Rocking in the Lebanon........Day 1 (part2)
Well... we are in the place that the Government categorically told us we should not come to. It's been a long day.
Left Birmingham at just gonna the 6th hour of the morning and had a short flight to Frankfurt AM Main in Germany. The departure lounge for the flight to Beirut destroyed the myth of German efficiency......in fact it ripped its arms, head & legs off, put them all through a blender then packed them tightly up the arse of the remaining torso and stuck it in the oven on gas Mark 6. It was carnage, with staff and passengers not having a clue where to go or what to do. The seating plan seemed to go out the window and it was only after a tense argument that I gave up my original seat when the irate German chap eventually persuaded me he was the pilot (I thank you!!)
My Bose noise reducing headphones created the ignorant bliss that is sooooo desperately needed when surrounded by screaming kids and we touched down in Beirut 4 hours later with me feeling relaxed. Andrea, who doesn't have the Bose noise reducing headphones (£250 all good stockists), looked ready to murder small kids on a genocidal scale.
The much anticipated Lebanese customs then awaited. Stories of intense questioning by fat blokes in dirty vests who smoke constantly & guard dogs who look like great white sharks on a lead, all failed to materialize. A welcome Mr David and a smile saw us through and out to collect our bags which were sat waiting in the baggage lounge. The airport had an air of efficiency that those of a certain goose stepping tendency could learn from.
I had arranged a taxi to take us to Baalbek and after a slight hiccup we were on our way. The driver couldn't figure out where our hotel was and after calling the reception realised, with some displeasure, it was not in the Baalbek suburb of Beirut he was heading for, but actually in the city of Baalbek 2 hours away.
Beirut is a city still being re-developed. Some odd buildings still bear the scars of the civil war but mostly it's thriving and bustling. We traveled north into the Bekaa valley, through many army checkpoints, but the squaddies manning them were relaxed and did not look like they expected the Syrian army to come piling down the road any time soon. After a couple of hours drive I spotted the familiar pillars of the Temple of Jupiter, which is part of the complex of "Roman" ruins known as Heliopolis, which I have seen in so many photographs.
Our hotel is directly opposite the site and our driver dropped us right outside. I'd sat working out a 'tip' for him whilst we drive to Baalbek (my initial thought of telling him to.. 'never fly through Frankfurt airport'.. didn't seem sufficient) and handed him a Lebanese note. which I thought was worth about £6. He declined this and drove off leaving us stating what a nice bloke he was. It was only later I realised I'd actually tried to give him the equivalent of 6p and he had probably driven off thinking I was a tight arsed wanker.
The hotel is the Palmyra, which we have since learnt was built in the late 18th century (I think the guy who met us at the door was there when this happened). Brochures would say 'rustic'..people who are stuck up their own arse would say 'shit hole' but personally I think the Palmyra hotel in Baalbek is a 'rustic shit hole' and I love it.
We were straight out to have a look round, everyone appears friendly with "welcome" greetings a plenty. I did find a road which ran alongside complex and we wandered down it in order to get our first gimps of the reason came here...'The Trilitheon'......what is that I hear u ask???
I will tell you something.....it's HUGE