Finally! It’s nice to have a place I can consider my “home” while I’m here in Beirut. On Sunday I finally moved from the hostel (which was nice and in a perfect location, yes, but still a hostel nonetheless) to the apartment where I’ll be living for the next five months. The worst part was carrying my insanely heavy suitcases up two flights of stairs (no elevator, of course…) which I managed successfully, but at the expense of intense pain and soreness for the next two days in my back and shoulders.
I love how spacious this place is, I’m pretty sure the living room is the size of my entire two-bedroom apartment back in Boston, and it’s less than half the price. My roommate also seems great, I haven’t seen her much because her work keeps her busy but she cooked some delicious Lebanese food the day I moved in.
The real challenge living here will definitely be those stairs. Now, those stairs aren’t some ordinary stairs, that would be one thing. No, those stairs are a set of 140 (yes, I counted) that I have the pleasure of climbing every day to get home. That’s not including the 2 flights I have to climb to get to my front door once I’m in my apartment building. I guess I’ll be getting some decent exercise everyday for the next few months.
The highlight of this week was definitely a visit to the Jeita Grotto over the weekend. The Grotto is a point of pride and national symbol for Lebanon, as one of the top tourist destinations in the country thanks to the natural beauty of these interconnected, limestone caves that contain some of the most stunning formations I have personally seen. It was even one of the top finalists for the New 7 Wonders campaign (which turned out to be a huge scam, by the way).
Unfortunately, when we arrived to Jeita we discovered that we would only be allowed to access the upper cave, as the water level in the lower cave was too high due to the constant downpour over the past few weeks. The tour through the lower cave is done by boat on the river, which is actually the source of drinking water for a lot of Lebanese. So there would be no boat ride this time, instead we would only be exploring the upper caves, which is where some of the most amazing formations are anyways. One cable car ride to the mouth of the cave later, we finally set out into the surprisingly hot, ridiculously humid cave.
Even though all photography was strictly forbidden (why??) and they even had guards posted around to watch out for cameras and phones, we still managed to sneak a few quick shots in blind spots. The cave is amazing, with so many different types of rock formations, different colors everywhere, a neat little wishing pond, and even the world’s largest stalactite. It’s not a huge cave, only 9 kilometers in length, but it definitely makes up for that by packing all the cool things you would find in a few different caves other places in the world into one short trip.
The interesting sights didn’t stop once we left the cave. Down the road we found “The Guardian of Time,” a sculpture park, a caged squirrel, some monkeys and porcupines, and a mini-village on a hillside.
This was definitely a trip worth taking, for an entrance ticket to see one cave for less than $7 and only a short cab ride away from Beirut it makes an easy and affordable day-trip. I can’t wait for the spring to roll around so I can go back and have a chance to explore the lower caves as well.