots of money so they ask for a million dollars and he makes $200 a month. Love & Kisses Steve

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Monastic Life

Headed out of Damascus for a religious trip. Stopped in Maalula to see the narrow canyon which God opened up to help a lady escape the roman solder who had her trapped up against the cliffs. There were street lights attached to the canyon walls which could have been added later. Never did a slot canyon that was lighted before. Then I headed on to Mar Musa to try the monastic life as I was told the hot babes hang out there. Did find evenings of meditation and services in Arabic ( which is sort of like the old Latin services) as with both I only understand a few word. There were the hot babes, but my subtle non approaching ways did not pull them in.

The place was cool as it was an old Roman watch tower in a canyon that had been converted in the sixth century to a monastery. You must walk a 1.5 k up the canyon to the place. I sleep in a nice cave that had a stone bed and a pad on it. It had the true monastic feeling with these kind of sleeping arrangements. During one of the services one of the bible passages was 1 Kings 20 that was read during the service. It describes the Israelites soundly defeating the Syrians This did bring on some heated discussions involving Afghanistan, America and Hezbollah, but of coarse this was all in Arabic so I caught only a few words. The chapel is covered in 12 century frescoes and the floor is covered in carpets with pillows to sit and lean against which makes for a relaxing service. A German minister found out there is no snoring during meditations. There was of coarse a fresco of St Simeon on his pillar in on corner. More pictures are coming in a few days if I make it through the next border crossing and do not end up vacationing in Cuba.
Love and Kisses

Out of Beirut

Most buildings in Beirut show no damage, but some show major impact of the conflict. Saw over 30 large cranes working on various new buildings and there is much rebuilding everywhere. Downtown is seems strange as there are no cars allowed and it is all new building with a atmosphere of feels sterile. And of course there are soldier every half block or more in the downtown area so you can feel safe. So I am departing Beirut and its major building projects.
I head off to Baalbek. On the way there I get to see the major bridge between Damascus and Beirut still being repaired from last years disagreement with their southern neighbor. Thought it not a good idea to take a picture of it as some have already proved it is a military target.

Baalbek has great temples with one to Bacchus (wine, sex, and song god) being the nicest. It is also called the small temple even though it is bigger than the Parthenon. Outside the vender's kept pushing yellow tee shirts on me, which is not my color and I could not think of where I would wear a Hezbollah tee shirt. Yes the town did show it colors in support of their favorite group as its head quarters are there. Then I was off to Aanjar which was a very orderly Umayyad ruined city with very strait streets and door all the same distance apart. It was a very planned city but most of it was only four feet high now. Then another border crossing and I was back in Damascus.
Love and kisses

