All the ruins in Syria are nice but let’s face it a person can reach a limit when it’s hard to get excited by all the Ruins! Let’s see went to Bosra in the south to see the Ancient Citadel. Went the to see the Krek Des Chevaliers (Crusaders Castle) near the sea by Homs. Then went to the desert to see the ruins in Palmyra or Tadmor to the Syrians.
We took a day trip from Damascus to see the Citadel in Bosra. This is one of the most well preserved Roman theaters in existence from around the 1st century AD. It started as a classical Roman theater but later had Arabic fortification added on. It can accommodate over 9000 people with 6000 seated and 3000 standing. It followed the conventions of the Roman theater design. This theater is still used for Bosra Festival August to Sept on every odd numbered year. This is an impressive venue for drama and concerts. It was nice to see but hell I could see it all in about ½ hr but unfortunately the buses return to Damascus every 2 hrs. The 2 pm bus was full cus only costs about $2 for the 1 ½ hr trip. So I just wandered around the old Roman city ruins next to the Citadel. The cool thing about wandering these ruins is that people have made homes out of the old ruins. Luckily I went on this day trip with a few others from our Damascus hotel so we could chat to kill the time as we waited for our bus.
Another ruin I visited was visited was the Krek Des Chevaliers (Crusaders Castle). It’s very impressive sitting on a high hill just north of the Lebanonese border close to the Mediterrean Sea. This castle is also well preserved and it probably doesn’t look too different from it did 800 years ago. I stayed in Homs the 3rd largest city in Syria in a mosquito or ant infested room cus got little sleep as I was scratching all night. But what the hell the price was right and it was only for one night. So early the next morning I caught a mini bus for about $1 to the hills west of Homs. It took about 1 hr to get to the castle and it was impressive sitting high on a hill. Heck figure the Crusaders had a good vantage point to spot any enemies coming up the hill. The castle was built with a moat built around with a wall built outside the castle to store about 500 horses and men to fight off any attack. So I paid my $1.50 entrance fee and spent about a hr climbing the stairs and seeing the inside and surrounding countryside from all parts of the castle.
Krek Des Chevaliers (Crusaders Castle) ın North west part of Syrıa close to the cıty of Homs
When I got out of the castle there was a mini bus going back to Homs which was lucky for me. So spent another hr getting back to Homs by 1 pm. I had time to go to the ATM which gave the option of getting Syrian Liras or USD. Well I wanted to get USD cus if I go to Iran I need to take foreign currency. Cus I knew you have to take foreign currency (or Iranian money but where the hell do I get it) as there are no ATM’s in Iran and u can’t get money from banks! So shit don’t want to get stuck in Iran with no cash as that would Suck!!
So after get getting my cash I had to go on the internet to check my bank balance to see if I maybe accidently overdrew. Cus one time I mistakenly withdrew from my checking rather than my savings account and paid a overdraft charge. The cool thing about my online banking site is I can withdraw cash in Syria or any country and by the time I get online to check it shows on my account! So how cool is that but unfortunately my account is dropping fast but luckily I have some other money in another bank. But getting it from one bank to another is a pain!
OK so now I had my cash so got over to the eastern bus station to catch a bus to Palmyra which is in the desert in the eastern part of Syria. The bus was leaving at 3 pm and I got there at 2:50 so a lucky break for me so I thought. But I didn’t realize that the tickets had seat numbers! So the seat I picked in the middle of the bus was not my seat. The numbers are written in Arabic and couldn’t remember my Arabic numbers from my time spent working in Saudi Arabia and Oman. So I ended up on the very last row of the bus sitting over the engine (brought back memories of my trips in Africa on the hot buses over the hot engine, yuk). But instead of being squeezed between 2 big heavy weight Mama Africans well I was sitting between 2 Bedouin Arabs on their way home to their nomadic homes in the desert!
But like all my trips well I survive cus shit it was only 2 hrs not like some of my 10 to 20 hr trips in to 20 hr trips in Africa. Looking out the window the landscape also reminded me of my travels through the Western Sahara desert in Africa. Then we passed over a hill and perched on top of this big hill was this fortress. So this was the indication that we had arrived in the desert town of Palmyra (Tadmor to the Syrians) . I think the sole purpose for the town’s existence is due to the Roman Ruins which covers a large area next to the town. In fact it’s probably the star tourist attraction in Syria. In reality the town of Palmyra (palm trees) was built next to the ruins. I surprised at the number of tourist buses that brought European tourists into the town. I found a bed in this dorm in this budget hotel and it was at least cheaper than in Homs and Damascus. But shit it should because it’s a little town in the desert.Pıctures of the Ruıns at the cıty of Old Palmyıra
The ruins of Old Palmyra covers about 50 hectares (have no idea how big that is but it is a large area). The Ruins date back to 2nd Century AD and have been excavated and restored. There are many different temples, buildings, etc but the most impressive are the fortress high on the hills west of the Old Palmyra/Tadmor or Ruins and the Temple of Bel! It seems that from the earliest times it was an indispensible staging post for caravans between the Mediterrean, Mesopotamia and Arabia. It was also an important link on the Silk Route between China and India and Europe. The city really prospered by levying heavy tolls on the caravans.
