Monday, August 27, 2007

Horse Crac Castle

You definitely start noticing some recurring themes as you travel through the dozens upon dozens of Syrian villages and cities - and that is garbage and dirt. Syria has a lot of amazing ancient ruins to see, but nothing very impressive has been built in the last few centuries. I think it's safe to say that anything built or lived in since about the 11th century you can pass on.
We started our trip on the coast up along the "cote d'litter" and visited a dozen or so castles, Roman ruins, and trash strewn beaches. Our favorite castle was the Crac du Chevalier, or horse crack castle that reminded me of something out of Lord of the Rings. Since we couldn't find a babysitter for Bastawisi, my turtle, we ended up taking him along with us and of course couldn't leave him in the baking car while we toured sites, so we walked around with a baby, stroller, diaper bag, turtle in a cage, and Vanessa insisted on bringing her laptop everywhere so it wouldn't get stolen. It was like a walking circus.
Once we got to our destination of Latakia, we stayed for only one day and had to leave because the bugs were so bad and the muddy beaches that smelled like sewage just weren't worth it. The fully veiled women and kids seemed to be enjoying themselves, it kind of reminded me of Ocean City or the Jersey coast, a vacation spot for those of sunburned necks.
Next we went to Aleppo, stopping on the way at another string of castles, and staying just outside the old city for two days. Aleppo was wonderful, the food was excellent, and the old city charming. The people tended to stare a bit more than in Damascus, but were very nice, and we really got into the different types of olive oil and laurel soap they make there, the most expensive being aged over a process taking 3 years!
I soon realized that the days of cheap backpacker hotels are over now I have a baby, when we'd go to the hotel of my choice Vanessa would just give me a look and look at the baby, and I knew we were not staying there. Alexa loved the trip however, as long as she got her naps. The way it worked out though, we'd always be out and about in the middle of the heat of the day and we'd just keep her doused with water and she'd sleep while we were carrying her around. It was over 100 degrees every day, but luckily we had AC in our car and hotel.
After Aleppo, we went down to Hama, stopping along the way at a bunch of cities of the dead, huge Christian cities (over 800 of them) that were all abandoned almost a thousand years ago when trading routes changed. They are beautiful, and are full of huge stone churches, villas, bath houses, etc. My two favorites were St. Simeon's in the north, and Serjilla and Bara in the south. In this picture I'm sitting on the pillar that St. Simeon sat on for 37 years.
Then we stayed for two days in Hama, visiting the surrounding regions. Apamea was particularly cool, an old roman city that has a 2km long colonnaded street still standing. In Hama there were originally 200 of these waterwheels in the Orontes river that provided water and irrigation to the city, but now only 11 are still functioning. They make this really eerie squeaking sound like an angry whale that you can hear from a distance.
Then we went back home to Damascus and had dinner up on the top of the mountain overlooking the city, overall it was a great ending to a great week.

Check out the web album for more shots:


JD Adams said...

Hey Trent. I am on my wife's computer and didn't have your email handy, so found your syria blog. Really great stuff. I love reading your travel writing. I just wanted to see how your studies were coming and how Syria was treating you, but your blog answered a lot of the questions! Must be great to have the family back with you. It is tough to be away from the family for that long. I was a little disappointed that you did not admit that you were the one who jumped up on the stage at Enrique Iglesias concert. I know how much you love that guy. Remember how you used to buy Harwood and me a souvlaki if we would call you Elder Iglesias?

Alright. Good to see that you are well. I would give my something to be able to come visit you there.

Take care, Josh Adam

JD Adams said...

One more thing. You can check out my blog at

Mine is not in the same league as yours, but you can see what we were up to this summer.