It was a hot May morning in the mountains above Beirut as we set out in search of the Cedars of God, a once vast, now depleted, forest range of ancient cedar trees in the north of Lebanon. Someone told me that Jesus once walked through these forests and that some of the trees there are 4000 years old.
The drive took us across mountain ranges, some peppered with snow still melting from winter. We caught glimpses of small towns, grand houses and hotels, some now abandoned. These places would have been where the Lebanese came to escape the Summer heat and where the rest of the world came to holiday, party and escape in the 1950’s and 60’s before wars changed them.
We stopped at one of these grand hotels by chance and it appeared to be functioning, it was called Chateau Bernina. Parked outside the entrance was a rusty green Volkswagen Beetle, it seemed like this place was stuck in a time-warp, intrigued we ventured inside. We met a man in reception who let us look around. We saw pictures of past guests, dusty chandeliers and trophies on display from Arab equestrian events.
As we left the hotel, we noticed a sign in reception, “German Management, Frau Inge Maria von Necker”, next to the sign was a photocopied page from a book with Hermann Goring on it and a picture of commander von Necker of the Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1. Bemused, we left and continued driving to the forest.