Holiday: Israel – Day 2 (2020)

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That’ll do nicely!

Well, the forecast was a good start to our day! We slept well and headed for breakfast on floor 8 at a very relaxed 8.45! 😉

An excellent selection to eat, setting us up nicely for the day. We set-off around 9.45am and hatched a plan to see as much of the old city as the weather (and our feet) would allow.

As the day unfolded, it was an action-packed adventure where we got a crash-course in Christianity, briefly entered the world of Monty Python, made a local taxi-driver lost for words, but most of all, enjoyed a perfect day for sight-seeing Jerusalem. 😎

On your marks… get set… go!

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

This was our first stop (in keeping with half of Jerusalem, it seemed!). The Church is shared by five different Christian communities – Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox and Armenian.

If you’re a believer, then this is one of the many locations that would be on your list. We climbed ot the first floor where the crucifixion took place – The Rock of Calvary.

Inside, it was almost TARDIS-like! Each corner that we turned revealed something new (and usually very shiny!). Immediately inside however was the Stone of Anointing, where there was a queue pretty much most of the time we were there. We saw many touch the stone and then pray and we later learned, it’s where Jesus was prepared for anointing.

Just before we left, we noticed a long queue snaking around a large square construction. It was obviously popular, so we joined the masses. With the location’s equivalent of a bouncer (one very tall bearded man in black, meticulously counting us in and out, where we were let in about six-at-a-time. On entry, tt was a dimly lit space and very cramped – we could easily understand why they needed to control numbers. After some research afterwards, we learned it was the sight of Christ’s tomb – and that explained the queues.

A Candle for Denis

Our parting gesture was to light a candle for Dad/Denis whilst he recovers in hospital…

Via Dolorosa

This area is significant for Christians, known as The Path of Sorrow, and it traces the route that Jesus took carrying the Cross. Although there is no historical evidence for this, the tradition of the 14 ‘stations’ tracing trial to burial, followed by pilgrims is very strong.

Phew! I think we just had all our Sunday School teachings crammed into this morning – time for a coffee then!

Coffee break – providing you like it black and very strong!

Just before 11am, we picked a nearby watering-hole. It was a simple set-up where coffee came in a single variety! None of your ‘Snowflake’ Gluten-free Choco-mocatinos here…

“Pass the knife please…”

…it was the sort of brew that would put hairs on your chest, and then put hairs on the hairs! – it suited me, but Ann wasn’t so keen! 😊

Freshly invigorated by the coffee, and now finding it hard to blink, we took in more of the local sights.

The smell of spices filled the air from the many shops selling their wares.

And if you like your fruit & veg fresh and as close to nature as it comes, this area was the place! Next stop…

Damascus Gate

Half-an-hour later, we’d reach our next significant landmark – Damascus Gate. The Gate (dating back to 1537 and located on the north-west side of the city) is one of the main entrances to the old city. Inside the gate, it’s mainly populated by pedestrians (and I think that’s the intention) but every so often we found ourselves dodging ‘yoofs’ on mopeds testing the maximum speed of their machines and/or local delivery vehicles cursing the fact that the pavements were full of pedestrians!

Roman Plaza

Enough of all this ‘ground level’ stuff, we wanted to see the city from a height. Luckily, they’d built the city for tourists (!!!!) and we bought a couple of tickets (costing 20 shekels, about £4.50) that lasted TWO DAYS. Helpful if you think it’s a bit of push to do the whole walk in one go. As we were to find out, splitting the adventure was a wise decision! In addition to where we purchased the tickets for the old city walls walk, there was also an opportunity to visit The Roman Plaza close by.

In truth, there’s not much to see here – it’s more of a museum – but it was old… very old, built about the time of Emperor Hadrian. Worth 30 minutes of your time for sure!

The Old City Walls

I guess for us, this was the main event of the day. An opportunity to view the old city of Jerusalem from some height was too good to miss. Initially, the weather was perfect too – dry, slightly cool, and no rain predicted at all. As things currently stand, you can’t do the whole city via the wall, there’s a need to drop-down to a Gate at some point and re-join the wall further on, but we were up for it!

However, we’d already decided that we wouldn’t do the whole walk in a single bound, preferring to spread it across today and tomorrow. Bizarrely, the weather seemed to get hotter as we walked in the noon-day sun, so splitting the journey felt like the right move.

