Day 2 - Wed 29 Nov 06
Up at 03:40 and caught a taxi to Terminal 2 as the Heathrow Hoppa doesn't start running until 04:40! Arrived and found that people were already queuing at check-in even though there was no one at the desks. Checked in at business and then headed for security, only to find that it doesn't open until 05:00. Queued up and got through, and headed for the Lufthansa lounge where I got breakfast, and then headed for the gate.
The flight into Wien was okay, I got the last row and had all three seats to myself. However the flight was late, and got into Wien at 10:00, and the flight into Damascus was due at 10:30! Caught the shuttle bus to the gate, and had to do security all over again. Got to the gate with 7 minutes to spare! Some Syrian(?) official couldn't find my visa in my passport, he gave the impression that without a visa I wouldn't be flying - interesting as the embassy said that a visa can be issued on arrival. He found the visa eventually and then asked if I was part of a group, "no", you travel on your own? "Yes." His eyes went wide!
I got a window seat with two to the left of me, which wasn't perfect, and by the end of the flight I had a splitting headache. Flew over the edge of the Mediterranean and the pointy bit of Cyprus. We landed at 15:00 local time, and I changed $50 into 2570 SYP. Queued up to get through immigration (no problems), skipped baggage claim and headed off to find the taxi counters. My head was hurting and I couldn't face a bus ride so the taxi seemed a good idea. I pay my 600SYP to a bloke behind the counter, he gives me a slip of paper, and then a youth in a boiler suit takes the slip of paper off me and escorts me outside. After a few moments a cab turns up and my escort asks for a tip, I give him 10SYP and get into the taxi!
The trip into town is typical middle east - empty main roads, where speed limits are more guide lines than any thing else, and then when you get into town everything slows down and most of the driving is done by honking the horn. Pedestrians just weave between the traffic. I find that I have a huge smile on my face, I love the middle east!
Checked into the hotel, had a quick shower and then headed out onto the streets, just as the sun was setting and the call to payer was starting. Walked down to the covered souq and had a good poke around, and made it to the Umayyad Mosque. Nearby I got a flat bread chicken wrap - not bad for 30SYP. On the way back I got caught by a shopkeeper who dragged me in to his shop and showed me his wares. Very good stuff, but rather expensive. On my way back to the hotel I managed to purchase a small note book for writing my diary for 25SYP, and some chocolate (55SYP) and a Pepsi and two litres of water for 65SYP (that's about 60p). I've even had a Pepsi, some water and a small box of chocolates delivered to my door by the hotel - very nice.
Top Spot: The Trojan Horse Internet cafe!