Day 10 - Thr 7 Dec 06
Up at 08:00 and checked out at 08:30 - I'm now up to date with what's going on in the world as the TV had BBC World. The nice lady behind the desk at the hotel arranged a taxi to get me to the Qala'at Saladin. I always feel like I'm some how chickening out when I don't use local transport. But the microbus would only get me to the village nearby, and then it's a 6km hike up and down a valley to get to the castle, and seven quid is hardly going to break the bank is it?
So we head off into the hills and past a huge dam that doesn't have a lot of water behind it. Got to the castle at about 09:30, and myself and the driver spent a good hour and a half exploring the whole place. It's not as intact as the Krak but it's still interesting.
The most amazing part is that the builders cut a huge bit out of the mountain to separate the castle from the rest of the headland, but they left a pillar about 20 metres high to allow a place to rest the drawbridge - that's forethought!
Then it was back into the cab and off to Latakia, it was obvious that the driver didn't know the way back (we used a different route), and he had to stop a couple of times to ask directions.
He dropped me at the station in Latakia at about 12:30 and I wanted to see if the 13:30 train exists or not.
'Not' was the answer, not in winter at least. So I have to wait until 15:40 now. Popped back down to the bus station to get some provisions for the journey, so I'm now ready for my first Syrian train trip. I wonder if 1st class is non-smoking? I asked for a non-smoking table as the Express Cafe, and the guy looked at me as if he'd never had such a request.
I pass through security at the train station, passport check and an X-ray for the bag. The first class carriage is okay, it's just a bit old. We're running along the top of deep tree lined valley's with the sun setting behind us. In the bottom of the valley is either small fields or a dual carriage way being constructed.
The train was a bit late getting in, and arrived at just after 19:00. I took a taxi to the Baron Hotel, and got a very nice room. Out to eat just around the corner, Chicken Kebab in an upstairs restaurant populated solely by groups of men. A nice meal all for 320SYP.