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Beirut Roof

Oct 29 2007
Roof sleeping and the lights stay on all night.  It is cheaper, but you pay in other ways.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Oct 28 2007
After climbing Leban highest peak which is basically a easy hike, but looses some of appeal when a SUV pulls up on top also. Yes the path to the top is a dirt road now. The only compensation for having a SUV show up was one of the beautiful girls in it want to get picture with me so she hugged me for the picture. Did sleep on the ridge that divided both valleys catching a great sunset and sunrise. The sleeping bag did a good job at not over heating with me keeping the mummy bag opening just large enough for my nose as there was 30 mph winds and near freezing temperatures. Winds did not subside all night so I bundle up in my light pile jacket and rain jacket and hurried off the pass in the morning. Hitching a ride with a driver off the pass and just said hello to him. This got me driven almost to Tripoli without discussion. While I was taking off my coats and trying to put them in the pack, several security groups descended on me and once they viewed my American passport they were happy. Also was doing as quick change of the shit as I was noticing its smell. Oh I had changed plans and wanted to visit the ruins at Byblos.
Got to Byblos after the bus dropped me off two miles passed the town ( so I got to hike a little bit more). Driver forgot to let me off and I noticed the ruins as we passed. Being dropped off late did allow me to get a picture of this billboard. I keep seeing this bill board on all the highways and was curious on what it said like (i.e. want to see the world we got a opportunity for you)
The ruin at Byblos is a collection 9000 years of history all mixed together. There was the group that liked small block and the ones who liked big blocks. Some were stack up hill sides, while others where stacked in upright walls. There were even some who like round columns. There were the group how put their dead is nice stone boxes at the bottom of 40 ft pits. Also a obelisk temple. Then of course there was a Crusader Castle in the middle of all this. Byblos also has Pepe the Pirate who is on in his age, but he had many of the sixties and seventies famous come to his hopping night club. So I stopped into the Fishing Club for my first beer of this trip. It was a good Lebanese beer.
Micro bus dropped me off in Beirut and I was lost again. Caught a taxi who could figure out generally where the hotel was. Dropped off 5 blocks from the hotel. With the help of some nice ladies along the way I was able to find it after a half hour or so. How nice it is to get a hot shower when you really need one and the cloth laundered. Found when I was directed to hang my cloth out on the roof that it had a full size lighted billboard on it with a few beds under it. These did look like some people were using them. Glad I had a dorm room and not the bright lights. About Beirut, in one night Peter O'Toole hanging out with Omar Sharif lost a years wages at the tables. A few bits of news worthy things happened since then. Did see a few pox marked buildings and one twenty story building with some quite noticeable divots. But it is dark and I will see more in the daylight. Killing a little time before the clubs open. Takes a while to get the camera just start up now with all the impact modulation I do to it to motivated it to work. Lost telephoto feature completely today.
Love and Kisses

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Oct 26 2007
Took a easy day and wonder the soak and its narrow alley ways.  There is no pattern to the layout of these passages.  It could be described as similar to Diagon Alley from Harry Potter with little shops selling there unique items.  The passages way turn and that.  The sook has been built over 2000 years with old arches crossing passages.  Some ceiling are made of stone from centuries ago and then there are the dark passages leading off to the side.  Throngs of people are working there way through the market.  Coming back to a side passage you could swore it had moved from where you saw it last. 
In Tripoli the largest restaurant seem to be only selling pastries and dessert.  I will need to stop in to one to check, but I think they have the right idea.  There was also always a line at one food stand serving french fries, coleslaw and a bit of ketchup rolled up in flat bread ( I am not read to try this even if it is vegi). 
I am off tomorrow to the Cedars Leban oldest ski area and if the weather holds I will climb Qornet as-Swada 3090m Leban tallest peak.  The area is a stronghold of Maronite Christian Phalange party, one Leban many diverse groups.  Security is much tighter here with lots of checkpoints and big gun.  You know one that need to have a vehicle to move them.  So traffic seems a little less chaotic as they supervised much more.
Then I am off to Bekaa valley to see the ancient ruins of the Greek, Romans and before. May be away from the internet for a while as I am in the mountains.  Also a quiz on current events.  What is the Bekaa Valley currently know for?
Love & Kisses

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Made it across the border to Lebanon white no problems. Got a taxi ride from the border to Tripoli. Three ladies in the back of the taxi all wanted to come to America. There was a request for my phone number and I ended up giving each a business card. They checked on my marriage status and then there were heavy hint I should marry one of them. I think I will be getting call in Arabic which I am not sure what I can say as I did not understand much in the taxi.
Last nights hotel I picked the room where the sheets did not look lied on. Of coarse the door did not lock and bathroom did if you closed the door, but could not be opened from the inside. Tonight I am stay in a hotel that is advertised as "miss your grandma, stay with us" and it fells like Grandma with all the doilies, and spotless rooms. Off to explore the city.

