Syria has always been a crossroads. Kings, caliphs, crusaders and conquerors have all carved their way through here leaving crumbling reminders of past glories scattered across the countryside. Vast ruins spread out over desert sands, fairytale castles perch on hill tops; Syria groans under a weight of monuments that few other countries can match.In the cities, thread your way deep enough into the belly of the souks and it’s as if the clocks stopped a few centuries back. Spice scents the air as donkeys, laden down with produce, plod their way down narrow alleys beneath buildings sloping precariously inward, reducing the sky to a blue sliver in between. But this nation is so much more than a living museum. Syrians, quick to smile and welcome strangers, are the real star attraction. Invitations to talk and drink tea, to come home for dinner, are daily occurrences for travelers, who discover that the legendary Syrian hospitality is the real highlight of a journey here.