“I am competing with the other countries.”

Exactly one week ago, just 168 hours back, I was running through Beirut. With the events of those 168 hours I could already fill a book. Trying to keep it to just a couple pages will be the great task for now. The pictures attached, if I manage to do that, will be in the order of events.

I had to come to Beirut to meet the famous German Horst Preisler, the man with the most Ultra runs and Marathons in the world. Beirut was his 1709th.

Make the calculation, running 36 years, how many must he have run per year / month / week?!!! My first Marathon in Berlin 2000 was Horst´s 1000th. Cool. Thanks Thomas for investigating this. The run itself was lonely from the beginning, hot after one hour and from km 31 a struggle but worth every step. From km 19 to 30 I ran with Steve, an American who works for Mercy Corp, a NGO (Non government organisation). That not only helped in running but influenced my trip later on….. .There was no audience, there where “wonderers” as Lebanese don´t understand why someone would run 42 km, they have a point, smile. By the way, if you meet Lebanese in the future telling you they run marathons, don’t be too impressed. They had a parallel event with 1, 3 and 10km and each finisher was called a Marathon runner, got the shirt, the medal the whole thing.

Monday I took it easy just strolling through town taking my first Nikon pictures, I hope you can see that. One of my targets was a laundry place, I arrived at 11:55am. “Sure, no problem, but come back at 3pm and we can wash it.” Why 3pm, well exactly at 12 the power went off and I understood why in my hotel the TV always went down and back up. There are power cuts of 3 hours each day rotating in time. In this case and this part of town it was from 12 to 3pm. The reason: in the civil war as well as in “war” with Isreal 2006 the infrastructure was number one target. Plus the rising consumption needs can not be handled, especially as no investments are taken by the government. How do they deal with it: generators (see picture with bike in front) and taking it easy for 3 hours. That also is what you hear. On one hand it becomes quiet in a way as shops close etc. on the other hand all the generators jump on. However, real quietness I found in the blue mosque. I felt welcomed here, was allowed to take pictures and it was impressively beautiful. Here like everywhere in Lebanon there are 3 ways of communication, English (all younger ones or educated), French (the real old ones (some call Lebanon or former French colony) and well educated) and Arabic (the rest). As everybody is very open and friendly I can talk to all 3 groups. The 3 French words I did learn also help.

Gino called me in the hotel inviting me to dinner with his family. Caroll, Thierry and Cyril (his sons) are great. As Gino still suffered from illness we did not go out but ordered THE Lebanese tradition, called MEZZE. The idea is like Tapas or Antipasta, having different things, not needing to choose. Mom, be proud of me, I tried everything, I liked 50%, the other 50% I just love and can not get enough of it. We talked till well after midnight about families, my trip (they helped me on cherry picking in Lebanon) and politics. But unlikely in Germany, where you discuss if a train station should be put under or above ground or why petrol costs one cent more now, here we discussed how bombs hit the neighbours, how Caroll (born in the house they still live in) had to use the back door going to school. At the front door was the “green” line separating east from west, Christians from Moslems. We are talking 1975 to 1990 here as well as the 2006 war where Israel hit Beirut as well. Let me quote here without source: “We could be the role model of living together peacefully but that is what they are scared of.” (Who are they, think about it). It’s a walk on the edge for all Lebanese. Sometimes you can feel the tention, most of the times not. Then its just a great modern city with all the issues of it (what is the best pub, will the meeting go well, and should I have a blackberry or I phone). Paris of the middle east they call Beirut, its true, just with better weather. A great night ended with a roof top view over the city and I would see Gino again.

Tuesday morning I left for Sour in the south but leaving my big bag at a terrace of a new, cheaper hotel in Beirut (yes, its safe). Steve advised me a hotel right on the water, I reached it just when darkness kicked in, which is early, around 4 to 5pm. Going south in the bus I meet a guy who spoke fluently German. His story??? à Coming to Germany at age 12, not taking it serious but taking drugs. 15 years later, 2006, being sent to prison for 2,5 years. Instead of going in it, he flees to Lebanon without thinking. Now he collects copper, trying to make a living. All his family is in Germany. All he wants is going back, even if he has to go to jail and then be a good person living in the glory land, Germany. Will he make it? We will not find out just like so many other personal stories.

I see this street, I need to take a picture, I put up my tripod, who messes up my photo in Sour, south Lebanon??? Lukas, a German artist, photographer. He carries an even bigger tripod than me. We have dinner, fantastic fried fish, at a restaurant by the port. It turns out he is doing a project on cluster bombs and and has permission to go into the south even further.

