Bethlehem, Masada, and southward.

Eilat Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 13 › view all entries
Outer view of the Church Of The Nativity.
Hello All,
I checked out of the hotel early to get a start on a long day.  Plus the hotel clecrk last night was worried that the parking spot I occupied would find it's owner (the European Union!) wanting to use it this morning.  I found my way out of town without too much trouble but made on wrong turn on my way to Bethlehem.  After getting caught in a local bus/narrow road induced traffic jam, I backtracked and found my way.

Now mind you, I still had no idea whether I would be allowed to drive right into Palestinian Authority territory.  And if so, I wasn't sure how good an idea it was.  Oh well, I have a schedule to keep, and a bus would have burned alot of time.  Turns out my worries were unfounded.  Drove right in after a quick passport check, and using the signs found my way directly to the Church Of The Nativity.
The altar and some amazing chandeliers inside the Church Of The Nativity.
..  and right by it because I missed it.  No sign said "You are here".

Another backtrack, and a few questions to P.A. police and I found it.  Wow!  So far this one is hands down my favorite on the trip so far.  The Church Of The Nativity is built on the site where Jesus Christ was born, and it is amazing.  Construction was completed in 333 by my favorite architects of all time, the Byzantines!  The style is an old school version of that style, with alot of wood used in the construction as well.  You are even allowed to visit caves under the church, and I was able to witness a wonderful Orthodox ceremony conducted in Latin in one of the caves.  Amazing beyond words.  Respect.

I hopped into the car and headed back through Jerusalem towards the Dead Sea.
A peek into one of the tunnels. A very cool Orthodox ceremony is taking place inside.
 The trip through town was perfect.  Straight through with a good assist to the Eldan Car Rental provided map of the downtown area.  The road to the Dead Sea was 4-lanes for a while, and then narrowed.  Again I passed a Sea Level sign, but this one was followed by others.  These counted off every 50 metres as you continued down to the world's lowest point.

Arriving at the sea was cool, but I just was not feeling the 'get in the water' vibe today.  Maybe I'll regret it later, because I won't get the chance again this trip.  I arrived at Masada at around 11am.  Wow, I did get an early start.  This is the 4th Israeli National Park on the trip so far.

I'm sure everybody had heard the story of Masada, but it is a good one.
The unassuming back entrance to the Church.
 I never saw the movie, so I'll have to do so when I get back home.  Masada is a fortress on a hill at 33 metres.  That doesn't sound to impressive until you take into account that it towers over the Dead Sea, and is surrounded on all sides by deep wadis (dry river beds).  Masada was the site of a last ditch stand by Jewish rebels against the Romans in the 1st century.

After that various civilizations used the location.  These include King Herod, who built a stunning palace carved out of and attached to the sheer cliff walls.  The last inhabitant were an order of Byzantine Orthodox monks that took up residence at the location.  Overall the site and it's significance are more impressive then the buildings themselves, but still a must see on any Israeli trip.

I continued on my trip south to the Red Sea port city of Eilat.
View from the cable car ascending Masada.
 I arrived at 4pm, which gave me time to check with the local tourist info booth to inquire about getting into Jordan.  Armed with this info, I dropped of my rental car and grabbed a taxi to the border.  Easy enough to get across, but I did encounter the first of my three exit fees from Israel.  Ouch!

By the time I crossed through Jordan's easy and welcoming border procedures it was dark.  A fleet of taxis waited on the other side, and it was hard bargaining time.  I wanted to get to Petra tonight, and it was over two hours away.  There were no busses this late, and no other tourists to share a taxi with.  Yikes.  After about 15 minutes I swung a deal that didn't make me too sick to my stomach, and I was off with Muhammad in his Toyota taxi.

Muhammad's english wasn't the best in the world, and there was a bit of an odor issue, but he was a very nice guy.  His first stop was to buy us a few sodas at a gas station, and we kept the conversation going most of the way.  We got to Petra late, and he took me to a hotel at which he knew the operators (and got a kick-back I'm sure) and I got to bed.  Of course, I was looking forward to the next days sightseeing!

Later, Phil
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Outer view of the Church Of The Na…
Outer view of the Church Of The N…
The altar and some amazing chandel…
The altar and some amazing chande…
A peek into one of the tunnels.  A…
A peek into one of the tunnels. …
The unassuming back entrance to th…
The unassuming back entrance to t…
View from the cable car ascending …
View from the cable car ascending…
The Dead Sea down below.
The Dead Sea down below.
Route leading to the Northern Pala…
Route leading to the Northern Pal…
View of the ramp that the Romans c…
View of the ramp that the Romans …
About the only vegetation on Masad…
About the only vegetation on Masa…
View up from inside the cistern at…
View up from inside the cistern a…
Obligitory shot of mein front of a…
Obligitory shot of mein front of …
Eilat
photo by: westwind57