The Islamic Capital Of Culture..

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Where I stayed
Spring Flower Hostel

Flag of Syria  ,
Friday, August 25, 2006

Syria, at last!

Well after almost 7 weeks in Turkey we were definitely ready for a change of scenery (and menu). So with our trusty visa in hand we made our way to the border crossing by way of an eastern Turkey minibus and simply walked across the border into Syria.

After about a week of hearing, 'hello donkey, money money' it was nice to hear all the Syrian border officials saying, 'hello, welcome welcome'. A nice change.

So after the necessary red tape was cut we walked through the gate and entered Syria proper. Our first major stop after the border was to be Aleppo which was about 200 km's away and should've been relatively simple. Nuh-uh, this is Syria, not Turkey. Firstly we had to catch a cab to the 'bus garage' in a ancient cab. He proceeded to rip us off, no problem it was only a buck or so and just the welcome we were expecting from a taxi driver.

From the bus garage we were to catch a big bus to Aleppo but the bus had 'gone' apparently so the minibus man said he'd drive us to a town called Ar Raqqa for a sum that we had no idea due to not speaking Arabic and he not speaking English. In the end we just agreed and had the wildest ride of the trip thus far, this guy was a lunatic. For most of the trip he just drove down the middle of the road at 120+ km/h. He also proceeded to rip us off by charging our baggage as passengers as well even though there was no one else in the van. Loving the taxi drivers already.

From Ar Raqqa we fortunately jumped straight onto a large bus packed with Syrians. This guy was also a maniac but we were the biggest fish on the road so there was a level of comfort. We had a couple of women in front of us with small children including a gorgeous little one or so year old who couldn't keep her eyes off the weird looking people sitting behind her. Halfway through the trip she was crying and wouldn't go to sleep so for some unknown reason they decided to just hand her to me. She was asleep within 5 minutes and I had to nurse her for the remaining hour of the bus trip. Then they just took her away when we got to Aleppo, then I started to cry and Kat had to nurse me.

Anyways, back to Aleppo. Not much to write home about from our perspective I'm afraid. After spending a week or so in a succession of nice and smallish Turkish cities, Aleppo was just another big bustling city built around an ancient citadel and busy souq (bazaar).

It's thought that the city has been inhabited for last 8000 years which makes it pretty old really. Why they persist is a mystery to us as it's a bit of a shithole to be honest. The main attractions are the bustling souq (finest in the middle east they say) and the citadel that dominates the city skyline which was erected around 364 BC. Sure, they were nice enough sites and we're glad we saw them but a couple of things like that really doesn't make the place worth visiting if the city itself is a horrible place to be. Maybe we have just been away from big cities for a month and couldn't take the pace but this place was really manic and very very dirty.

In addition to the above, unbeknownst to us we were staying at 'peephole palace' which was a real dive with the creepiest owner/manager we've come across and we were ready to move onto our next destination after a couple of days. Advice to all, give the Spring Flower Hostel a miss, they are dodgy dodgy dodgy.

It seems that our impression of Aleppo seems to be the norm if the other travellers we've spoken to are anything to go by. There are much nicer places in Syria which we'll touch on in later pods but it's really good to be in Syria regardless of what you've just read. The Syrians are an extremely friendly and welcoming bunch of folk.

Next pod, Hama - Syria.


Nath and Kat.
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