We spent the day touring the mountains above Beirut, and enjoying an amazing lunch in a seafood restaurant in a snowy village. An alpine village seems an unusual locale for seafood, but in Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea is never more than a few hours away. It is a short drive down the mountain for the chef to purchase the daily fresh catch. From the village, we had a magnificent view of the coast and the sparkling sea to the west, and the white mountain peaks to the east. I was surprised with a cake and candles, which we somehow managed to consume even after a multi-course lunch!
Second only to eating and socializing, our favorite activity in Lebanon is hiking. Our friends guided us on a hike down a valley to see ruins of a picturesque centuries-old bridge and mill along a rushing river, complete with a shepherd and his small son calling and herding their grazing sheep.
We also visited a site high on a mountain peak with a 360-degree view of mountains, valleys and the sea. A refurbished home perches there, atop many layers of civilization in unexcavated ruins. Our friends, the architects who restored the house, pointed out to us how the rocky outcroppings around the property had been “worked” and carved, evidence that we were likely walking on the remains of an ancient millennia-old pagan temple. Later, the temple stones were repurposed as a church. In a cave dug into the rock, we saw brightly colored 6th century frescoes of biblical images. The property also had a tilled olive grove with fragments of painted pottery. All of this attesting to the thousands of years the land has been occupied. One feels a connection to the countless generations of people who have sought out the spiritual experience of the site’s awe-inspiring view.
It was a birthday I will long remember!