Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Hama and some Castles I [updated with pics and more; first posted 17/03/09]

On the 12th I woke up at 7:45 to get ready. At about 8:15 I got a call from Abdullah at the reception asking if I wanted to join a trip to the Crac and another castle, leaving at 9. He had talked to Gilles, who was in the restaurant waiting to talk to me about it first, since we had sort of made plans to make our own way there. We decided it was a good opportunity since there would be 5 of us going, making it only 600 a person (they charge for the car not per person, so the total is divided by the number of people). I had to rush a little to eat my breakfast as I didn't get to the restaurant until after 8:30. Breakfast was similar to the breakfast at the other hotel, only there was more of everything.
We went on our trip in a small van. The others on the trip were Anthony, from England, and Len and Jill from Winnipeg, Canada. Len and Jill are on a 1 year trip around the world. They have some amazing stories to tell.
Our first stop was the Masyaf Citadel (Qala'at Masyaf). Amazing! It was my first time exploring an old castle, and certainly a good one. It is on of MANY huge medieval castles that dot the country.There IS a red poppy in this picture but it is a bit hard to see. It is just to the left of the wall, at the top of the stairs!! [looking up from down inside]I loved the stairs that are everywhere, going up into towers and buildings and down into the depths of the castle. It was there that I realized I forgot my flashlight. Note to self: ALWAYS take a flashlight when exploring old deserted castles!!![a ray of light entering the darkness][Light at the end of a tunnel]On the roof - a skylight!A lovely view - there were too many of these to count!! I love that the bird flew into view just as I took the picture. :)View of the city below. Wouldn't it be fantastic to grow up with a castle like this in your back yard??? The original structure is of Byzantine (Roman Empire) origins, with levels being added later over the years. I wandered for a couple of hours and could have used more.
Even the drive to the castle (and between castles) was great, as it is in the mountains (small mountains, as there is no tree line). All of the castles or Citadels are on top of mountains or very large hills. There were red poppies everywhere as we drove. I missed the single red poppy that the others saw within the citadel walls. :( (Though I missed it, I see that it is in a couple of pictures, including one above, where I mention it)Sheep!!
After we had our fill of Masyaf (or well, when we had to go in order to have time at our next destination), we hopped back into the van and headed for Krak des Chevaliers (Fortress/Castle of the Knights), the best castle in Syria and one of the most famous and important medieval military castles in the world.[You can see the castle on the hill in the distance.]As we neared the Krak (also sometimes spelled Crac), the landscape changed slightly. The poppies disappeared.We made a stop at the St. George Monastery (Deir Mar Jirjis/دير مار جرجس‎). Saint George was a soldier in the guard of Diocletian (if you remember Diocletian had a military camp and a bath in Palmyra in Syria).

From Wikipedia:
In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.
Saint George is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as the cities of Amersfoort, Beirut, Bteghrine, Cáceres (Spain), Ferrara, Freiburg, Genoa, Ljubljana, Gozo, Pomorie, Qormi, Lod, Barcelona and Moscow, as well as a wide range of professions, organizations, and disease sufferers.
The original monastery/convent was built sometime in the 5th century and then was added to up until the 20th century. HERE is a fairly good picture I found of the monastery from above, from a short distance.There are two churches within the monastery. One built in the 13th century and the other in 1857.We stopped opposite the citadel at a little restaurant for a lunch break. Gilles and I both opted to have the Mezze set (200 each - all appetizers - a couple of potato dishes, a cauliflower dish, olive dish, hummus dish, babaghanoush, bread, vegetables dish, pickles dish, and others.It took up the entire table!!!!! We only managed to finish about half of it by the time we were both full. Then it was time for the Krak des Chevaliers (meaning basically Fortress of the Knights, also known as Qal'at al Hosn/قلعة الحصن/حصن الأکراد‎). The original structure was built in 1031 and was then added to when the Knights Hospitaller made it their headquarters during the Crusades. They turned it into the largest Crusader fortress in the Holy Land.The place is absolutely amazing. It is so big and it is like a labrynth of rooms and passages.[writing above the main entrance][A balistraria/arrow loop/arrow slit - I love the term balistraria. Sounds much fancier than an arrow slit.]In books and reports about the castle, it held anywhere from 2000 to 5000 troops with their horses and equipment, and enough supplies for up to 5 years, with huge structures above ground and large storage areas dug into the rock below.[In the doorway you can see slits where a gate would have come down to block entry.][Looking up in the doorway, you can see where a gate/door would have been when the doorway was open.][The moat: used as a water supply.][The Arabic baths - there are actually doors on all four sides of the central area you can see.][Part of a Gothic Cloister][latrines!][view of the Arabic baths][A good view of the outer wall.][Notice the flowers that go all the way around the room about half way up!]I LOVE spiral staircases!!!!!Up Or Down?It is a very well preserved castle. I'd love to spend an entire day there wandering about!!! Again, I wished I had my flashlight. We wandered along some back passageways using my camera as a flashlight. A bit awkward, but certainly worth it.[In the underground storage areas.]After the Krak, we headed on a scenic drive through the mountains, back to the hotel.
We went for dinner to the 4 Norias' Restaurant. Not as fancy as the previous evening's restaurant, but the food was good. After dinner, on the way back to the hotel, I went for a walk with Len to the nearby market. He wanted to get some nuts and such for snacks, I just tagged along, but did end up getting some fruit. :) We walked through some of the market. I find markets in different countries very interesting. The fruits and vegetables, nuts, meat selections, etc are all something to look at (and take pictures of, of course).Mutton, anyone??


Ratty said...

Exploring old castles would be wonderful. Your pictures help me imagine some of what it might be like. I would never want to leave places like those.

laura said...

I didn't want to leave. :( I want to go back.