Day Trip to
Baalbeck and the
May 9, 2006
I remember last one night after work last summer when my friends and I got together at Vino Venue in San Francisco. They
have wines set up by varietals and then one table set up as more of the ‘international’ wines. Since I had just decided I was going
to be doing this trip, I knew of a few places I was going to definitely hit…Lebanon being one of them. To my surprise, there was a
Lebanese wine represented on this table. Even though I remember it being painfully expensive for the taste, I had to try it. This
was the first time that I had heard of wine in Lebanon. Yesterday was the second…
I knew I wanted to see Baalbeck (the best preserved ancient ruins in Lebanon). But what made doing a tour out there even
more appealing was that there was a winery tour incorporated into it…
Well, sign me up!
After being picked up, we were on our way. We drove through Beirut where we were shown several pieces of evidence of the
bombings that took place here in 1975. Right next to the Intercontinental there is a blown-out Holiday Inn. It’s too expensive to
repair yet it’s too close to other large buildings to tear it down. They’re still deciding what to do with it. There are also other
buildings that were clearly bombed. The thing is that these buildings are untouchable if the owners fled the country. At this
point, they serve as a reminder of what Beirut endured. We also found out that downtown was completely destroyed during the
war. All of the buildings that I’ve been seeing and loving are brand new. The rebuilding of the downtown started in 1993 by
Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and is estimated to be done in 2010. Sadly, Hariri was killed in a bombing (apparently 100 pounds
of TNT) just over one year ago. There are still many unanswered questions about the details.
In any case, we also drove up into the mountains where many people have their summer homes. Unfortunately, this area also
suffered the effects of the war. Homes just started being rebuilt in 1996. Like Beirut, it does look like this area is getting back to
how things were before the war.
Our first stop on our tour was to Anjar (which is now 100% Armenian) and we saw some ruins there. Nothing too
exciting…probably just a time filler.
Upon heading out to Baalbeck, we passed a Palestinian refugee camps. From what our tour guide said, there tends to be one of
these outside of most of the larger cities. It was kind of weird driving by it and seeing pictures of Yassir Arafat all over.
Baalbeck was quite impressive. There are three different temples there: Jupiter’s (the huge one that barely exists any more),
Bacchus’ (which is one of the best preserved since most of it was excavated as late as 1900) and Venus’ (which has also been
excavated more recently). There are still six columns that exist in Jupiter’s temple. These are the largest in the world. From far
away, they look like columns. From up close, you begin to understand the magnitude of just how massive they are. There were
pieces from the temple all over the place on the ground. Many of these pieces had detailing such as flowers, lions, grapes leaves
and seashells…just to name a few. During lunch (actually, more like a Lebanese feast), we found out the views of our Lebanese
tour guide in regards to Lebanon and what is in store for it. She was very pessimistic as Lebanon has never been independent
and she doesn’t see it happening. When hearing her talk…and listening to all of the different countries that have some
responsibility to the turmoil…it was clear just how complicated the whole mess is.
Now it was off to Chateau Ksara. A very beautiful winery. We were led upstairs and learned a bit about their wine making,
tasted some of the wines and toured the caves. After our full-day outing, it was time to head back to Beirut.
The Anjar ruins.
Wine tasting at the Ksara Winery.
The ruins of Baalbeck.