We woke up in the morning to visit the Aleppo’s castle (ticket: 150 S£ exchange rate: 1€ = 71Syrian£). The castle was opening at 9 a.m. It is located in the historical centre, exactly on the opposite side of the entrance of the central marketplace.
We walked through the stone bridge and got into the castle through the imposing and extraordinary gate. In the interior reconstruction works were taking place, by giving a quite nice aspect of its structure: church, market, bathing etc. We went up the walls and enjoyed the impressive view of the city!
We returned to the hotel. Honking, we went through the busy souks to get out through the gate Bab Antakya. The traffic in the streets of Aleppo was heavy. However, it wasn’t so difficult anymore. After some wandering around we made it through the town by following the signs to Damascus.
It was then that we had our first contact with the Syrian petrol stations! They don’t have leadless gas, but only 80-85 octanes’ gas. Paying with a credit card was out of consideration! The gas stations reminded those in the Greek movies of 1960…
We filled the motorcycles’ deposits and continued by following the motorway to Hamah and Damascus. The road had 2 streams of traffic with 2 lanes each. Between them there was no guard rail. It was for this reason that it wasn’t so weird to see a car (or even a track!) to move on the opposite side of the road... and especially on the left lane!!! Driving demanded to be very careful. The one with the biggest vehicle dominates. The pavement’s condition was mediocre and there were a lot of bumps in many spots of the road (especially inside villages).
We had covered 130-140km when we arrived at the quiet town of Hamah. By following the signs to the centre, we arrived at the famous and impressive waterfalls from which the town is so well known. In our days the river’s water is very few so the huge waterfalls remain still and stink. However, the spectacle was astonishing. In the same place has been created a park, which we visited to rest.
After leaving Hamah we followed a lonely route to Masyaf. Gradually the scenery was changing as we were coming up in height. We found more vegetation and trees. The road was narrow and the pavement of middling quality, but the pleasure of the driving and the landscape was rewarding.
After 30-40km we arrived at Masyaf. The village is located on the mountains Jabal and Nusayriah, which separate the sea from the country. The local people informed us that in the village is the last petrol station until Baniyas (65km). We continued to the top, passing through some beautiful small villages, which had a wonderful panoramic view. The height didn’t exceed the 1000-1100m.
Arriving at Baniyas we followed the inshore Syrian motorway with direction to Tartus. In 40km we turned right to the exit for Tartus and, by following off - shore path, we crossed over the biggest port of Syria. We arrived at the tourist resort Amrit.
Driving alongshore for 15-20km we arrived at our day’s final destination, the village Al Hamidye. It’s well known for its peasants, many of who speak Cretan. They we settled at the area about 100 years ago. Since I had first read about the village, I put in my mind to visit it someday... and my wish came true!
Entering then Al Hamidye, I looked for the village’s central square. But in vain! A moment later, we saw people sitting in front of a house, drinking their afternoon coffee. We stopped and then a black dressed, grey haired man with moustache, named Assef, came to our side. “Good afternoon! Are you Greek guys? May I help you somehow?”, he told us in Greek! His words worked like a “signal” to us…
He invited us for some coffee to his home. There the rest of the family was gathered: his wife, his 4 sons and his 2 daughters and some other relatives. They all greeted us with special cordiality! The necessary introduction was made through Assef (the father) who took over the role of the interpreter. The children didn’t speak Greek accept for some words. Assef began to narrate his story and his relationship with the Greek language: He was Arabian, born in Al Hamidye. His first Greek words had learned them from his Cretan friends in school, who lived in the village. Someday he became sailor in Greek ships making routes to Greece. He travelled to a lot of Greek ports: Thessalonica, Piraeus, Patra, Preveza, Alexandroupoli, Kiato, Chania, etc. His greatest desire to speak the language made him speak Greek in less than 2 years. He worked for a while in Athens and Crete. He even almost got married with a Greek woman!
Even if he hadn’t talked Greek for a while, he remembered it quite well. He was deeply affected when he first talked to us… His hospitality combined Cretan and Syrian elements, creating a wonderful result! The coffees were followed by juices, arack, appetizers, fruits, argyle while Greek songs were playing, which his children really loved! The chatting, the jokes, the teasing and the laughs weren’t stopping. We were trying to communicate all together using Greek and Arabian.
Later his parents in law were added in our company, having his father in law telling us some phrases in Greek! Some more relatives came by, as well as one of his son’s future wife. The atmosphere was very warm, friendly, cosy, open… The whole family wanted to accommodate us. His wife told us it would be a great pleasure for them to spend the night there. We accepted with great pleasure their kind invitation. The chatting was continued until late the night. We didn’t understand how the time passed by drinking “raki”.
When we went to bed, at 3a.m only one thought was in my mind: “Every day was a surprise in the hospitable Syria…”