Day 5: Trip to Apamea, Serjilla, Basilica St. Simeon and Aleppo (1)
Apamea Travel Blog› entry 10 of 54 › view all entries
Our third day with Omar started once again with a breakfast stop. The previous two days Omar had been happy to join us eating, which basically meant we had been buying him breakfast every day. Not that this bothered us, not at all. He was a cool guy, doing a great job, so we saw this as a way of tipping.
But once again the hospitality of the people in this country took us by surprise. The previous two days we had paid for the breakfast, today it was his turn. We stopped at a little bakery and before we knew it Omar had bought us some delicious meat pies and he didn’t want to hear a thing about us paying for it.
And in the afternoon he did it once again - today was his treat, he said.
Our first stop of today was Apamea.
The city of Apamea was built in the third century BC by the army of Alexander the Great and some 200 years later captured by the Romans. In its heydey the city had about 500,000 inhabitants and has remained inhabited to this day, even though the main village has moved slightly after the Mamluks built a citadel perched high on a nearby hill.
The ruins, about 2 kilometres from the modern town, lie in a grassy field, unfenced and accessable to anyone at any time (although you are supposed to register and pay an entrance at the small visitor’s centre).
Apamea is excluded from most people’s itineraries, which is a real shame, because not only is it a stunning place to visit, it is also a very unique place.
Despite the light drizzle, it was terrific walk through the ruins. The site was almost deserted! My decision to go to Syria was largely made after reading in a travel book “Many of Syria’s amazing site are visited by far more sheep than people”, and that wasn’t because I like sheep, I tell you!
Our trip to Apamea gave proof to this statement when two shepherds guided their herd straight past us through the 2000 year-old ruins. The sight might stress archeologists, but it certainly gave us a postcard perfect picture.
All through the morning there were only 2 other tourists at the site, and for the rest we only encountered the shepherds and a couple of souvenir sellers, but these didn’t bother us much.
By the time we left a big tour group had arrived. Italians by the sound of it. I guess we had been very lucky that we were right in front of them.
Apart from the colonnade there are also some remains of a bath house and some villas, while about a kilometre down the road there are the remains of a small amphitheatre. None are in a particularly good shape, and nowhere near as impressive as the colonnaded avenue, but they gave a good impression of what the city may have looked like 2000 years ago.
We didn't bother visiting the modern town of Apamea, but we did pay a visit to the mosaic museum, where we could sample some of the fine art found at the site. Many of the mosaics were remarkably intact, and very impressive, even though the best mosaics found in the area had been moved to museums in Damascus and elsewhere in the world.