|That night we got to try some local Syrian red wine (not too much to write home about to be honest) and the boys all decided to polish off a bottle of araq – the local tipple which is a bit like ouzo.
After a leisurely breakfast we met up with a guide at the front of the castle. I would have to say that his teeth were some of the worst I have ever seen – there were only two teeth on the bottom row and the other were fairly brown in colour. Not a good advert for Syrian toothpaste or dentistry!
The castle (Krak des Chevaliers) is in a strategically placed position in a gap between the mountain range that stretches from Turkey to Lebanon – it therefore basically gives access to Syria. This is one of the main reasons the crusaders decided to renovate and build their fort in this location once Jerusalem had been captured in the first crusades. There are actually quite a few crusaders castles all though the middle east although Krak is the best preserved.
The main reason for this is that it was never actually breached in its time used as a fort. The massive outside defensive wall kept the muslim soldiers out and the inner fortress is where the knights lived. Even Richard the Lion-Heart came here and there is even the remnants of a round table. We spent the best part of a morning wandering around the huge castle followed by a garlic chicken lunch up in the princess tower.
After lunch we headed north towards Aleppo (our next stop), stopping briefly at Hama which is famous for its ‘norias’, or water-wheels. These are centuries old and were first built as an aid to irrigation. The water-wheels basically scoop water out of the river and place it is aqueduct which irrigate the fields in the area. These are not used anymore despite still working. A local boy had great delight in showing off to us by riding the water-wheels so we could take pictures of him – of course afterwards we ran down the street after us asking for a tip!