Next morning, as I have become his personnel assistant, I can join his trip. With an old white Mercedes taxi, the old white haired driver and his wife we drive into the UNIFIL zone which stands for United Nations Interime Forces in Lebanon. Since 2006 by a UN resolution they not only demine but also have the right to disarm the region. That second part is a paper tiger. Anyway, in our case it is 4 Belgian soldiers we meet in Tibnine. With them we go even further south, almost into Bint Jbayl, a village hit hart in 2006. In the middle of nowhere is grave and monument of a 42year old Belgian soldier, who died demining. Lukas wants to photograph it with his 1920´s style super deluxe camera (see photo).

After 30 minutes we return not without experiencing the edge I am always talking about. Getting out of the car at any point to take pictures is not so smart. We got hold back (always friendly, always with respect, never with anything to fear) and after 20 minutes it was decided that Lukas and I are ok and we went on.

In the afternoon I, strolling through Sour, I meet another guy who spends the summers in Germany. Hussein helps me to organize a taxi driver willing to show me a Palestinian refugee camp and so we go. About 6.000 people in a 1x1km square, not wanted here or anywhere else, having less chances and that since 60 years now. They are the nicest people offering you something to eat (corn) with the condition that you don’t dear to pay. UN actions visible everywhere (schools, employment etc.) as well as posters of heroes we would not see as such. Now I understand a bit better what I see on the news, sometimes. What do you think is the best know German name here? Adolf it is. Being German is an advantage here, being told sometimes that Adolf was a good man, makes me wonder so.

On the way back to Beirut I follow Caroll and Gino´s advise going into the Chouff mountains. Besides the busses I hitchhike and again, nice people, taking a 8km detour for themselves to get me where I want to go. Just great. The 1,5 h drive back to Beirut I do with Mohammed and Sarah, a Lebanese, French couple.

Now if you think, and I did, more of a normal day, wait. Gino freed up the evening and joined me on Luka´s small “work in progress” presentation in Beirut (organized by the Goethe institute). From learning about cluster bombs we went straight to the “Wellness, Beauty, Health and Spa” fair. Trust me, for that topic they choose the right place, the high society of Beirut, they want it all, but only, if it is expensive.

Nice contrast in topics don’t you think? Gino topped it by taking me to a very nice fish restaurant right on the ocean with a night view over Beirut. Gino ordered “octopus with ink” wanting me to try. I did. Later I wondered why he is not eating it à he doesn’t like it!!!

Then he takes me to Biblos, famous for its ruins and supposedly the oldest city with continuously people living in. Very nice port and live performance of the traditional Lebanese dance (see video). Back at my hotel / hostel at 1am but what a day thinking that others spend those same 12 to 15 hours in one office. Smile.

Asking Gino why he does all that for me he answers that he likes the idea of my trip and that he loves Lebanon, his country, wanting it to be top in my ranking. “I am competing with the other countries.” he says. I certainly could not have had a better start and when I will think back of my world tour in the future it will always start with Beirut and Gino. Great.

Now Friday was supposed to be my rather quiet day updating the internet and doing a tourist thing. I went to the “Jeita Grotto” the by far biggest caves in the world. No pictures allowed. The controls are not that tight. I could have taken a couple shots but I just had to give that respect. Unbelievable sizes of stalactites and those other ones…..1.300m long on two levels……and they have not discovered all yet. I can not ask you to vote for them on the new 7 wonders of the world, as I have not seen the others, but I certainly understand why they apply. It’s a must see for all who are into this kind of stuff.

I met with Steve in a bar called “Danny´s” in Hamra, the “IN” part of Beirut and we met John, another American living in Paris taking a weekend trip. Other friends of Steve join in. At midnight we go to Steve´s place as I have to borrow his leather shoes and a nice shirt à “Frank, where we go now, you can’t wear a shirt that says “running” on it……” So we go to this posh, I have a better blackberry than you place. But, the music is fantastic (R&B, a lot from the 90´s) the people are my age and nice, and I end up in bed at 4pm. Did I update my internet? Was it a normal, quiet day? You tell me……Tschau FRANK

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1 Comment

  • Wir haben dein Video bei You Tube als Erstes aufgerufen!! Wir verfolgen deine Reiseberichte und Fotos täglich. Wir sind beeindruckt mach weiter so!! Viele Grüße aus der Heimat
    Es grüßen Dennis und Moni!! Viel Spaß weiterhin!!!

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