I have spent a magical weekend a couple of weeks ago. It was more of a night and a day.
I went with a group of friends on Saturday afternoon to Kadisha Valley, or what is also called The Valley of the Saints. The name means sacred in syriac and it feels so. Surrounded by nature all around, this valley is about to become one of the places to be preserved by the UN. We stayed at the Monastery of the Lady of Qannoubine, a monastery brought to life by the nuns of the Antonine Order. And it is full of life now, and prayers.
Together with the darkness of night, we arrived at the monastery that Saturday. You have to ditch your car either where the asphalt ends at an estimate of an hour walk on rocky and dusty roads, or skip almost ¾ of the road by car, accepting the bumpy road till you reach a place where you have no choice but leave the car and continue on foot. We took the second choice and accepted the surrounding environment with silence, listening to the howl coming from afar.
After getting to the monastery, grabbing a bite, and having an evening of prayer and meditation, we decided to sleep early so that we would enjoy the next day with full energy. We woke up at 5, got ready and moved at 6. We headed to the hermitage, which was about 45 minutes away, while praying and chanting. On our way back, a group of us decided to go visit the deserted village on the opposite mountain. The trip there takes an hour, and another to come back.
We went down the mountain to the river where we crossed an ancient bridge to the other side to begin the walk up. The road was primitive, rocky and rough. In certain places we found really muddy paths that were hard to cross. Luckily we had picked up tree branches we found lying on the ground to use as walking sticks.
The paths were narrow and sometimes slippery, but we didn’t want to walk to such a place and give up. And for our efforts, we were rewarded with a fascinating gift at the end of the road. We reached the village, peeked from the window of the church to see what it looks like, discovered the houses around it and continued to walk further. We found another bridge, and as we walked forward, the sound of falling water grew stronger.
Yes, it was a small waterfall. We were in a state of amazement for our little treasure and we rushed to dip our hands in it, scoop some of its water and wash our faces. The water was very refreshing and perfect to push our stamina up for we were about to go back that one hour walk again under the 10 am sun. We got back exactly at 11 and in time for mass which afterwards we packed and left for lunch and then headed back home.
No words could describe this place. You need to experience it to feel what I’m talking about. Being surrounded by nature, night’s darkness and silence is something we are not used to anymore. And to really experience it, I turned my mobile completely OFF at night (and to preserve its battery since electricity was only available for lights and just a couple of plugs) and used it the next day to take photos only. It barely survived till I got back home.
The scenery is soothing during the day. High mountains, clear blue sky, trees, and occasional tweets from actual BIRDS make you relive the simple life. I will refrain from saying anything more (because I am speechless at the moment) but I advise you to go for that trip, if not for its religious holiness but for the majesty of nature there.
And of course, no trip is complete without ice cream. A chocolate dipped cone from Salem ice cream shop that is well-known in the north.
For all the photos, check the Facebook album here
Would you consider such a trip?
If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d be more than happy to hear it.