Krak des Chevaliers Travel Blog› entry 8 of 36 › view all entries
Not a huge amount to say about Krak. It is reputedly the best preserved of the many Crusader castles in the Middle East, and is very impressive. I only spent the one night here, as other than the castle there is very little to do, as so often seems to be the case, the small town below is not particularly nice, so an ideal place for a day trip (if you are in the area). However, myself and Malcolm did decide that some luxury was called for so we stayed in the Bebers Hotel (US$15), which afforded fantastic views of the castle and surrounding area - which is beautiful, reminiscent of Tuscany (so I was told) and a complete contrast to the desert of Palmyra.
We also ate in the Restaurant al-Qalaa, the upmarket option, where Sean Connery has previously eaten. Mezze (starters) consisted of 16 dishes between us and cost about US$2. We were the only guests at the restaurant that night, more dispiriting evidence of the tourism slump.
Next morning and up early to head into the castle before the tourist buses arrive. This, again, is really impressive, not just for its sheer scale and complexity, but for the condition that it is in - apparently TE Lawrence described it as the finest castle in the world, and I reckon he'd have seen a few! The castle garrisoned 2,000 when full, and was reportedly never actually taken by force. First built around 1030, it was added to over the years, and the Crusaders finally left in 1271 after the fall of Jerusalem. 200 men were left with supplies for 5 years, but left after a month in return of safe passage to their homelands, and the Moslems moved in.
A good three hours is plently to look around, especially as there were only about three people there and a guide showed me around much of it for free (other than a few English lessons) as he was pretty bored waiting for the first tourist buses to arrive. In particular the vaulted rooms are very impressive, and the latrines (not in use) were better engineered than some in a few of the hotels I have stayed in!
Getting up early to view the castle also gave me the opportunity to get to Damascus early - there I would meet some friends and it had been a while since I had been in a city. I was desperately looking forward to a good shave, getting some cash and looking round the Souq.