Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lebanon Mountains and Bekka Valley

We made it out of Tripoli in one piece even after driving in the wrong lane for a short bit on the outskirts of town. Sonny was the navigator and told me where to go as we cut across small towns to find a road to Bcharre and the Cedars. In short, the mountain towns and valleys were scenic as the leaves were changing color. It has been awhile since we've experience a real fall.

We assumed the two people depicted in this poster are somehow involved in politics despite their resemblance to Mexican novela (soap opera) stars. Bcharre/Becharre/Bsharre/Bsharri is a stronghold for Maronite Christians (Eastern Catholic Church) and a touristic destination for hikers and skiers.

The sleepy town sits at the edge of Qadisha Valley. The vibe is reminiscent of a small mountain ski town in Colorado during the off season. It was an ideal way to spend some quiet time away from the city.

Gibran Museum. Artist/Writer Khalil Gibran most famous for his 26-poem essay The Prophet  has his tomb, manuscripts, and works of art for least that's the word on the street. When we arrived the museum was closed.

The family run Bauhaus Motel sounded like the place to stay. Although there was no Peter Murphy at the desk, Tony the owner fit the bill just fine. Need a hair cut? Tony and his sister (?) have a salon on the ground floor. Our chalet bright, clean, and had a view. Tony wanted to make sure we had a good time and was helpful and friendly. The only problem we encountered was when the power kept going out. We called upstairs (where Tony lives) and he sent down the 7 year old electrician to show us how to use the power breakers. Tony speaks French, Arabic and a little English so some of the conversations were a little confusing. Example #1 me: "Where is your sister? Tony: "My sister in your family" sadly his sister never showed up at our door. I would love to come back during winter. To find out more about the Bauhaus click here  

We went looking for Qauisha Grotto and ended up at the Cedars. I'm not going to lie, driving up mountains in Lebanon is a hairy experience and most of the time there is only room enough for one car to get around the bend. In our hopes of finding the grotto we wound up back on the main road a few minutes from the Cedars. The Cedars are a small cluster of old trees and there is an effort to conserve and regenerate the forest. There is also an army of souvenir stands with eager sellers awaiting your arrival. We were compelled to buy a quarter kilo of nuts, figs, a round of beers, in order to relax and take it all in. Back in Bcharre we had an uneventful dinner at the lovely Chbat Hotel where we met three Swiss on holiday and invited them over sample Lebanese wine. 
At the base of the Cedars ski resort we enjoyed our breakfast staple Manoosh (bread cooked on a saj topped with labneh/cheese and zaatar. Wearing a lab coat is a must when attempting such duties. 

The saj oven doing its' magic.

In winter the mountains are snowcapped and the area becomes a popular a ski resort. We would continue up the road and over the mountain range descending into Bekka Valley. At the summit you can see the Mediterranean to the west and Syria to the east. I was too spooked to snap pictures and handed the wheel over to Sonny who drove fearlessly down the mountain.

On the other side of the mountain were several hunters blocking the road shooting birds with their riffles. I don't know about you, but people shooting guns in my vicinity makes me feel slightly uneasy. Encountering all the hunters and soldiers during our adventure made me think of Benny, my redneck foreman back in Birmingham, AL. Benny liking guns is an understatement! He'd send me to Hardee's in the morning in his pick-up to go fetch him a biscuit and told me that he had a 9mm in his glove compartment (verified) just in case the race war broke out?! He also wished for all Americans to carry guns because it would make for a polite society. Yes, we were polite and waved at all the hunters and soldiers.

Like I've mentioned before there is a mess of political organizations throughout Lebanon, politely put, a little something for everybody. Some like the Syrian and Iranian influence while other do not.

Hezbollah billboard, a common sight in Bekka Valley.

Lebanese love their billboards political or McDonalds. The country is littered with them as far as the eye can see. 

An Iranian styled shia mosque

We've returned to Baalbek and it was just as amazing as it was last year. If you missed our posting and pictures from last November, you can click here . 

When you see fallen ruins you start to think about where you're walking under hoping not to be a statistic.

Temple of Bacchus. Last year there was grass and the landscape was much greener.

Temple of Jupiter

Temple of Jupiter

Temple of Bacchus detail

Inside the museum.

Inside the museum.

Stayed tuned for the the final installment...much more misadventures coming up as we tried to drive through southern Lebanon.

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