Love and Kisses,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A quick change in countries

Marqab Castle

Sala ad-Din Castle
Built their own canyon

Just finished touring the crusader castles and traveling up the coast. Currently I am in Latakia and tomorrow I head for Tripoli. Hope I can cross the border into Lebanon as I have not found the requirements for the border crossing as the book covers the airport. Down to my last 500 SP = $10 and I am hoping it will get me to Lebanon. Not sure I need 200SP for the exit fee. Want to see Cedars and hike the high mountains of Lebanon. Then tour the Bekaa Valley. Hoping the southern neighbor does not drop anything on me. And I have not been keeping up with the news so I not sure if there are problems currently. Been traveling hard and late so will catchup on pictures and stories when I can. Let me just say on narrow mountain roads you can regularly pass cars on blind turns. The strange thing is I have not seen any accidents, if maybe due to the drivers being very aware of what is around them.

Love and Kisses


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Assassin and a Grand Castle

Got a late start as I found there were more norias in Hama to check out. Then I was off to

the Masyaf. I get to Masyaf and can see the Castle easily. Walk around on the road where the local directs me and so I do not need to go down into the valley and then backup to the castle on the hill. In the narrow winding streets of town I end up a half mile on the other side of the castle. Went for the direct valley root this time and get there. Masyaf castle was the Assassin Castle where the Old Man of the Mountain (Rashid ad-Din Sinan) sent his faithful to do his bidding. Richard the Lion Heart visited him and Rashid ad-Din Sinan to show his loyalty of his followers started ordering them to step off the top castle wall. Richard did note he was impressed and was able to have the third diver saved from his jump. The castle is full of narrow passage ways and dark rooms. As always I have my light so I could go into all the rooms with a quick check to make sure know one was lurking in a dark corner or behind me. You can never be to careful.

Krak Des Chevaliers is a big castle lots of large rooms and tunnels to explore. Got there with only a hour and half before it closed, but I was motivated. You can walk across the tallest roof and there is no wall or guard rail, like what England's and Ireland's castles used to be. This is no kids play room, it is a big kids playground. Errol Flynn would have enjoy battling his way across this castle and then back again. You could keep a couple hundred horses in the keep in all the large rooms and have plenty of room upstairs for the men. Made it through the whole castle just as the the clock ran out. Then headed down the mountain for some exterior shots. Found a short cut of stairs avoiding some of the roads switch backs. Then get a offer from a Minibus with a group of people already in it, offering to take me to the main highway or Homs. I hop in and the van turns around and takes me backup the hill. At one of the switchbacks going up to the castle he turns on another road leading away from the castle. I was going the wrong way again, but the gods had took pity on me and put me on the right track. The drive insisted that it would be hard to hitch on the Homs -Tartus highway and I should go to Homs. I went for the highway as rides had only take five minutes so far here in Syria. I turned down the taxi at 500SP = $10 offers to Tartus that came by as I waited for a minibus that were 35SP on principle. After a hour of standing on the divided freeway in the dark, I knew the minibus driver was right. Had finished the last of the water at Krak Des Chevaliers and I was thirsty. The last time I had eaten one of the pomegranates, it had made me thirsty and that was all the food I had. So it would be a long night if I had to camp. After a hour and a half a minivan pulls over and offers the ride at 100SP. That was close enough to my principles so I was off. Cars that had no taillights that we race up upon were described as donkeys by my drive. Also just because the highway is divided by a concrete wall and reminds me of a interstate highway does not mean all the traffic on your side is heading in the same direction. This country would be fun to drive. In Tartus went with the hotel that the guide did not recommend seeing a dermatologist after staying at it.

Love and Kisses

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Apamea and Dead Cities

Nothing interesting to report other than my camera is taking a lot of encouragement to run. So I am just sending photos while I can. Apamea a Greek and Roman city and Dead Cities Al-Bara and Serjilla which which are part of 300 city that were abandoned. Earthquake encourage a number of the cities to be emptied Al-Bara was the starting point of an attack on Ma'arat an-Nu'amam where they ended up dining on the inhabitants. Off to the Assassin Castle (Old Man of the Mountain) and Krak Des Chevaliers "the finest castle in the world" TE Lawrence. Oh the taxi drive when heading back insisted on the front passenger wearing a seat belt. He directed us in the back not to even attempt to find ours. Then he showed off that the front belts did not work other than show for the police on the main highway.


