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Adam's Travel log

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Welcome to my travellog. Here you can read about my journeys day by day.

Log entries 111 - 120 of 264 Page: 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

May 10, 2009 06:00 PM On the road for the whole day

We started in the morning from Tartus to Latakkia. In Latakkia the only place of our interest was the mausoleum of the late ex-president of Syria Hafez Al-Assad (the father of the incumbent president) and his son who died as a result of a road accident. The mausoleum is located in a village of Qardaha located 40 minutes minibus ride from Latakkia (25 SYP). Unfortunately when we arrived it turned out the mausoleum was undergoing renovation and we could only enter for a moment to see how the works were going. We were given very good treatment - we were even served Turkish coffee, so the welcome was very nice. Later on we continued on a minibus to the Syrian-Turkish border (take a minibus to Kassab - 1 hr, 50 SYP), then we crossed on foot and we hitchhiked as far as Antakya (actually we were offered a lift by a passing driver who was going to Antakya). From there we took a bus to Antep (4 hrs, 20 TRY) and from Antep to Urfa (2.5 hrs, 10 TRY). It's good to know that big busses are faster than smoller that stop many times along the way, making it much longer in terms of time. We arrived late in the evening and found a decent room at Hotel Dogu (25 TRY per double with shower).

May 09, 2009 06:00 PM Back in Syria

Weather in Qadisha Valley in the morning was excellent, the sky was clear and it was very sunny. I just hiked for 2 hours around Bcharre. At 11 I took a bus to Tripoli (4000 LL) and then a shared taxi to Tartus (13 USD). I met my travelmate Talat there and we were walking around the city in the afternoon. There's nothing special to see here but it's nice to walk in the old town. We're staying at Hotel Raffoul (500 SYP per double only). Tomorrow we're going to Lattakia first and then on to Turkey. We're going to spend there the remaining 8 days of our journey.

May 08, 2009 06:00 PM Qadisha Valley

Not only ancient cities are interestin in Lebanon but you can also marvel at its nature. I wanted to spend at least several hours in the beautiful green mountains of Lebanon. From Dora roundabout I took a bus to Bcharre. Cedar Taxi runs minubuses to this destination at 9:30 in the morning and there are also services later. It's 6000 LL and takes less than 2 hrs. I'm staying here at Palace Hotel. It's a bit expensive (30 USD per single room) for a shoestring traveller but it's nice, the bathroom is attached and I even have a terrave overlooking the valley.
I just walked around Bcharre to catch the views of the valley but unfortunatelly in got very cloudy in early afternoon and later even rain came. Nevertheless I enjoy my stay here. Tomorrow in the morning I'm going to do some short hike and then catch a bus to Tripoli and on to Tartus in Syria to meet my friend Talat and continue the journey together.

May 07, 2009 06:00 PM Southern Lebanon

I wanted to pack as much as possible in this day and fortunately I managed to see all the things. First I went to Beiteddine a small village in the mountains where I visited a huge Beiteddine Palace (admission 3500 LL - student's ticket). The building is impressive itself but it also has interesting interior. The most important I found Byzantine mosaics (lots of them).
From Beiteddine I took a bus to the coastal highway and then on to Sidon (Saida) to see the Sea Castle (admission 1000 or 1500 LL, student ticket). It's a very picturesque place as the palace is located more than 50 metres offshore and is connected to the land by a stone causeway. I also wanted to visit the Great Omari Mosque but it was closed (strange!).
The last destination today was Tyre (Sour). There's a huge archeological site where you can see a hypodrome and there are even some remains of stands. Also parts of the ancient city were preserved with aqueducts and a big arch.
The ride back to Beirut took 1.5 hrs and cost 5000 LL. Buses going to the south depart from Cola roundabout while to northern Lebanon from Charles Helou bus terminal.
Travelling in Lebanon you can see many military checkpoints, especially in southern Lebanon. I've also seen UN military vehicles near Tyre (Sour).

May 06, 2009 06:00 PM Bad luck, we had to split for a few days...

The day started with bad luck. My friend, Talat, didn't get the visa to Lebanon. He was told he has to get the visa in Lebanese embassy in Damascus but he was also refused there.
I arrived in Beirut at 9 a.m. The capital of Lebanon didn't seem particularly interesting, especially when compared to other places in Lebanon.
As soon as I found a hostel to leave my big backpack (Pension Al-Nazih - 12 USD per dorm bed, 18 USD per single but they didn't have any vacant) I left for Tripoli (Trablous). It's a nice city in northern Lebanon. Particularly interesting is the old town with the citadel (7500 LL. no student's discount) and the Great mosque which is undergoing renovation now (it should be reopened in ca. 1 year from now.
From Tripoli I took a bus to Byblos (Jbail). It's a calm coastal city with nice ancient ruins (student's ticket 1000 LL). There's also interesting medieval church of St John the Baptist.
Tomorrow I'm going to explore the south of Lebanon.

