Monday, January 06, 2014

Traveller's tale

We'd planned to drive up from the Dead Sea to Karak, the largest Crusader castle in the Middle East, 1000m above sea level. In view of the weather forecast, we were advised not to go but, we thought, we're English and we're used to rain. It would also be our only chance to see it on the packed itinerary which we'd set ourselves.
The road wound up the mountain, the rain poured and torrents with many stones in tow gushed down from the mountainside in front of us at frequent intervals, almost making the way impassable. We drove on, slowly climbing, hoping we wouldn't meet large vehicles skidding downhill on the hairpin bends. When we reached our destination, a tiny hotel next to the castle, the rain was so torrential that we were unable to get out of our car for some time.
Eventually we made a dash for it and arrived in the hotel reception, drenched.
The hotel manager greeted us: "Welcome to Karak! In fact, you are our only guests this evening so I haven't switched on the heating but I'll put an electric fire in your room." This was not a good sign. Nor was the lack of hot water, nor the thin rags masquerading as towels, nor the pronouncement that there would be no breakfast served the following morning as a meeting was scheduled in the restaurant.
Our guide book had warned that when the wind gets up in Karak, you can hear the wailing of the prisoners hurled from the ramparts by Raynald de Chatillon in the twelfth century. How right it was! We have never heard such shrieking and moaning of gales. The windows of our room rattled as demons seemed to whoop and whirl all night, knocking on the panes as they went past.
We were up and dressed early, having barely slept, hoping to persuade the manager at least to give us a cup of tea. The reception was swathed in brittle light: three inches of snow lay outside and thick flakes were still falling. We got our tea, and dates. However, we couldn't look around the castle as the keeper of the key was snowed in in another village.
The thought of another night there, hoping the snow would subside, was not appealing so we headed off to the sun of the Red Sea. Karak castle will have to wait a few years.


Blogger Angus said...

Aqaba sounds rather more appealing than Kerak in the snow.

8:00 am  
Blogger kinglear said...

Ah Karak! I visited it about 6 years ago. All the crusader strongholds are interesting but Karak is the best - you must return! More importantly did you visit Masada? Amazing!

8:17 am  
Blogger Whispering Walls said...

HNY Angus - yes but less dramatic!

HNY KL - no we stayed in Jordan. Another time...

3:52 pm  
Blogger janerowena said...

What a shame. Every time I visit anywhere, I always wish to return at a different time of year in order to see it properly. I rarely seem to get it right.

6:42 pm  
Blogger Eurodog said...

We were there 25 years ago. There was nobody around. Quite dramatic and mysterious.

11:12 am  
Blogger Whispering Walls said...

Sorry Portinari - I deleted your comment by mistake. Happy New Year!

5:27 pm  

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