East of Paris Bookstore

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Castles and Knights

Krak des Chevaliers
I am in the middle of Raymond Khoury's new novel, The Templar Salvation.  I've also read the prequel, called The Last Templar, and saw the TV version of that book.  The books and film are non-stop action and adventure with a touch of romance. Although having read the Sir. Walter Scott's oh so romantic Ivanhoe [and seen the old old movie with Elizabeth Taylor and other luminaries], I have a negative view of the Knights Templar.  It seems that King Philip IV of France had an even more negative view of Templars and executed their leader and many of his brethren.

Back to the Raymond Khoury's latest book.  In the prologue, he writes:  "And so, Everard and his brother-knights had left the Templar stronghold at Tortosa in a great rush.  They had ridden north all the way up the coast, then west ... across the arid moonscapes of Cappodocia ... [and further west and ] reached the environs of Constantinople." (p. 2)  Well, I had to stop reading when I realized:  been there, done that -- Torosa in November, Cappodocia a few years ago, and Constantinople most recently in May.  

Tortosa, now called Tartus, is just north of Lattakia on the Syrian coast.  While it's a busy port city, the remains of the Templar stronghold are barely noticeable.  The few remaining walls have been incorporated into old crumbling apartment buildings and are further hidden by flapping laundry and scraggly plants.   It did not merit a photo. Unlike the fictional Everard, rather than turning west, we turned east towards Antioch and on the way we found Krak des Chevaliers.
Krak des Chevaliers is a massive and well preserved Crusader castle on top of a 650 meter-high hill in the Homs Gap, east of Tartus and west of Homs.  It sat along the only major route from Antioch [now Antakya, Turkey] to Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. We explored a bit of it and marveled how fully rigged out knights of old could manage moving about the castle.  We did not find a single passage that was flat or smooth. Mr. Wonderful had a cane but I needed a sedan chair.

The castle has the obligatory moat, 
confusing passageways,
 and mysterious doorways.
Outside it was rather windy and Mr. Wonderful and I had to hang on so as not to be blown off a cliff before our photo "op."

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