A Travellerspoint blog

Israel

Jerusalem, Israel

A city of contrasts

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The Israel/Jordan border, Aqaba/Eilat, was a breeze; quiet and straight forward. The only thing is that you have to use their taxi service from the border if you have a lot of luggage because its a fair walk to the main road to try and hitchhike otherwise; these taxis are expensive! WeWe headed straight to the local bus station and caught a direct bus up to Jerusalem. We had arranged our accommodation through Air BnB, which is when local people rent out rooms or apartments and you get the local knowledge of the area too. We'd found that the cheapest hostel accommodation was £40 for two of us, whereas we got a central location, double room and balcony for £14 a night instead. Perfect. We hope to use Air BnB again.

It was late afternoon when we got there and so just had a leisurely stroll into the old town and grabbed some food at an Italian Cafe (food was so expensive here, much more than back in the Uk). Considering Jordan was so close, it felt like a world away from it. It was really interesting to wander around and see the mix of cultures; Jewish, Muslim and Christianity. We found it particularly strange seeing young people, lots of them, carrying huge guns. We knew Israel had national service, but I didn't realise that guns would be so common. When we were sat in a cafe a young couple were having a meal together (in normal clothes) and he had a massive gun by his side throughout the whole time. A very interesting place. We were really looking forward to our full day exploring the next day.

There's plenty to keep you busy in the Old City; the usual sights of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jesus' tomb), the Western Wall, Garden of Gethsemane, Church of Mary Magdoline, The Old City Gates. It's an amazingly preserved old town. People must save their whole lives to pilgrimage here...there were people crying when they were at the Western Wall and Jesus' resting place, lots of praying and displays of emotion. We both felt quite uncomfortable when entering Jesus' tomb because we don't go to Church, we're not religious and everybody around us knew what to do to pay their respects...we just kneeled and stayed quiet. There are also lots of nice cafes, boutique shops and tonnes of opportunities for people watching...so plenty to keep us busy.

Our flat host had recommended we visit Ein Karem. We caught the bus successfully but then got off a stop by the hospital, which appeared to have no access to the old village area. We walked for ages trying to work out how to reach the pretty alleyways of cafes and shops, but then in the end we gave up...it was too hot and instead an ice cold beer was calling.

It'd been the first time we'd had a kitchen to use, and the food was expensive, so we decided to cook ourselves. There's a great food market area called Mahane Yehud. It gave us the perfect chance to wander around and soak up the atmosphere, sample some food and buy our ingredients for our tea. We ended up buying pesto, olives, tomatoes, fancy bread, loads of pastries for breakfast, fruit and wine. We had to make sure we were stocked up because nowhere really opens on a Friday evening or Saturday daytime because of the Jewish Shabbat. We found a small bar with a really friendly owner and enjoyed a few beers; it was also the bars opening day and so we enjoyed free shots and this delicious, spiced, fish filled pitta. It turned out to be a great find.

Jason cooked a lovely evening meal and we sat out and enjoyed it on our balcony. After we had meal one of the flat mates told us what area to go to for a drink in the evening (as most places are closed) and we enjoyed a German beer sat outside the Old City gates. It was weird seeing a very modern city completely closed down on what is usually a busy friday night out.

As everywhere is shut on a Saturday, we had a quiet morning in the flat getting ready for our flight to Turkey. We were just about to breakfast on our balcony when the drain pipe fell off and gathered waste went everywhere. It was a good job it didnt happen the night before as J was sat directly under it. It proved expensive arranging transport to the airport as none of the buses run either, so instead we arranged a taxi pickup. The taxi arrived on time...let's catch a flight to Turkey.

Posted by bloorsontour 10:56 Archived in Israel Comments (3)

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