After an amazing day amidst the ruins of Baalbek we headed the next day to Byblos. Since the guided tour on the day before worked so well, we decided to go again with the same agency. A new driver came to the hotel and this time we went to a bakery for coffee instead of a ‘drive through’. Appears to be a staple drink in this country.
Within half an hour we arrived at the Jeita Grotto which was the first stop of the day. Already the drive to the grotto was scenic.
The grotto consists of two interconnected caves which are about 9km long. To get to the first cave you get on a gondola. Once up, at the entrance to the cave you need to leave your cell phone in locker. The cave itself is really long and impressive by its size. It’s quite good looking but after the caves in Vietnam, it is just another cave. From the upper cave it was a short walk to the second cave, where a boat takes you around the grotto. Also nice, but nothing special.
Better yet was the super large Virgin Mary Statue in Harrissa. The hill on which it stands provides a great view on Jounieh, a coastal city in Lebanon. And there is even a cedar in the forefront.
The statue itself is supersized and stands on a tower. A lot of pilgrims walk up the winding stairs and say their prayers, therefore you have to be quiet and respectful. For them it is not a sightseeing point but rather a religious experience. Around the statue the whole place is more like a religious shopping place. You can by some candles outside and light them, as well as shop some souvenirs in a really large store.
So do you need to come here? Definitely not to see the statue. But taking the gondola down to Jounieh is a lot of fun. It get so close to the houses that you can people watch during the descent.
And then we were finally on our way to Byblos, a city which has been continuously inhabited since 5000 BC. That’s quite amazing I find. And of course we were there to see the port and the castle which has been built by the crusaders. Look how they used the columns of the Roman temple, which has been on this site, to fortify their fortress.
All the stones which you see on the picture with the castle are from former periods. So the Romans were here, as I have said, but also the Phoenicians and others. The sarcophagus with the first alphabet, which we saw in Beirut, came from here. You need to take your time while strolling around the castle grounds.
The end of our tour was a lunch in one of the restaurants not quite overlooking the port and a short walk through the local souk. Definitely not as modern here as in Beirut. Looking back on our Byblos tour I liked the stops at the Jeita Grotto and the Virgin Mary statue in Harissa, but our stop in Byblos itself was too short. Of course once we arrived there we were already tired, so the lunch break was really welcome. We should have done the port though with the guide and not just walked for lunch. In any case, I hope there will be another chance to get back to Byblos. Yours, Pollybert