The day trip to Baalbek started with our driver taking us through the Quadisha valley to the last cedars of the Lebanon. This was all part of the packaged tour we had booked with the travel agency. Of course you can drive on your own, I am just not sure it makes sense. The traffic regulates itself in mysterious ways in the Lebanon, and I don’t think foreigners have the same inner sense.
Before we hit something resembling an auto route we stopped at the side of the road and got coffee. Yes, you read that correctly, shops along the road are offering something similar to a drive through. You stop for a minute and the guy in charge runs you an espresso. The machines looked good and the coffee was excellent. Really, that was unexpected treat.
The Quadisha valley was with good reason part of this tour. Since 1998 it is a world heritage site due to its long Christian heritage. But it is also one of most beautiful landscapes in Lebanon. From time to time you can see Christian wayside shrines, but these definitely didn’t go way back. Since the weather was sunny with no clouds we had an endless view over the valley with no restrictions.
Can you see the one cedar in this picture below? It’s on the right hand side almost underneath the church. Isn’t it interesting how much taller the cedar is?
Around noon we arrived at the Cedars of God. This Unesco World Heritage Site has been already under protection since 1876 when Queen Victoria paid, after visiting, for a stone wall. And protection is sorely needed for these majestic trees. Read up on the history of these cedars and you will realize that it’s actually a miracle we can still look at them today. A small entrance fee allowed us the enter the protected site and admire the trees from close up.
The trees are even more impressive when you walk under them. Some must be a 1000 years at least. Their sizes are impressive. The whole grove permeates a calm and peaceful atmosphere which was amazing. Just a couple of other tourists disturb our walk through the woods but overall there is nobody here. One wonders how they finance the protection with no inflows.
Eventually we left the Cedars of God but only after Sylvia had a long conversation with a Lebanese doctor who had worked in Hungary for a couple of years. The conversation starter was the Hungarian artist Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka whose painting the ‘Lonely Cedar” originated in this grove. There is even a plaque in Arabic and Hungarian.
From the green cedar grove it was a long drive through barren land. The landscape though stark and forbidding in a way looks gorgeous. And then finally we arrived at Baalbek. But this is another story. Yours, Pollybert