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

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