Our return to Kathmandu was once again very temple centred. We returned to the Indian Embassy to hand in our visa forms and passports and pick them back up again in the afternoon on Friday. In the meantime we filled our time with a visit to the ancient cit of Patan and a visit to Kathmandu’s two biggest, most important and most spectacular Buddhist temples, Swayambhunath and Boudhanath.
Swayambhunath is on a lovely wooded hill to the west of Kathmandu, around 20 minutes walk from Kathmandu. On the way we crossed the Bagmati River, which sadly is one of the most rubbish-filled, polluted stretches of water I’ve ever seen. Continue reading →
While Kathmandu is in many ways a thoroughly modern city, a walk through the rambling maze of beautiful medieval houses and temples in the old city is like stepping back into another time.
Everitte and I arrived late on a warm Friday night and got our visas from the most friendly and cheerful border guard I have ever met in my life. We made our way to Thamel, the backpacker hub of Kathmandu, a confusing sea of twisting alleyways lined with a seemingly endless series of cheap hostels, varying standards of restaurant and colorful clothes and scarf shops.
The cedar tree is the national emblem of Lebanon and is the centre-piece of the Lebanese flag. Cedar trees used to cover 70% of Lebanon, however nowadays due to excess deforestation they are a protected species and cover only around 7% of the country. Most of them are found in two protected groves, with some trees over 1000 years old.
We went to visit the biggest of these, the Chouf Cedar Reserve, which covers around 5% of Lebanon’s total land, back in January, to see the beautiful cedar trees in the snow.
Last weekend once again we decided to take advantage of the sun and head down south for the day. The restaurant we had discovered on a previous trip to Tyre with my family was so lovely, perched by a lighthouse and practically in the Mediterranean, that Alex, Renko, Everitte and I decided it was worth the 5 hours of travel time in rickety old service taxis to go there for an open air lunch.
Just after Christmas Everitte and I took a day trip with my family to Beiteddine, an Ottoman palace which is now the summer residence of the President of the Republic of Lebanon (to give him his full and proper title!)
It is a beautiful old building, with the traditional Ottoman mosaics, Islamic decoration and carved wooden ceilings, doors and screens, as well as a beautiful courtyard with fountains and water-features.
The palace took 30 years to complete and was built between 1788 and 1818.
Baalbek is one of the world’s largest and best preserved Roman sites, christened Heliopolis, or City of the Sun, by the ancient Greeks. The city itself is situated in the fertile Bekaa Valley almost exactly in between Beirut and Damascus, and is famous not only for its spectacular ruins, but also as the headquarters of Hezbollah.The site has been continuously inhabited for over 9000 years, with constant building and rebuilding under the Temple of Jupiter.
A few days before Christmas we took my parents and my brother to the South of Lebanon, to the ancient city of Tyre, or Soor, to give it its Arabic name. Like Baalbek, one of Lebanon’s major tourist attractions, Tyre is on the foreign office warning list, which advises against all but essential travel in Lebanon south of the Litani River, due to its proximity to the Israeli border. Continue reading →
The Qadisha Valley in Northern Lebanon is often referred to as the Valley of the Saints, due to its enormous concentration of monasteries and hermitages, some of which date back to the 4th century AD. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty, the valley itself rising steeply upwards from the river, its lower slopes covered in pine forests, fringed with a high rocky cliff above which small towns perch precariously on the edge of the deep gorge. Above these rise Lebanon’s highest peaks, reaching heights of 3000m above sea level.
On our first trip to the valley Everitte and I took a minibus from Tripoli to Bsharry, the birthplace of the famous Lebanese artist, poet and writer Khalil Gibran. With a population of 13,000 Bsharry is one of the biggest towns in the Qadisha valley, Continue reading →