It was all very pleasant. It’s a bit ‘up-and-down’ as you might expect. Some steps are much steeper than others, but there are handrails everywhere and virtually zero chance of losing your balance. One other point: don’t try it with a back-pack, as some of the walkways are very narrow! 🤔

All-in-all, we spent around 40 minutes ‘up top’ starting at Damascus Gate and finishing at Lions’ Gate soaking-up the views.

We’ll do the rest tomorrow! 😮 Probably!

Lions’ Gate

Lions’ Gate

For Christians, this Gate wil have extra significance. It’s the start of the traditional Christian observance of the last walk of Jesus. As you exit the gate, there’s a steep(ish) incline downhill which made our walk feel a bit easier. If only we’d realised we were going to have walk back up it later! 🤔🤔

Straight ahead, looking down the incline, was The Mount of Olives. Still used as a Jewish Cemetery, it was an impressive sight. As we continued our descent, a local taxi-driver accosted me with his foghorn voice with talk of: “I like you Meester”, “a special price”, “trip of a lifetime” and perhaps slightly oddly – “Fish and Chips”! I think, actually, it was the sum-total of his tourist-attracting language, and he gave-up pretty quickly, after my apparent non-interest! I think I remained deaf in one ear for about an hour afterwards! Ann calmly walked past him giving him her death stare, and non-verbally suggesting: ‘No chance mate’. 😉

We realised, as we got to the bottom of the hill, we’d gone a tad too far, so we reversed direction and headed back inside the gate and Lion Road.

The only thing now louder than my recent BFF, the taxi-driver, was our tummies rumbling, so our priorities changed in an instant. We now wanted something to eat… and we wanted it NOW! The nearby Abu Shukri Restaurant seemed to call our name and we headed for the entrance. Coincidentally, it seemed it had also called half of Jerusalem at about the same time, and the place was packed wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling.

We persevered, where we ended up sharing a table with a fellow traveller as well as the door to the establishment that brought my deaf ear back to life by constantly banging into me! Still, some things are meant to be. It was a popular place and service was pretty rapid.

We soon realised why service was so efficient! In the vegetarian equivalent of the Monty Python ‘Spam’ sketch, the menu was limited… VERY LIMITED! 😯 Here’s an example…

  • Hummus (for one person)
  • Hummus (extra large portion)
  • Hummus and Hummus (for two persons)
  • Hummus (with a Salad)

I exaggerate! But not by much! There was more than this on offer, but it didn’t seem to matter what anyone ordered, it always ended up the same delivery: Hummus… more hummus, plus a salad and some Falafel. Still, our stomachs weren’t fussy, and it did the job!! 😋😋

Virgin Mary’s Birthplace

We hadn’t planned this one, but it was on our route – apparently, the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. Worth a look. More details HERE.

Cotton Merchants’ Market

This is located in the Muslim Quarter and is famous for its architecture – especially the ceiling. Built in the 14th century in typical Arabic style, it’s no longer home to any Cotton Merchants, but 50-or-so shops did a good job of attracting the public whilst we were there – especially if you like brightly coloured sweets. Maybe ‘Haribo’s Market’ would be accurate in 2019! More information HERE.

Western Wall

Our final stop of the day was at the mighty Western Wall. Also known as a ‘Wailing Wall’, but that’s now considered derogatory in 2019 and the name isn’t used at all by the Jewish community. The 488-metre structure was built by that well known cradle-snatcher, Herod, and is unique in that it’s a place of religious significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims – in fact for Judaism, it’s the most holiest of sites. It was pretty impressive and certainly very busy.

Jaffa Gate

We ended the day at Jaffa Gate, where by now, the sun was really shining! We headed back to the hotel for some well-deserved ‘feet-up’ time!

Yes, my feet can confirm this! More of the same tomorrow, weather permitting! 😎

Ann and her love of ‘boy bands’ (NOT!)

If there’s a criticism of where we’re situated, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be many places to eat in the evening (except if you like soup!). So tonight, we had a bit more of a wander around. It was still a challenge, but we did stumble upon Alma, about a ten-minute walk away.

It prided itself on its soups, but we settled for something meatier – and it didn’t disappoint. Pretty good prices too! A beer, a tea, two mains all for 177 shekels (about £39).

..and Dinner under the stars too!

More photos of the holiday so far
(and none of my chat!)

See you tomorrow! 😁

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