Thursday, April 23, 2009

To Aleppo sooner than I thought

Immediately upon returning to my hotel from my last post, the guy
behind the desk tells me that the one group they have going out the
next day (now yesterday) is a trip to Krak des Chevaliers, Musayaf,
Apamea, the Dead Cities, and Aleppo. Now, I'd already been to Krak,
but the rest of them were at least marginally interesting, I was
really hoping to go to the Dead Cities, and Aleppo was next on my
itinerary already, so I decided to plop down the 1,700 SP (~$34) and
go along.

There were 6 other people in the van: 3 Japanese and 3 Malaysian. The
3 Japanese girls were in their 30's, and the Malaysians more like in
their 60's. Generally, though, a pretty good group of people to hang
out with.

So the Castle was, again, our first stop. I thought I might try
walking around the castle 7 times in the hour and a half or so that
the rest of the people were exploring the insides, see if I can make
it fall down... but after my first circuit I decided I didn't really
feel like doing that 6 more times, so I sat down and got tea in a
nearby cafe.

Next up: Musayaf, another castle, this one the base of operations for
the Assassins. This one was a bit more collapsed than the other, but
still generally pretty well preserved.

After that: Apamea and the Dead Cities. Now, the Lonely Planet says
about Apamea something to the effect of, "If Syria didn't have
Palmyra, this would be a can't-miss site". It certainly is a large
site, but after wandering around, you get the impression that there
really isn't that much to see. Or perhaps I'm just ruined-out. Or,
at least, Roman-ruined out. Because the Dead Cities were next. Now
these are basically just cities that people abandoned at various
points in history, from about the 7th century on. So now, there are
ruins more or less interspersed in Olive groves. And some of that was
pretty neat to see.

Finally, on to Aleppo. Now, I didn't have a hotel when I got in here,
and the Malaysians had a hotel that had come recommended highly to
them, but they only had doubles... So Boon asks me if I'd like to
share a room with him. I figured sure, why not. After that, I went
out to dinner with the Malaysians, and then to bed.

Today, I slept in, then wandered around Old Aleppo, which is more or
less one giant market. Bought a few gifts (of the light, packable
variety), got pulled into some shops by various shop-keepers, and
drank their tea, before informing them as firmly as I could that, "no,
I can't afford that rug, though I'm sure it's a very good price. And
even if I could afford it, there's no way I want to carry that for
another MONTH."

And finally, I have bought a ticket to Antakya, Turkey, tomorrow
around noon. I don't anticipate any problems at the border, but we
all know how well that's worked out for me before...

Peter Combs

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