Dead Cities

Love and Kisses


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Moving on from Aleppo

Oct 21 2007
Today I took it easy are sleeping on the roof of the hotel Special rate). Toured the Aleppo souk since if was now open for business. On the way back saw a blind man with a cane walking with traffic in three lanes of active taxis. Could not help as I could not talk to him and it would be dangerous trying to get near him with the traffic. Then on to Hama with its fame water wheels called norias and river gardens. The wheels are quiet large 20m and they still turn delivering water to the aqueduct. For the those Durango folks I might even support the ALP project if they could use these kind of water wheels. Off to see more dead cities and Ampeara tomorrow in a organized group ( am I being civilized??? ). Hama had the chance to rebuild itself are a 1982 revolt where much of the old town was raised in the ensuing bombardment. The town does look quiet nice now.
In Hama I did come across this whiteboard on the side of a building that listed their current issues. Nice to see someone whiteboarding the problems as they see it.
Love and Kisses

Friday, October 19, 2007

Qala'at Samaan

Got a earlier start to Qala'at Samaan. Van driver shows me that stop lights are very optional. He is not one that lets anyone pass him. We do stop in time for a pair of kids 4 and 6 that run in front of us. They are apprehended by a older kid on the other side of the road and a not so happy adult is heading to the kids as we speed off. The van takes me to Qala'at Samaan then I need to bargain down the price a little as I was happy to be left in the town nearby that was the normal stop, but we did beat the buses.

St Simeon early in life join a monastery, then this was not for him so he move to a cave to live more severely to get closer to his god. People heard of him as a pious person and came visiting asking for his blessing. He moves onto a three meter pillar as he does not like to be touched. He continues to increase the pillar over time to 18 meters. It had a railing and a chain that goes around his neck to keep him from falling off. He does this for forty years and preaches from the pillar. He does not talk to women this includes his mother. I wonder if Freud has commit about the ever increasing pillar and the mother issues St Simeon. He is possibly the most famous person of the 5 century. There was even a fad of others living on pillars he started, but the fade died out in winter in northern Europe. So they built the largest church in Europe for the 5 century on his pillar site after he died. All that is left of the pillar is a boulder as pilgrims took a bit of it.

The modern church does seem to stick with his philosophy. So there remains part of a church and castle walls to help keep Islam out for a while. Went to Deir Samaan the village that had built up below and is now part of the dead cities. There were a few nice carved stones in Deir Samaan. Then I was hitching 18k up the road to Ain Dara. First ride was boring till he stopped in a village and suggested that I take a minivan there. I went over to the van and they were going to Aleppo the other way. Then went up to a truck setup to take passengers in back. The driver directed me to the back there were two guys and a lot of women. One of the women start asking questions (Yes I get to talk to a Syrian lady). One of the men invite me to his home but I turn him down. We pull off the main road and stop. The driver gets out and introduces me to his family which all the passengers are connected. Kisses me on the cheeks, (so that is what it feels like when I do not shave) and tells me Ain Dara is 3k up the road. I decide to walk. A tractor stops for me as I walk and invite me on board. I join the other passenger on the wheel well. The next town they pull down another road and let me off. And give me a pomegranate to send me on my way. They are Kurds and they were great.

Short distance now so I am again walking. A small pickup truck pulls up and ask me where I am going and invites me in. He drives me to Ain Dara. He introduces me to the caretaker and they start to talk as I climb the hill to the ruins. There is not much left but a large lion statue.

