Bcharre and Beyond

Trip Start Jan 18, 2006
Trip End Jun 02, 2006

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Lebanon Day Three: The Snow-Capped Mountains of Bcharré

Nothing could top Bazbina, it was a lifetime moment so I was tempted to just sleep through the rest of Lebanon. But even though I knew everything would pale in comparison to the previous day's event, Erin and I set out the next day to explore the
country again.

Bcharré is a touristy village in the heart of Lebanon's biggest mountain range, it is where the Middle East goes to ski. Upon the advice of our oh-so-helpful hostel owner, we took a minibus to the alpine setting, winding around the hair pin turns that my mom had warned me about. Somehow between crazy taxi drivers, Egyptian traffic, and food poison Erin and I were no longer unsettled by hair pin curves.

The precipitous ride took us from the azure coast to the bucolic hills where out of the blue, snow appeared on the horizon. The white caps of the Mount Lebanon Range seemed surreal and Erin snapped photo after photo. Our traveling companions also proved interesting. In front of us was a Belgian couple, the husband knew some Arabic that he had picked up in Europe just for fun. The rest of the passengers were boisterous soldiers, going home on leave. They were wound up and full of boyish energy, hitting each other and stealing each other's hats. I tried to pay attention to their jesting conversation, slowly training my ear to separate the rapid words.

Once in Bcharré we whiled away a good amount of time just soaking it all in. We had lunch at the one restaurant that was open on Good Friday and the food was terrible. I was surprised considering that we were, after all, in Lebanon the culinary capital of the Middle East. But afterwards the chef came out and apologized charmingly saying, "I am so sorry, my wife is the cook and she is pregnant now so I do my best to make the food."

We tried to hike down into the valley but Erin soon noticed that a stream had taken possession of our path and that continuing would be both muddy and tiresome. So we wandered up the mountain instead and eventually caught a cab to the Cedars.

This tiny forest is one of the few remaining clumps of the famous trees. Unfortunately, the Lebanese have cut down almost all of the arbors that adorn their flags and now the hills lie naked under the sun. But despite its small size, the forest gave the illusion of evergreen serenity and Cairo slipped from my memory as I wandered along the wooded paths.

The day ended with coffee, a Lebanese ritual. We had just wanted to tour the town's museum, but the curator invited us into her office and insisted that we stay for cake. She wanted to practice her English and we obliged, fascinated by her stories about the village. It is entirely Maronite and the 20,000 occupants attend twenty different churches. The woman had lost her husband to the war and her children to emigration, one had gotten a job in Australia and the other was in Europe. This was the personal side to the fact that there are more Lebanese people living outside of Lebanon than within its borders.

After two strong cups of coffee, Erin decided we should get going. I was hesitant to leave the cozy little office and I had so many more questions, but we didn't want to miss our bus. Soon we were winding back to the coast, my head bumping drowsily against the window as we once again hurtled around the "hair pin curves."
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