“Loosing my virginity, twice”, Damascus, Nov. 28th, 2010

Olaf and Katarina, the German couple, James and I shared a taxi to downtown Damascus and they showed us their hotel. As they had no double room and charged too much for the dorm James and I went about 10m further and got a double in “Al-Haramain” Hotel, a very old building with fantastic interiors and crocked stairs. In off season this is what you can do to get cheap rates. In high season, pre booking seems to be a must.

As it was Friday the streets were really quiet and it did not feel like the capital city. Our 2 hour walk almost became a 2 hour search for food but we settled with a “Shwarma”, the always available option if nothing else goes (chicken and some veggies in bread). This one however was very bad and greasy. Am I staring to miss the German bread???

The internet café surprised with a great connection and a Syrien / Austrian owner who helped me in perfect German (with Austrian accent, which ruined it a bit, smile) to set up Video Skype Call and I talked to my whole family for 40 minutes. They gathered for baking Christmas cookies and it felt good to see them besides the sadness I can not deny to feel as well.

James is a real English and so we finished the day with our 3rd tea that day, chatting about parents, women, work and goals in life. Asking him if they call football also soccer like the Americans I got the following answer: “We call football football, we invented it” together with a face that told the same. Quiet confident for country that has not won anything since 1966 (and that only thanks to a non goal) I thought but I kept it for myself or did I not…………smile.

Having talked about the fact that sometimes you need to go alone to take good pictures we decided to split on Saturday. The reality was that we slept in till 10am, (which was good to fight my upcoming cold) had a nice breakfast in the garden, checked our mails and then went to town -- together. Cemetery, the souks and the great Mosque. Here I lost my first virginity, the one of safe travel. After spending an hour in one of the most holiest places on earth and talking to Syriens inside how really they live up to the “WELCOME” you get about 2000 times a day, I found myself without shoes. Someone stole them. Great. Even greater the reactions I got from people at the mosque and later at the hotel. “Did they not put other shoes at the same place?” Obviously the theft puts his old shoes where he steels the new once so that you don’t have to walk bare footed. Not in my case and so my socks took me back to the hotel. Well, it will not ruin my opinion on the great Syrians, maybe it was a tourist.

We went to the old train station were we got a free tour and then went for a great chicken dinner. As I am still with James, the English man, what is still missing??? The tea. Looking for a nice table we saw Katarina and Olaf and I would loose my second virginity. They introduced me to the “Sheesha”, a water pipe. I have never smoked a single cigarette but I was willing to try. Did not really taste anything (Apple was the chosen variety) but on the third attempt I swallowed it. Only hot chocolate helped here. I can kind of understand why people smoke it all the time here and socialise with it but I personally don’t need it. I managed the evening with a tea, a hot chocolate, an ice tea and another hot chocolate just fine.

The 2 highlights of Sunday followed a 5h walk through the Christian Quarter and the old town. James and I went for a traditional Hammam and a real Syrien shave. I am not so much into steam rooms and sauna but the massage as well as the building itself were amazing. Now, the great barber shops already got my interest in Lebanon but I wanted it all and I got it all. The old house, with old furniture and an old charismatic man shaving in the traditional way. On top of that James was with me so that some nice pictures of that experience are available. I think my face must have been that smooth only once before, right after birth. The day ended, yes, with tea watching Federer kicking Nadal´s butt at the ATP WC live. I love it.

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  • Gabor says:

    As you can see …

    Frank has learnt: Do not drink and drive, smoke a joint and fly home

    We have learnt: Throw away all your sensor excel fusion mach 5 hydro rubbish – a sharp razor combined with a calm hand is just enough!

  • Jörsch says:

    Hey Frank,

    das mit dem Inhalieren beim Shisha-Rauchen musst du noch fleißig üben (GRINS), Backe-Rauchen bringt nix!

    In diesem Sinne – lass es Dir gut gehen!

  • david says:

    you are more courageous than me my friend. straight edge razor against the neck! lets hope the old man doesnt slip! haha!

  • Thomas says:

    Hallo mein lieber Frank,

    Deine Videosequenzen lassen uns vermuten, dass es Dir nicht soo schlecht geht. Unsere Tagesabläufe sind im Vergleich zu Deinen Beschreibungen sehr, sehr monoton und vom Ausschlafen können wir nur träumen…
    Pass schön weiter auf Dich auf. Wir freuen uns über jedes Lebenszeichen.

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