I come back down to find the caretaker and the man that drove me there playing Morelles. I sit down and see the caretaker is the master. When they are done the driver takes me 6k to Nahr Afreen which has a Minibus station. He gives me a Pomegranate as a parting gift. Stopping into a felafel shop across the road and talk to the owner as I eat. He won't let me pay when I leave. Syrian hospitality is good. The minibus ride into town makes me want to drive. In my heart I like to drive the way they do, but restrain my self in America. Spent the evening touring Aleppo's Citadel. I think we can take it with a giant wooden badger, I think they are on to wooden rabbits. It has great views of the city.

Love and kisses


Up at dawn taking pictures of Rasafa. Rasafa castle walls are 400m long on each of its four sides (yeah a square for you math majors). Much of the buildings inside are still buried with tops arches and doors just showing. The interesting part is the cisterns. Which are four stories high under ground. It took a while for me to spot the entrance that lead down a dark tunnel to the bottom of the cisterns.

It was like being in a cathedral.

After wondering about a good bit I leave as the tour groups showed. Did not take long to hitch a ride with a Kurdish man in a old Nissan truck that had a top speed was 60 kph. He liked Bush and did not appreciate what the Turks are doing for his people. He wanted nothing for the ride to Mansoura. Kurds are great. I crossed the road and was in a minivan going to Aleppo, not even a chance for a meal. Yes you can put 15 adults into a minivan for hours. Sitting in the back looking at a van full of men wearing kufeyya (red and white Arab headdress) I did have a flash back of a bad Hollywood movie involving Arabs. Van dropped me off on a main street and I was lost in Aleppo. Decided to get a cab. The cab driver does not know where the hotel is I am looking for and does not know English. He takes my guide book while driving and I note the person in the road, so he looks up and breaks. He see the hotel phone number and dials that is a good sign. He has directions and we find the hotel. I spend the rest of the evening wondering the closing souk.
Love and Kisses

Rasafa A Pilgrimage Of Sorts

The med student that I was seated next too knew some English so we could talk. Half way through the trip the person in front of us went "gawk" then started convulsing and foaming from the mouth. I immediately used my medical training from fire fighting and stepped out of the way of the med student who wanted to get to him. Then I assumed my supervisor stance having a seat to lean against. The drivers assistant splashed water on him and he came around after a minute. He was fine for the rest of the trip up the Euphrates Valley. The Euphrates Valley is flat and filled with fields that looked nice in the sunset. Arriving in Monsoura I bought 3 litters of water and some flat bread. I started walking for Rasafa as it has no regular transportation. Trucks and cars kept coming up to drive me the 25k asked for 250-300SL. The guide describes this as extortion. It took a kilometer for one kid to stop following me while continually asking questions in Arabic. I believe my Arabic consist of three words currently. So my little interrogator got nothing from me. I was feeling good about a night walk as I had been traveling to Rasafa all day sitting. It was starting to feel like a pilgrimage , but no walking barefoot or crawling. At a sign at the edge of town showed Rasafa 21k and I was holding a good pace. Then a small truck pulled up. As I approached the cab filled with six people the driver yelled "bawala" and pointing to the back of the truck. I hoped in for the ride and they raced off. When we got to Rasafa the asked for payment which I gave them 60 SP that I had been presenting to the earlier ride offers. They had no complains about the payment and sped off. I walked past Rasafa castle and out into the desert for a quiet nights rest and dinner (yes just bread and water, sort of a penitence I guess, but not sure why).
Love and Kisses

Deir ez-Zur

Arriving in Deir ez-Zur I alone was invited to the bus security office. They collected all the important information including my mother's and father's name. Then had to explain to them with their limit understanding of English that I would be therefor only a couple of hours to eat and see the suspension foot bridge. I decided to walk and quickly realized I was lost. Spotted the oldest and nicest minaret and work my way towards it. Found the center of town after asking at a shop where the direction included arm waved in a circle and then the arm swung hard to the left. At the round about I turned left and came upon the center of town. In Deir ez-Zur was the first place a local showed he was genuine not happy I was there. So they were happy I moved on from were they were.

The souk was a working souk as they built thing there along with selling. Showed a tailor the hole in my day pack and he immediately stop his other project and fixed my pack. Then would not except payment. Did see some Bedouin woman with face tattooing, but did not go for any pictures.

The 400m foot suspension bridge a bit modern for my tasted, but it did allow me to cross over the Euphrates river. Big flat river to boat, but I can't remember if has any large sharp tooth lizards.
In leaving Deir ez-Zur required getting a hand written slip of paper from security to give to the bus company before I could buy a ticket. The bus company was concerned that I wanted to go to Mansoura,as it would be dark when I got there and there were no hotels. They wanted me to go to Raqqa as it had hotels. The guide noted Raqqa should be avoided for over night stays as they were not up to its low standard. I did not want to get stuck in Raqqa. I insisted on Mansoura even though it is not a regular bus stop. Paid a little extra for the ticket as it was not a regular stop which came out to 80SP. The helpful bus official asked for a $10 "souvenir" (his words) as I boarded. He ask several times, but I politely refused as I thought it was not a appropriate souvenir as it was useful and was not schlock.
Love & Kisses

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Going to Rasafa

Could not find anyone to share the trip to Rasafa on my own. The clerk at my hotel did not know of anyone going to Rasafa, but could provide a driver for a $100. As I was not excepting his kind offer he ask what I would pay maximum, which I gave at $30. He came back later at $45. Trying the Citadel Hotel Leon said he had a guest going to Rasafa and I should come back at 9-9:30 pm. I was back at 9 and a new person at reception had me wait. At 9:40 I was moving to leave, I was told that Leon was talking to a doctor who was doing the trip. Five minute later Leon was there trying to find out how much I would pay for a trip by myself. The other guest seem to no longer existed. I left. Did not see any other hotel owners out and about at this hour. The next morning went to other hotels trying to find any other travelers to Rasafa. One had me sit and wait ten minutes before he told me he could not find a driver. Other hotel wanted to know how much I would pay for a driver.
Plan B Deir ez-Zur and the long way around to Rasafa. I have time and for 80 SP I was going to Deir ez-Zur. The bus to Deir ez-Zur has a curtain over the upper part of the front window, so I cannot see More than 20 feet of the road ahead. We only spend a third of the time in the oncoming lane and the driver smiles widely every time we past another vehicle. I am sure one of the dangling things above the window has "God is Merciful" in Arabic and we have a good horn.


With a predawn start to Palmyra in search with of the good light from the rising sun that gives that nice orange color.

Palmyra has columns every where and lots in rows. The Palmyrians liked their god Bel, from what remains of his temple. It was made to make you feel small in their gods presents and of course impress the shit out of you. They tossed a lot of big pieces of sandstone up six stories tall.

There were also a number of smaller roman temples. We assume they were not as popular.
There are over three hundred tombs and many are in the Valley of the Tombs. The tombs were mainly towers some reaching five stories. The gave each person a two foot tall space then stack the next person on top to enjoy the beginning of their after life. Of course most of the tombs appeared sacked at one time or another. There were stairs leading to the top of a number of tombs and temples. This gave me great views. Earlier I was going over a piece of stone wall and part of it disinigrates dropping me two feet to the ground. This did made the climbing the towers more interesting as they are missing parts of the floor, sides of building and a number of steps. But the old morter held as I went for a view from the top.
I hiked along a ridge that lead from the Valley of the Tombs to Qala' at ibn Maan which was a nice castle on a hill. During the trip I spotted a jackal running over the ridge in front of me. Qala' at ibn Maan has a decent number of rooms to explore and the battlements give great views.
Love and Kisses

