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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Baalbeck, Lebanon


The Bacchus Temple which has withstood earthquakes and civil war
Another of the experiences on our recent trip, let me know if you're enjoying the narrative.
We entered Lebanon easily (on a free 48 hour visa we secured at the border) and after visiting the Ummayad summer palace at Anjur, we drove on to Baalbeck. Baalbeck is in a Hezbollah controlled area, and as we drove towards the site there were prominently displayed images of  Hassan Nasrallah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The souvenir stands sell Hezbollah flags and t-shirts, which bafflingly seem to be very popular with European tourists. The road was very well maintained, apparently a product of Hezbollah's largesse.


This illustration gives a sense of the temple complex
The illustration above shows the main entranceway on the right - leading to the elevated Temple of Jupiter (or Baal). The Bacchus temple (which is the best preserved today) is to its  left, and the smaller Venus temple can be seen in the far left hand corner of the illustration.  
The main temple entrance today, nobody is there.
The Jupiter Temple
Great Court, between the entrance and the main Jupiter Temple
The site was quite lovely in the late afternoon light, and we had it almost entirely to ourselves. It's  impressive to see, and if Baalbeck were in Europe it would be overrun with visitors.  Though Beirut has  a lot of buzz these days, tourism remains down in Lebanon. 

Lots of wonderful details...

Built over two centuries the site was begun under the Emperor Augustus. The temple complex is expansive and was designed to impress visitors with the power and grandeur of Rome, which it still does today.
This gives a sense of scale, as you can see I was cold!
The stone reminded me of the rich sand colored stone from the Cotswolds, rich and warm in the waning sun. Six columns of the Jupiter temple remain standing, others were removed and shipped to Constantinople to be reused in Justinian's  basilica, the Hagia Sophia. Now of course one of the most famous mosques in the world.
Our guide  was quite a character and makes his living on the small number of tourists. 

Comments

Anonymous said…
Your blog is fascinating in all respects. I did notice that though you have traveled a good chunk of the Middle East, you seemed to have avoided Israel. Is there a reason for this, or doesn't that country interest you?
So glad you're enjoying the blog and thanks for leaving a comment, much appreciated. Without comments it's like talking into a void!
On our last trip we had three weeks and focused on Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. We thought about adding Jerusalem at the end, but decided it would make things too rushed. We intend to visit Israel on a seperate trip.

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