So when I got to Palmyra in the afternoon after my trip to Krek Des Chevaliers (Crusader Castle) and the 2 hr bus ride in the hot bus. Well found a cheap bed in this Budget hotel and theny decided since it was early evening it was a good time to view the castle perched high on the hill. I was approached by so many taxi and motor bike drivers wanting to drive me to the castle for $12 or so. They mistake me for a 1 or 2 week tourist from Europe or Asia who sits on an airconditioned bus and hotel But hell I’m a backpacker trying to save my money cus travelling for months. Hell if I paid those price well I’d be broke and home in less than a month. So shit I walked up the hill and found it easy and kind of refreshing cus it was early evening so it isn’t hot. Hell after the blazing 40 C heat in Mali I figure Syria in April is really spring like but I still have to wear something on my hairless head. The view from ft on hill was awesome as I could see Palmyra, all the ruins and the surrounding countryside.
So after spending a day and 2 evenings in Palmyra well I was ready to go. In fact after seeing the Citadel in Bosra, Krek Des Chevaliers (Crusader Castle) near Homs and the Roman Ruins in Tadmor/Palmyra well I was pretty tired of Ruins. So yeah I get pretty well burned out seeing Ruins and will leave Syria for Turkey. So I’ll probably try to avoid any more Ruins for a while.
The next morning I said good bye to Brendon (Irish) and Kador (Spanish/Moroccan) as they were headed Deir-Ez-Zor a little town 2 hrs east of Palmyra by the Eurphrates River close to Iraq. It’s known for being one of the places Iraqi refugees fled to during the Iraqi war. But I had planned to head directly on this secondary highway north of Palmyra to the Turkish border. But I found out that there were no buses or mini buses going on that highway. So I was forced to take the same bus as Brendon and Kador and take a big bus to Deir-Ez-Zor. But the bus didn’t leave till noon so we had time to go for breakfast and hang out for a while. I was going to head to Deir-Ez-Zor and then grab a bus to Raqqa where I originally wanted to go. Kador could speak Arabic so when we got to Deir-Ez-Zor he helped me find out that the next big bus wouldn’t go till 5 pm and it was only 3 pm. So I decided to catch a minibus which goes from another bus station and goes when the bus is full! So said goodbye again and headed of on my own to Raqqa. We started heading north west following the Eurphrates River and it was lush and green in the valley. Then it got kind of weird cus the wind really started blowing and the minibus started get pushed around. Then it started to rain and seemed strange to see it rain in the desert. Then once the rain stopped we drove thru villages and noticed how much water was laying on the roads and highway. So they received a lot more rain then we did. But they mustn’t get rain very often there were just crowds of people standing by these usual dry river beds watching the water rushing through them. I thought that someone fell in the river but they were only watching the water. Then a sort of comical thing was seeingth the people on motorbikes trying to maneuveur through the water on the streets. A couple of them must hit a rock or something in the water cus they were speeding thru and then went crashing to water. Hopefully they learned a lesson and don’t speed thru water on a street again!
We got to Raqqa about 5 pm and I was going to go onward to the Turkish border. But by the time I checked how far and where I had to catch a minibus I figured I may as spend the night in Raqqa and leave for Turkey in the morning.
Raqqa is near the Turkey border but it’s really isolated from people from other countries, I guess. Cus like I got more stares than anywhere else I’ve been in Syria or Africa. The people can’t speak English but I know they’re dying to talk. Shit I’ve never felt more like a Freak at a Carnival as they all stared and the kids came following me. I went out for something to eat and then thought what the hell nothing else to do so why not check things on the internet. So I asked at this café I ate at if they knew an Internet Café. Well shit they were all falling over each other to show me where one was. Then this one kid stood and stared for the ½ hr I was sitting there. Hell I could understand if people stare at a gorgeous chick or something but why me? Dam am I that odd looking or what? Heck since I’ve started travelling I’ve really started to feel Odd! When I got off the minibus in Reqqa I asked if I could get to Turkey by minibus. Well shit I must have had a dozen guys all crowded around wanting to help. But shit no one could really speak English so I could understand. But the Syrians all want to help u out and bend over backwards. But like I say we can’t communicate so I feel bad but hell that’s the same in all the Non English speaking countries I’ve travelled through.
So that pretty much ends my stay in Syria as enjoyed the country. Hey I hope to get to Turkey tomorrow so wonder what is in store for me there???????