Baalbek - former Heliopolis
Baalbek Travel Blog› entry 5 of 5 › view all entries
I hadn't planned go to Baalbek this day. By midday I was tired of strolling around in the heavy traffic and far distances in Beirut. So I asked the owner at the hostel of the fastest way to Baalbek. He sketched a very helpful map to me, saying take a service-taxi to the airport bridge, then cross the junction and take a minibus coming from Cola bus station for Baalbek. It turned out work very well, staying at the junction, I just waited two minutes before a very old and shabby Toyota minibus stopped and I just said Baalbek and the driver nodded his head and I jumped in the back. Squeezed in between only local people smiling friendly at me, the bus started to climb the winding roads.
It was quite a breathtaking journey over the Mount Lebanon and an interesting experience in the old minibus. On the other side of Mount Lebanon entering the Bekaa Valley I was stunned by its fertile and green landscape. The wines and green-houses lined up along the road and the only things disturbing this idyllic atmosphere was some military checkpoints that stopped the bus. They just looked into the bus and let us continue on the road. Even if it was routine-controls it was some kind of reminder of the unstable situation in the area. Three military soldiers in the mini-bus jumped off not far from the Syrian boarder and most probably were on duty at the boarderline.
All afternoon was spent on the archeological sites. After a good rest on my room I tried to find a restaurant to eat. It turned out that almost everything was closed, due to the citizens celebrated that a strike was over resulting in rised salaries. It was like after a football derby with all its celebrations. But I was hungry and in vain looked for a restaurant where I could taste some of the wellknown wine from the Bekaa Valley.
After half an hours walk I entered a cafe that was open asking for something to eat. They just served coffee, tea and soft drinks and of course hookah. But the lebanese people are so much helpful and full of hospitability, so the young man said, '- well, if you have time to wait for ten minutes I can arrange something for you'. Of course I waited. After ten minutes the young man served a very nice lebanese course with meet and vegetables. From where he picked it up he didn t say. He couldn t get any wine for me but asked me if I wanted him to pick up a local beer. Of course I wanted that.
So I was very pleased when walking back to my hotel room for an early sleep in. The town Baalbek is a sleepy town in the evenings. Nothing was open, and you couldn t see many people out, but some men sitting playing cards outside a supermarket.
The next morning I woke up very early. At seven o clock I heard some noice from loudspeakers singing and praying. But it was not the usual cries from the minarets, it was female voices.... I became very curious and after taking my breakfast, listening to the singing and praying outside, I tried to find from where the noice came from and found a Maronite church where the mass were beginning in ten minutes so I entered.
It struck me that Lebanon is a country with many religions and different kind of churches, mosques and other places for prayers. But it was the first time I ever heard a church crying out prayers and songs, in all the town before the service. Interesting.
After the service I took just took a minibus back to Beirut.