“Subsidized bread”, Aleppo, Nov. 22nd, 2010

I did actually not make it out of Aleppo that on Monday morning. Instead I slept long, surfed the net and by the time I would have been ready to leave, 2pm, there were only 2 daylight hours left. Sunset is around 4pm and so I had a perfect excuse to stay another day in lively Aleppo. Breakfast was, as the 3 days before, a mixed orange banana juice, I just love that stuff.

Guess who was still around? Shaunt of course and he introduced me to another typical dish here à “Fool”, the poor people’s food. It is basically a bowl full of big beans with different sources. Let me say it this way. I am happy not to be a poor Syrien…….. However, the bread is fantastic. You get it everywhere and to everything but still there a big queues at some small bakery shops. That is because here the bread is subsidized. One kg is about 30 Euro Cents. On the commodity market you can buy flour for about 45 Euro Cents but then you still have to make bread out of it and so on. My guess is 50% subsidized and it reminds me of my childhood in East Germany.

Shaunt and I kept walking senselessly through town, into the poor parts of it, into the Armenian quarter in which of course we got invited for tea and finally to the train station.

Back in downtown we got into a “Men´s” teahouse and I ended up playing chess to a guy who claims to have been in the top 10 of Syria some years ago. I lost twice but at least I did make him think in between or was that just him being polite to tourists…………smile. Then we had a fantastic lamb dinner at a local restaurant making me sleep well at 2 am in the morning.

Tuesday started similar. I skype-called Thomas for more than an hour (we hacked it and now I can even call fixed phones in Germany via Skype from Syria, great) but then I got my butt finally to move. Juice again and a taxi took me to the bus station. They are always at the borders of town and many of them, one for all rights east, one for all to Damascus and so on. Without the lonely planet, that would be kind of difficult. The driver wanted to do me a favour putting me into the front row next to him but it became a friendly but very uncomfortable ride. For two hours I could not move one cm. Reaching Al Thawra I thought: What am I doing here? A complete artificial dirty town with no charm at all. Built for the people who worked on the damn which created lake Assad. I figured (and got confirmed later) that the castle would not be special and decided to go on to Deir es Zur. Easy to decide, hard to implement. Back at the bus station that friendly guy told me to hurry up, so I ran only to see that he wants to put me in his taxi………No!!! “There are no busses today, only 2.000 (a bus would cost 100) for taxi.” It got even more intense when another Syrien traveller joined. They talked, then it was only 1.000. I asked the other traveller if he speaks English, which put him in a very uncomfortable situation. Again the taxi driver: “There is no busses anymore today.” Then I gave the perfect answer: “Ok, then I go tomorrow.” That made him look angry and leave within 2 seconds. Muddar, the traveller, later told me that the taxi driver offered him a free ride, if he helped ripping me off. Of course we ended up in a bus arriving in Deir es Zur around 7pm. The hotel was old, relatively clean but got its charm from Nuddine, the old owner, who runs it since 36 years. With a calm voice he would tell you exactly what you need to know without even asking e.g. food, internet, bus stations and about other travellers. So I knocked on room 6 and met James, a UK photographer. Adding Luise (Australia) and Rosalinde (UK) 4 tourist went for dinner in town. I was not alone once again.

Wednesday James and I first walked through town and then went for half day trip to Duo Europos, ruins on the Euphrate river. A fantastic day for which I let the pictures and my first video diary speak.

The day ended with a traditional Syrien Shish Kebab dinner (Nuddine called to make sure they don’t overcharge us), a short stop at an internet café (I could not surf as I had forgotten my passport, its Syria) and the everlasting search for chocolate. I learned that the good one, which I like, is also the expensive one and only available in those “luxury” sweet stores. Now I know.

Thursday morning James noticed that it is one month before Christmas. I added that it started to snow in Germany while we were walking out of the hotel in a T-shirt. Yes. Our “VIP” bus ride to Palmyra was great. Sitting in a comfortable wide chair (VIP means that they only put 3 seats in a row) we went on a straight one lane street through the dessert only stopped by camels crossing the street. Checking into a hotel of a young fun Syrien (who told us how young Syriens have fun with girls) we started right away to the famous ruin sight of Palmyra, probably the only place people would know in Syria. It is impressive and we did not stop talking fotos until it got pitch black. Oh no, we did interrupt our photo session when we saw Luise (the Australien girl) walking at us in very short pants and a string top. When asking why she does that she said, quote: “I want the people here to have at least some excitement.” Here we are with a tourist that not only does not understand anything but even tops it with respect less behaviour. Worst comes to worst, we had dinner with her and Rosalinde again. But we left before dessert and soon after found ourselves playing soccer with the local kids on the street till 11pm at night. It was great. So is Palmyra and it made us get up at 4:44 am the next morning to shoot moonlight & sunrise pictures. It was cold and windy but the light and atmosphere more than paid off. At lunch time we took off to Damascus, meeting a German couple at the bus station. That would not be without consequences…………….loosing my virginity…………….

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