Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Let Your Imagination Run Wild at Kraks de Chevaliers

Kraks de Chevaliers or "Castle of the Knights" is a must-see destination if you're a fan of King Arthur, knighthood or even movies like Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood.

Located about 40 km west of the city of Homs in Syria, the Kraks de Chevaliers was built in 1031 by the emir of Hom. The place was used by Crusader knights and also Islam armies during the time of the Crusades.

Each group that took control of the castle expanded it till its current form which now sits majestically on a hill overlooking the village of Hosn.

When I visited the castle I haven't the faintest idea what to expect. Of course I did my homework and read a couple of reviews. But I didn't expect to come away totally fascinated at how well preserved the castle is.

My only regret was the lack of time to soak in the place. I wanted to park myself in various corners of the castle and imagine myself as a damsel in distress waiting for my knight in shining armour ;-) But our driver only gave us about 1 hour and then we had to move on to Ma'aloula which was a long journey from the castle. Damn!

But I did take many photos which I would like to share with you here, well at least some of it cause there are just too many.

Entrance fee is SYP 150 for foreigners.

The castle is surrounded by a moat which serves as a barrier for invading enemies. In the cartoons, a moat usually has crocodiles in it in case the invaders decide to swim across the moat to break into the castle. But I don't think they had crocs here cause crocs are not native to Syria, hahaha.

The holes in the walls have a special purpose. Look below to see the answer.

Each hole has a small opening for soldiers to look out for enemies approaching from the hills below. I think these small openings also serve as good covers for them to attack these enemies with their bow and arrows. I was thinking of Legolas from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy when I saw these openings. 

This horse stable reminds me of the Mulu Caves in Sarawak, Malaysia which can house 40 Boeing 747 airplanes. I wonder how many horses can this stable hold?

It's amazing how well preserved this castle is that even the holes in the stable walls to hold torches can still be seen.

I can imagine the thundering hooves of the knights' steeds as they ride through this passage.

This is a room above one of the main doors to the castle. Notice the 3 holes in the floor. When the castle is under attack, soldiers pour boiling oil or water through the 3 holes onto enemy soldiers below who are trying to seige the castle. The slit in the floor is where the door is opened by pulling it upwards through the slit.

Stones for catapults.

Moss on the wall is an indication that this used to be a damp place. Well, this is the latrine for the soldiers.

A close-up view of one of the "cubicles" in the latrine. I wonder where does the wastes flow to. Into the moat perhaps?

The castle has many secret passage ways like this as escape routes in case the castle is under attack.

Chapel that was converted into a mosque after the Muslim conquest. 

A meeting room where the knights discussed battles, combat strategies, etc.

Look carefully at the ring of stones in the middle of the picture. It's called The Round Table which obviously reminded me of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

When you enter the castle, guides will approach you and start showing you around. But beware ... these unauthorised guides who are mostly youth from neighbouring villages will ask you for huge sums of money at the end of the tour.

We blindly followed a guide without asking what his charges were, and at the end of the tour he demanded we pay him USD25 each!

No doubt he did a good job in showing us the various parts of the castle, something which we wouldn't have known had we walked around on our own. But USD25 was just too much.

Despite our protests, he refused to relent. But finally we managed to persuade him and he accepted just USD25 for the both of us. I added a SYP200 tip as well. So it's advisable to agree on the price before you start following any guide to avoid any misunderstanding at the end. 

That was probably the only incident that marred my experience at Kraks de Chevaliers.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! And its amazing its been quite well preserved too after all these years!

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