May 05, 2009 06:00 PM The blue town of Maalula

Having seen the blue town of Chefchaouenne in Morocco I'm now a great fun of those. I haven't known there's any blue town in Syria before we visited the National Museum in Damascus two days ago. There was a picture from Maalula and we liked it so much that we decided to extend our stay in Syria by one day to go there.
Minibuses for Maalula go from Maalula karaj - you can get there from the city centre on a minibus for only 5 SYP. Just ask the drivers if they go to Maalula karaj. From there we took another minibus to the blue town. The ride took us 50 minutes and cost 45 SYP. There are two monasteries in the town - of St Thecla and of St Sergius. You can walk from one to the other crossing the breathtaking Tekla Gap - an excellent gorge reflected to as little Petra.
After returning to Damascus we visited Azem Palace. It has beautiful room with rich carvings on the walls and ceilings. The only disadvantage is the great number of tourists visiting the place so you definitely can't have it for yourself.
In the afternoon we also visited Sayyida Zeinab mosque. It's similar to the mosque of Sayiida Ruqayya mosque we visited yesterday. It was also erected by the Iranian people and it's mainly Shia site. People who come here weep to over miserable life of Zeinab, whose tomb is located here.
Tomorrow we're going to Lebanon. Please keep you fingers crossed that we get visas on the border.

May 04, 2009 06:00 PM Amphitheatre of Bosra and the Umayyade Mosque of Damascus

To get to Bosra you take a bus from Al-Samariah bus terminal. The ticket is 100 SYP, travel time 1 hr 40 mins. 2.5 hrs is enough to explore the ruins of an ancient city there and visit the ampitheatre. It's really impressive and sound propagation there is really excellent.
After getting back to Damascus we vistied the Umayyad Mosque (admission fee 50 SYP, no student discount). There's a tomb of John the Baptist inside and in the courtyard you can see great frescoes. We also visited Sayyida Ruqayya mosque. It houses a tomb of of Ruqayya the daughter of Hussein the martyr. This 4-year-old girl was tortured and murdered in a very crucial way. Now Muslims (mainly Shia) come here from all over the world. You can see many of them crying...

May 03, 2009 06:00 PM First day in Damascus

Damascus is a big dusty city - you can notice it as soon as you arrive at the karaj (bus station). There are public buses from the bus terminal to the city center for 10 SYP only so no need to take the taxi. Friendly locals will show you which one to take (it was bus no. 10, I think).
One practical piece of info: leave the hotels in the tourist ghetto recommended in LP guidebooks - they're often full and even if you can find a bed, they're expensive. We're staying in a decent room in Arab Saudi Hotel paying only 1000 per double with shower and toilet attached. Plus the staff are friendly.
The weather wasn't very nice in the afternoon - it was cloudy and even I could feel a few drops of rain. It improved before dusk, after we left the National Museum (admission fee 150 SYP, 10 - for ISIC card holders). It has a vast collection of archeological exhibits from different periods. When in Syria it's a must.
We also explored the souq and a market where only locals buy - we stocked up on fruit there. Internet here costs 60 SYP per hour and can be easily found in the tourist ghetto.

May 02, 2009 06:00 PM The ruins of Palmyra

Again early wake-up before 6. We wanted to see the sunrise over the ancient city of Palmyra. The rising sun gives the ruins pink hue - a great view!
Palmira is sprawling on a quite big area and there's a lot to explore. We've seen the temple of Bel (the most important god of Palmyra) and the colonnade - which are the most magnificent sights in the city. There are also interesting tombs around. There are two types of them - some bodies were buried in underground tombs and some in towers. Some of them are even 4 stories high and could accommodate even 400 bodies. We also climbed the citadel hill to see the citadel and for the view of the whole city from above. Entries to most sites vary from 75 to 150 SYP, if you have ISIC card it's only 5-10 SYP.

May 01, 2009 06:00 PM Krak de Chevaliers

The wake-up today was early - 5:30. We wanted to see the sunrise over Hama's norias. After that we took a minibus to Homs - it's only 40 minutes ride (50 SYP per passenger with a bagpack). Actually there are few interesting thingts in Homs, and the budget hotels are very grim. We decided not to stay there. Having left the backpack at one of the hotels we took a minibus to Krak des Chevaliers, an excellent Crusaders castle. You need at least 2 hours to explore it a bit.
The minibus and bus stations are several kilometres from the city centre so you need to get there by public bus no. 1. Ignore the hassle from taxi drivers.
In Syria minubuses leave when full so we had to wait almost one hour each way. Then we took a bus to Palmyra. It was 105 SYP only. After two hours we arrived in Palmyra. The touts here are not as bad as LP says, especially if you've been to Morocco. We're staying here at Hotel Sun (only 500 SYP per double). Tomorrow we're going to see the ruins.

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