No, not where Outkast is from. The country, in the Caucasus. The Republic of Georgia, Sakartvelo. One of the most lovely places I’ve ever been, where at almost every head turn something gorgeous and unexpected pops into view, where the people shatter your notions of hospitality with their unending kindness and warmth, and where the food and wine are so good that “moderation” ceases to be in your vocabulary. Here are some photos for the time being:
I’ve said Beirut is laid back, it’s a good place to relax, and more. As one Lebanese rapper put it, “the national sport of Lebanon is called chilling.” I’ll also nominate mentalist driving, but let’s go with chilling for now, because it’s hard to imagine anyone ENJOYS driving here, although I’m sure some people take perverse pleasure in pretending it’s the Monaco Grand Prix on the crowded streets (“Shou, Monte Carlo is a party town on ze Med, we are too!”)…but I digress. More than partying, more than their fabled ski-and-swim in the same day, more than anything else, the Lebanese love to sit back, relax, and enjoy life. Usually that involves a café, with coffee, tea, beer, snacks, and often an argile (hookah). The king of all such places in Beirut is Al Falamanki.
Now that I’ve introduced you all to Lebanon, its complexities, frustrations, beauty, and dichotomies, here’s some practical information. To review from last post, my rules for Lebanon are 1) keep an open mind; 2) take things as they come; 3) avoid the coastal highway at rush hour (this is a BS rule, but good advice); 4) expect the unexpected. I’m convinced that if you keep all that inmind, you’ll have a much more enjoyable visit. Here are some other tips.
So I’m back, wish I were still there, but c’est la vie, habibi. Lebanon and Beirut have got a lot of press in the last couple years, as parodied brilliantly on the Now Lebanon! blog:
First, I will romanticize Lebanon into a chic, post-war brand so you can buy into this cliché article about why “Beirut is back.” I will tell you that there was a 15-year civil war in the country from 1975-1990, and then contrast several buzzwords and phrases like “battered” “bruised” and “once-divided” with notions of “rebirth” “glamorous” and “united.”
As sharp as Ms Nassar is, this series shall be nothing of the sort. Rather, it shall highlight the realities of Lebanon and how to get the most out of it. Rule 1: develop a strong sense of patience…
Beirut is one of my two homes away from home, so expect lots of of posts on Lebanon. I have too much to share to only make a few overview posts, but since I’m headed there at the end of this month, I thought I’d share some pictures to show what a spectacular place it is, and why it’s so dear to my heart.
What dreams are made of.
Ladies and gentlemen, the single best bar I have ever been to, and the standard against which all further mixology is to be judged: Little Branch in the West Village in Manhattan.
If the mad awesomeness of the Bernese Oberland wasn’t enough for you, we have one more stop, featuring Switzerland’s most famous mountain of all. The one on the Toblerone bars: