Saturday, June 04, 2011
Aside from getting over a cold, the last few days have been amazing. While I'd spent some time this week walking around Beirut, today was my first chance to get out of the city and see some other parts of the country. We ended up going to Beit Eddine, which is a castle/palace about an hour south of the capital. On the way there I was amazed by the scenery in the valleys, which were full of banana plantations. Up a few hundred feet it looked like you would expect a Middle-Eastern country, with olive trees and bare rocks. Up a few hundred more and it started to look more like Colorado with evergreen trees and much cooler temperatures.
After spending most of the early afternoon walking through the castle and taking tons of photos (of the palace, and some Lebanese kids who wanted me to take pictures of them) we headed north by a different route. Along the way we stopped at a restaurant where I had my first ever falafel. I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into when I first saw it, but it was actually quite good.
Our next stop was a national park sort of thing where I got to see Lebanon's national symbol: the Lebanese Cedar. Apparently the cedars in the south are "only" 400 - 500 years old, and thus not as imposing as those in the north. They were still beautiful though. Mark explained that long ago much of the country had been covered with trees like this, and it becomes easy to see why the Bible so often refers to the natural beauty of Lebanon.