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Lighting out for the territory nce more in the Middle East. The more I travel the more I want to travel and the longer that I am out of England the happier I am. At present in Iraq and having a wonderful time. really fallen in love with the country and the people. Very glad I came and

12th May - Syria is just so lovely!

AUSTRIA | Wednesday, 13 May 2009 | Views [527]

What fabulous people! Nipped into the loo at Baghdad (Aleppo)train station and short woman in burqua smiled and chattered and delved into her bag and produced a yellow rose for me - then dove again and handed me a red one as well. I laughed and kissed her. It means everything to me when a country is so welcoming. here, if you stop in the street and open LP book, someone is sure to stop and help.

Bus from Istanbul quicker than train - 14 hrs to 18 on the train(Inshallah) and was luxurious Mercedes coach like Iran. Lemon cologne splash on arrival, tv, drinks and cake at intervals, delightful tho incomprehensible company. But the ankles on arrival were badly swollen which you don't get on trains so cannot recommend. I headed to the back of the bus and lay down on back seat but was turfed off (nicely)by driver's mate who gave me pillows and directed me firmly to seat in front of him. Blast!

Customs Syria side had no interest in me. I was sharing a cab from Hatay in Turkey to Aleppo ($15 - bargain) with three lovely Jordanian men. At the border I was asked what was in my ruck - I said 'clothes' and they waved me on. But the J. chaps had everything opened and papers and books flicked thru. I am so inocuous! - tho they searched thru my passport for the obvious stamp with which you do not enter Middle Eastern countries. It would be easy to get there too on this trip but who needs the hassle on the way back?

Taxi drove at 80/90 kph to Aleppo and he was kind enough to drop me at the Baron which, sadly for me but happily for pocket, was full so ended up at Tourist Hotel. Hotel Tourist in Aleppo has Ahmed and Leslie and the dad who are all terrific and speak English. Hotel is spotless and cool and 500 Syrian pounds a night (7.50 english)Breakfast is boiled eggs - no surprise there -olives, cheese, bread.

It is hot but not too hot as there is a cool breeze a lot of the time. I am here in Aleppo for three nights then on to Lattakia on the coast to see Saladin's castle. He was Kurdish apparently. So bought a hat today - marked inside 85 but told 200 - got it for 150. My mantra abroad is 'Everyone has to make a living' - except Vienna of course.

There are oddnesses here like the postcard shop which offered to change money and gave me the same rate as the internet; the grubby cafe Al-Saleh, full of surprised chaps with a ceiling of red planks and many, many low energy light bulbs. Why shouldn't they have low energy bulbs? Dunno - just seemed odd. Another thing is even when I wear my scarf, the stare. This English face!

Traffic is Tehran-like,step out and take yr chances but at least they stop at red lights. Real health prob here is smoking. Syrians smoke their heads off as do I.

Arabic is tough for me but persevering. Once you get the 'Hello there!', 'coffee .for one', 'thank you', 'please', 'where is the loo?' you have covered the essentials and the rest will come.

Met couple of young Chileans and might make that the next trip. Have no itinerary as usual but starting with Lattakia and then on to Tripoli and Beirut, I think. Then come back up thru Damascus on to Turkey and maybe, if I have the energy, Georgia. See how hot it gets, eh?

The earth here is dark red. I might bring some home. Many religions co-existing here. It's all good.

Tags: aleppo, hatay, smoking, syrian border


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