Yesterday, I went, for my very first time, to the Upper Golan. I accompanied Boruch Len, a master of photography, and we set forth to explore (and document) some of the Golan’s grandeur. The first place on our list was the huge Nimrod Fortress, an old castle built over a 46-year span in the mid 13th century by the local ruling Arabs (construction was started by the nephew of Saladin – the arch-enemy of the Crusaders). The Nimrod Fortress happens to be the largest Crusade-era fortress/castle in Israel and was used in the filming of the Academy award-nominated film Beaufort, replacing the actual Beaufort castle which is in Lebanon, out of reach for Israeli filmmakers. Just to point out, this was a trip heavily influenced by photography – however, the weather made consistent photography tricky. The clouds and sun played their games throughout the day and so the following pictures will appear as if taken on separate days but have really been simply subjected to finicky weather.
We started the tour just minutes after a large group of school-children so we decided to circle the fortress in reverse. That decision ended up reaping rewards as each place we went to was even more fascinating than the last. In the first hour or so, we walked up from the West side (where parking is) to the East side – the higher but less intricate section of the castle. The East side was the part first built and gave us a great view of the high mountains surrounding, and obscuring, Mount Hermon. Here we saw a glimpse of Hermon, the snow already melting:
Descending to the “dip” of the fortress, we found a few interesting rooms, each one better than the next. The old, thick stone outside walls had tons of “archery ports” – with those slits for shooting down on invaders. We spent many minutes snapping pictures of the various angles, trying to capture the best photo possible – each with our respective cameras (Boruch Len – fancy SLR with multiple lenses / me – run-of-the-mill-but-kinda-heavy-on-the-features Fujifilm digital camera).
So, you can imagine the amount of pictures that were taken, with all the beautiful stone walls, doorways, columns and arches. But the coolest photography we did had little to do with the actual location. In the grand ceremonial hall, found in the Keep on the Western side, we did something called “light painting.” What it is: With the fancy SLR camera, the shutter can be left open for some time and through a process of photographic magic, only some things are retained in the final picture. One of those things is light. So, Boruch whipped out some flashlights and we took turns writing our names/initials in the air with the light. I tried over and over but my first attempt remained the best, here it is:
As can be seen in the picture, the camera retained two ghostly appearances of me. I’d have to be constantly moving for the words to appear without my body showing as well. Nonetheless, it was great fun and it made me want to buy an SLR camera. Maybe I will one day… Returning to the fortress, the ceremonial hall was not the only thing interesting on the West side. Soon we came across the Large Reservoir, alive in a flurry of chirping and cooing birds.
Again, we spent a very long time, photographing the birds and the room. On our way out of the reservoir, I spotted a lone koi fish, swimming sadly in the green water. I wonder how it got there – some prankster? Another cool place was this tiny spiral staircase that was blocked off with rope. We hopped the rope and ventured down, the end result wasn’t too exciting but the stairs were neat. Naughty, I know – but Boruch has a press pass of sorts so we had a partial reason to be there. On our way back up to the towers on the West side of Nimrod Fortress, we found ourselves with more grand views. Here is a panoramic that I took, facing the towers on the West side (click to expand):
And before I end this post, the first of three that will cover this exciting day, here is a picture of me posing in a beautiful stone doorway – a proof that I was there:
Soon to be posted: Banias & the Sa’ar Falls