Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
A quick change in countries
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
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.
Love and Kisses
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Moving on from Aleppo
Friday, October 19, 2007
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.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
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
Love and Kisses
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
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
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
Love & Kisses
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Everything was good in
Love & Kisses
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
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