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Crac des Chevaliers

SYRIA | Wednesday, 11 June 2008 | Views [1296]

The view from our hotel room!

The view from our hotel room!

Crac des Chevaliers is a Crusader castle. And being in Syria it doesn't get overly many tourists. Which is great because you can wander round the place almost by yourself. Until the Scouts show up! I think I remember the Syrian Scouts more than the castle - all dressed in light blue shirts with their navy scarves. Very interesting that boys and girls were together!! Even if the girls did sit behind the boys at lunch time. And the women leaders didn't wear head scarves! Horror! But, as I later realised, things are much more progressive in the cities. Women even wear jeans. But they're still very modest, covering wrists to ankles. But it's lovely to see everyone looking like people and not floating black sacks...

Anyhoo, the castle was impressive. It was so huge and well supplied that they say 5,000 knights could hole up in there for five years if they were attacked. The kitchen alone was as big as three school halls. And each round oven was five metres diameter. Big.

We climbed up to the top tower and almost got blown away with the wind. Fantastic views - just what you'd expect from a castle that was never captured. I wish they would organise someone to clean up all the rubbish though. And spray some Round Up on the gorse growing out of the walls before the roots make them all crumble down.

Unfortunately, I drank coke for the rest of that day. I know it's a hideous acidic concoction, but it has a way of killing nasty tummy bugs you get when travelling. And I find you can survive on the sugar, caffeine and electrolytes in there while your tummy sorts itself out.

Another long bus ride and we arrived in Aleppo. Not in the desert any more. Actual trees. Our hotel transfer was the most memorable one yet. A tiny little truck, like a Suzuki Super Carry, showed up and we loaded our bags into the wire cage and waited for the taxis. But it turned out the wee wire cage was it. For 13 people and their bags. Serious disbelief. But the others started climbing in, and before I could think it through, the wire door was padlocked shut, I was standing half hunched over, squished in against many bodies and we were moving down the road. In complete darkness, just able to see a sliver of road out the bottom of the plastic cover. Unbelievable. An experience never to be forgotten or repeated. I felt like we were being rounded up and taken to a concentration camp.

Happily, Aleppo the city is much nicer than it's hotel transfers. It was my favourite place in Syria. Bustling covered souk, amazing Citadel castle, lots of yummy street food - sweet corn, pop corn, extra sweet Raro cordial, cheese toasties. James and I went for dinner at a cafe and watched the celebrations for a graduation at the citadel - Syrian music, dancers with swords and all the proud parents dressed up and walking through the crowds. But we spent so long watching that by the time we tried to get home, the doors of the souk had been locked! Thank goodness for Sebastian, who pointed us in another direction, and the old guy on the inside who opened the door to our desperate banging.

For our last day in Syria, I went to another hammam with five other girls from our group. Just after we had paid, a very large, very curvy woman wearing nothing but lime green undies came out and told us, in Arabic, to take off our clothes. Right there in reception! A little disconcerting on a hot day, but I did get very clean!

Our last evening in Syria was spent at the Baron Hotel - the very same one that Agatha Christie used to write in. It's super retro, and I think very little has changed since Agatha was there. Groovy!



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