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Palmyra at night

Oct 18 2007 
After dark the town comes alive. There is the quiet tourist zone where mini buses will shuttle their visitors to and from hotels outside the tourist zone. They do this even if the hotel is two blocks from the tourist center and down lighted streets. A few block from the tourist zone children are playing in the streets. Posses of girls walking about in traditional black, white scarves or the modern MTV fashion. Old men with their crew hang out sit in front of their stores or the local kabob shops. Motorcycles cruise the street and some even have their lights on. There is also a good number of taxis moving people about all on the same streets the quick children are playing (not like Ireland where they post everywhere they have "slow children"). As I walk about men say hello and ask me to sit with them. Then I give the following answers to there questions: America, no children or wife, Palmyra tomorrow, three weeks, ... then the discussion can get more interesting as Bush compared to Adolf H. or the fears Americans have about Syria. I then wonder on on and get invited to join another crew. It is 11:30 as I go to bed and the parades of cars are still going up and down the streets tutting their horns. If you are in this situation you may wonder where your ear plugs are. I am not as I have them along in addition to TP. Yes TP is not regularly provided, but a hose is provided with water. And TP should be put in the baskets as the old narrow pipe system cannot handle it. Love and Kisses Steve

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Oct 18 2007

Syrians fully utilize this feature of the vehicle. The horn is regularly used, where staying within the lines on the roads is not. Let’s just say, they drive outside the box we are use to. The horn is commonly used to see if you want a taxi ride as they pass, if there is an object in the way that should move, such as a person, and then there is the slow vehicle ahead which includes flashing the lights also till they pull over and out of the way. I need to try the last as I go down lefthand canyon as my neighbor would appreciate the encouragement to move out of the way. When crossing three lanes of moving traffic there is no need to wait you just walk across and the cars should find there way around you as they are not stopping and will let you know if you are in the way. And you are definitely not putting your life in your own hand as you cross the road. It is definitely in someone else has their hand at the wheel and cell phone. Hope I did not piss off a god. Love and kisses, Steve

Monday, October 15, 2007

Off to Palmyra

As I was walking to the bus station a taxi driver offered a ride to the station. This of course required me to wait till a bus went by to point to so he understood i wanted to go to the Harasta bus terminal. He wanted 250SL for his troubles, but accepted 50SL (= $1) which was the meter. I was recommended to use the local name Tadmor for Palmyra. Tadmor was taken as Tartus and was sold a ticket for the location. Discussing the location with the driver I found that the destination was the coast. Grab my bag from the bus and the proceeded to by a ticket to Palmyra. I did not try to get back the two dollar for the other ticket. So the 4 hour bus ride cost me four dollars. In Palmyra I headed to the recommended cheap hotel. They wanted $20 a night, after a discussion we came to the book price of $5 a night as a special deal. Dinner I did not ask the price when ordering so it cost more than the hotel room. I did find the local dining area later so I will be dining outside the tourist quarter tomorrow. Also need to see if I can get the price below the book price as I am not very good at haggling. Found that may blog is blocked in Syria today it worked fine yesterday. So I can't view this site from here. Let me know if you have problems.

Love & Kisses

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Everything was good in Amman until they announced the flight was three hours late. I arrived in Damascus at 2:30 am on a holiday instead of 10 pm with no hotel reservations. Taxi dropped me off at a dark alley and the driver pointed that the hotel was up the alley. He did not speak English so there was no point discussing the interesting location. Grab my pack and headed up the alley. The hotel was closed for the night for some reason. Choice two was two doors down and they were open. They had only on bed left in a dorm and I took it. The gods are good to those who are foolish. In the morning I found out I am sharing the room with three women. And Cindy (short for Cinderella) invites me to breakfast. The gods are really good! I wander the street of old Damascus for the day and found most shops closed for the holiday. Christian quarter was a little more lively. Jewish quarter did not seem right when I only found a statue of a Madonna as the only religious symbol. Did run into Cindy again and found a nice restaurant for dinner, then even got her name. (Remember the bird in the Grim fairy tales was brighter than the prince.) After that it was time to push and shoved our way into Bekdash ice cream parlor where we grab a local favorite a vanilla cone with it topped with pistachio nuts. Then you need to pull a statue of liberty as you push your way out. The cone was worth the chaos. Off for Palmyra tomorrow. Not sure of which of the roman temples I should visit first to thank the right god? All the young boys in Damascus have toy guns which they happily run around and shot each other and Cindy. She is Dutch so they liked shooting her and for some reason, maybe it is because some of the guns shoot pellets, she did not appreciate being a target. At me they never took aim. I was next to her when some urchins targeted her and they never even thought about shooting me. Don't know why they have a thing for the Dutch. The good news is that a 10 year old can field strip a toy pistol that has all the same parts that a real pistol does.
Love & Kisses

