To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Day 7 - Pretzels and a new friend.

Day 7 started off like every other morning, an early wake up. This time it was a delicious local pretzel for breakfast and then on the van to meet the tour group heading to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
We loaded our luggage on to the van and met the others and headed for Mount Zion where we got a lovely panoramic view of Jerusalem, including the golden Dome of the Rock, an Arabic shrine.

It's like Russia got lost on the way to Europe

We then headed into the City of David, the oldest, settled part of Jerusalem as well as a major archeological site for biblical Jerusalem. We arrived and immediately headed for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a church in the Christian quarters of the city (there are also Arabic and Armenian quarters in the city).

Ancient columns and, to the right, the market place.

This church is most famous for being the site where Jesus was crucified and where he was buried (before the church was actually built). The church itself is huge, with tall roofs and still maintaining some of the ancient architecture from earlier periods (the church has been destroyed a couple of times). We were able to see the site where Jesus was laid after being removed from the cross. It is a popular place for pilgrims to have a blessing on items, including one lady who thought her handbag was worthy of such an honour.
Danni had he rings and Star of Jerusalem necklace blessed (for the second time). I merely touched it…it felt smooth.
We were also able to see the site where he was buried, however they have built something over it and you can enter through one way to get a close up look or view it from the exit. We saw it from the exit, though not very well.

I should have put my wallet on there.

After the Church we walked through the hustle and bustle of a thriving marketplace, a surprise since I expected Jerusalem, especially an ancient site like the City of David to be a ruin. Venders trying to sell clothing, candy, juices and other such things accosted us and the place had the smell of a market, various foods wafting together in the narrow lanes and reminded me of the souks in Dubai. We managed to lose one airhead repeatedly who decided this tour was more for shoe shopping than seeing an ancient site.
We arrived at the Western Wall\Wailing Wall where we were able to see many people placing their hands on the wall and making a wish. There were also Bar Mitzvahs happening as well.
And yes I made a placed my and on the wall and made a wish….hey, when in Rome.

What you can't see is the Wall's tears.

The airhead got lost a second time and we drove off without her, that was amusing, as she had to take a taxi to meet us at our lunch destination, a Kibbutz near the City of David. Lunch was nice, a buffet, but nothing to write home about.

After lunch we split from the others, who were to either head back to Tel-Aviv or the Holocaust Museum, or a couple of us went to Bethlehem, which is in Palestine.
Palestine is an interesting place. I didn’t know Bethlehem was located in the Palestinian territory but crossing into it was easy enough. The city is similar to Jerusalem, same architecture and the same hustle and bustle that Jurusalem has. I was honestly expecting something a whole lot different. Though I did have to laugh at their coffee shop called “Star & Bucks” and “The Subway”.
We were guided to the Church of Nativity, the site where Jesus was believed to have been born. The church is gorgeous, still holding some of it’s original structure (this is another church that had been destroyed many times over the past centuries). We were guided through and saw the manger where Jesus was born and some place the 3-wise men stood. We were also taken through the Church of Saint Catherine, nothing overly special there.

Bomb-free since 2012

We returned to Jerusalem and met the tour group at the Holocaust Museum. We were dropped off at our hotel and met with our new friend (a traitorous Australian now living in London) and took the tram back to the Holocaust Museum.
The Museum, like all Holocaust Museums I imagine, was an eye-opener. It’s really hard to imagine what it was like to be living in Nazi-Germany as a Jew, or what they went through in the concentration camps. What I could never understand is how the whole country backed Hitler and thought this was a good idea. But that’s history for you.
The Museum is very well built and you can follow it through the early stages through to Nazi invasions of Poland and finally the fall of the Reich. They have stories from survivors, relics found on the bodies of Jews killed in the camps, including letters, photos, etc. It was fascinating and unfortunately we are not allowed to take photos in the Museum.

 And not a Kippah in sight

Once we finished in the Museum we took the tram into the heart of Jerusalem and was surprised to see it a lively, vibrant town with a lot to do. We had McDonalds (don’t ask) and got an ice-cream as we walked through the town. I loved that they kept the original, ancient style buildings but are able to fit it out with modern stores. The reason being that in Jerusalem, it is the law that buildings have to be built with Jerusalem stone which keeps everything in the same style and gives it an old, but stunning look.
After seeing the town, we took a sardine-like crammed tram back to our hotel.
Exhausted after a long, but highly enjoyable day.

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