Krak des Chevaliers, Damascus and Bosra – French style

Krak des Chevaliers

The Krak des Chevaliers is a Crusader castle dating back to the 11th century. Being one of the major historical sites in Syria, I decided to visit on the way back South of the country. Coming from Hama, this trip involved changing several times the bus. However, the connections were short, and for the last part of the trip to the castle, I ended up in a small minivan filled with local people. The castle is located on a small hill, next to a small town. This final climb wasn’t really strenuous, and the view upon arriving was simply amazing. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) described the Krak des Chevaliers as “perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world”. Well, this place really is worth the trip, but I do refrain from the superlatives he used because there are so many well preserved castles in Syria. Continue reading “Krak des Chevaliers, Damascus and Bosra – French style”

Conquering Apamea and the Dead Cities

Ancient village in the Zawiya mountains

This was now the fourth day in Hama. This city was the perfect base to explore Syria. By now, my driver knew the drill: Leaving early in the morning for day trips, returning late in the evening. Those were long shifts for him. However, he also knew that he had plenty of time by himself, once we arrived at a site. While I would extensively explore ruins and castles, he could take a nap, chat with his friends or make some extra money driving around local people. Continue reading “Conquering Apamea and the Dead Cities”

The superlatives of Aleppo

Qala'at Samaan (St. Simeon)

Syria is a country of many contrasts. Its countryside reminded me sometimes of being on a road-trip through Central Europe, where strategically placed castles overlooked green valleys filled with trees. However, here in Syria, landscape can changes completely after several turns on the road. Right after a green valleys can lie desert plains, where Bedouins are camping next to Roman and Greek temple ruins. Continue reading “The superlatives of Aleppo”

1001 nights at Hama and Palmyra

On the road to Hama

One of the more esoteric travel tips out there claims that swift border checks won’t happen with new passports. According to this myth, the reason is that customs agents are wary about being the first one’s to stamp a brand new passport, thus authenticating the document. So they will check twice, three times the passport for falsification or tampering. Well, I never really believed in this story. And crossing the Lebanese-Syrian border near Damascus certainly confirmed that the above travel tip is an urban legend. In fact, my passport was full of visas, entry and exit stamps. Out of the 40 pages, there was only one page left with room for the Syrian entry seal. Well, did I forget to mention that the border agents search for evidence of an Israeli entry in passports? Continue reading “1001 nights at Hama and Palmyra”