Friday, October 12, 2007

interesting reading

Oct 12 2007
It is Eid al-Fitr which is a holiday that marks the end Ramadan that involve 3+ days of feasting and everything is shut down. So I may get to eat, but the hotel is up in the air. So I should read the guide book before starting on the trip. Love and Kisses Steve

Thursday, October 11, 2007

rough start

Oct 12 2007

On the way to the airport I started hearing a noise and it was worse when my foot was on the gas. Only six miles from the airport and the booming radio was not working to cover the noise any more. Stopped and added more power steering fluid as that seams to run low daily (it is on the list to fix as the mountain roads are getting harder to stay on). No luck with the noise as it is getting worse. I find that going slower reduces the noise so I continue at a slower pace. Why do I always run late when getting to the airport? The long term parking is full so it is three more miles to alternative parking. Now when I turn there is some banging. The truck makes it to alternative long term parking. Looking under the truck and see the differential smoking. Decide to lighten my pack a bit more and toss a few more items out. Ten minute later it is still continue to smoke solidly. There are lots of parking attendants around, but telling them of the issue would cause them to feel the need to keep me there until it stops smoking. So I jump on a bus to the airport and if smoking gets worse the attendant should see it before it causes much of a problem. I made it to the plane with a few minutes to spare. Life is good. Now I must start reading the guide book as I will need to find a room at 10:30 at night when I arrive in Damascus. " recorded event has occurred in the world but Damascus was in existences to receive new of it. Go back as far as you will into the vague past, there was always Damascus... She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires and will see the tomb of a thousand more before she dies." Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1869 Love & kisses Steve

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Travels Begin

Oct 12 2007
I am off to Syria today.  The adventure begins.  I will arrive in Damascus Saturday night.
You can keep up with my travels by on  If you want the updates by email instead of the web site let me know
Love & Kisses


Oct 14 2007 
I am in Damascus. While I was in Amman and stopping to pick up postcards in Jordan for you all (try that on with a Texan accent). I decide to check the mailing list for the number I needed. That is when I found in leaving behind a few more things in the truck I put a book on Syria monuments behind. It had a little while earlier put all my loss paper in it like maps and everyone's address. So I need every mailing address if you want post cards. Bill D, Ken, Darlene, and Greg H I remember your address. All others I could use them. If you do not want to email me directly, you can email liam (Bill) and he will pass them on to me. Love and Kisses Steve

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Syria travels

Hi All
So far seven want email, three do not and one person I may cross paths with in Damascus. Due to a few request from the no column I created a blog page that will take my emails and add them to a web page. It will even handle pictures.

I also for got to ask who wants post cards and what address should I send them to?

For the security services note there is a code in the original message and all emails. Just take every other letter and rearrange them to into something spelling something completely different. Extra letters are par for the course.

Of course after this trip I may be driving to Mexico or Canada for future flights. The TB guy did teach us something useful in avoiding the no fly list.

Please note I will be avoiding Eastern Syria as I could be invited to participate in a video. As the videos seam to lack any new and original thought in their redundant plot I do not think I should participate. On the other hand these vidios do get a lots of air time. But no, I am all for new and original ideas in movies and I will hold out on my lofty artistic principles.

Love & Kisses,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Syrian Travels

Looks like attached pictures will post to the site. Hoping for snow at the end of my trip so I can ski Lebanon

Syrian Travels

Travels start Oct 13, so check back then.