A first look at the wonders of Jerusalem, a walk to remember!
Jerusalem Travel Blog› entry 3 of 18 › view all entries
After such a long and trying night, Rob and I slept in to try and recover and be fresh for our first day of exploration. We slept in until around noon which took a major bite out of our day but was a necessity.
Rob got up and showered while I grabbed a few minutes more sleep. When it was my turn, there was no more hot water. Also, as previously explained, our bath was outfitted with barely more than a water hose and an indentation in the floor of the bath for where to stand.
We prepared for our day / afternoon and off we went our into the streets around the Jaffa Gate and David’s tower.
First on our list was food.
Once fed, we set out into the streets around Jaffa Gate, near The Tower of David. We first stopped at the tourist information center to pick up a map and ask about a tour of the Old City. We were told that there was a free 3 hour walking tour of the Old City that would be starting in about 30 minutes just outside the Jaffa Gate. I had read about this and its many positive reviews. So, we decided that it would be a good introduction to the city.
Jaffa Gate was only a couple of blocks away and we immediately saw the tall sign with “Free Tour” on it.
As it was now time, Moki (Maleki) introduced himself as our guide for the day. He was very enthusiastic and told many jokes, which were quite funny.
We start out along the wall just outside Jaffa Gate with some information on the Citadel and Tower of David.
From there we enter back into the Old City walls and make our way through the different quarters.
We start in the Armenian Quarter which is barely quarter and more like a small grouping of buildings. I peeked into a shop that was teasing me with its creative tiles and interesting art, and colorful pottery. The alley ways we travelled were filled with ancient arches and a mixture of elements from the many influences that came from the many conquests and traditions brought with them.
From there we went to the Jewish Quarter. This is where we took and interesting turn. We climbed a set of stairs that lead us to the rooftops of this quarter. From here we could see the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and even all the way to the Mount of Olives. What a first real view of the city. It was amazing and I was there where so much of the history religion would be created for much of the world’s religions.
From the rooftops we could see the many domes of great basilicas, temples, and mosques. The largest domes in the panorama would be the Dome of the Rock and The Church of the Holy Septlecure, they Dome of the Rock being just 1” larger in diameter.
An unusual sight but, understandable, were the many, many satellite dishes. They were littering the rooftops.
We took some time to absorb the view. In the distance, to the right of the Dome of the Rock, a rainbow appeared.
From here, we went back down to street level and then down to an area of excavation of Roman ruins. There is a 600 year old mosaic here showing the city. There is an inaccuracy as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is absent.
We continued on to an open square with a view of the Western Wall. There is a giant menorah here that stands in front of Israel’s parliament, Knesset.
The view from here was magnificent. The clouds were parting a bit as the sun set while we watched the many people making their pilgrimage to the wall to pray and to put their prayers to God in the many cracks in between the stones. The view stretched all the way to the Mount of Olives and beyond.
We climbed down and went through security to enter the courtyard of the Western Wall. Upon entering the main prayer area we put on a paper yamaka which kept blowing off our heads due to the wind.
The wall was filled with mostly Jewish praying but there were some Christian as well. Women are required to separate and they have only about a third of the space that the men have. The women’s area was packed but, the men’s was a bit sparse.
As I didn’t have my note to God written out, today, I went up to the wall and looked and its many notes and observed the praying of others. It was an amazing experience. I even witnessed a soldier with his hand on the wall, praying, maybe for strength, forgiveness, or just for his family, maybe all.
We left there and made out way the area where the Mamlooks made their home. The architecture is a bit different and the colors of stone varied ( black and maroon used). The details of the inset facades and the window decoration have similarities to Muslim details but, other fancily crafted stones are almost Baroque in creation.
The Via Dolorosa near the 7th station was our next stop. There is a multi arched opening off the Via Dolorosa and onto another alley with more vendors along the souk. There was interesting green lighting that adorned the top of the minaret at the mosque close-by.
We’d reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchure.
The group filed inside where there were thousands of other pilgrims all vying for a square inch of space at the many final spots as Jesus was crucified and died here. Golgotha (The Hill of Calvary), the stone where the Cross stood, and cracked, is the first spot up the stairs that are immediately on the right. The corridor that leads you to it has the 9th station in mosaics. The location is immediately before Golgotha. There is a ceiling frescoe of Jesus that is the oldest fresco in the church.
The line to climb under the altar and see Golgotha was very long and I had lost Rob and the group.
We went down into the sepulcher and into the cave where Jesus was laid, as well. The space was in terrible condition. There had been a fire in the cave some time ago and the Armenian and Catholics argued over who’s space it is so, no one can clean it up without having a claim……so, no restoration is being done. The altar is falling apart and the space is in ruins. It’s very sad.
From here we walked around to one end of the building where you can easily make out two different structures built in front of one another, without regard or respect for the older.
The Armenian chapel was our last stop. This is the spot where Mary watched her son die.
Moki took us through the maze of souks and back to the Jaffa Gate. Here the group broke up. Rob and I and a few others followed Moki back to their visitor’s center / bar. Evan was there and we chatted and got some information on restaurants and a bit of info on sights and tours. His info proved very helpful. He had a glass of Israeli wine while chatting…..pretty good! We decided to take their Mount of Olives tour and their Holy City tour on our “undecided” days.
We were hungry, now, and decided to take Evan’s recommendation - a hole in the wall café ��" Houmus Ben Sira. It was nearby and filled with locals. There were only a few tables and the menu was in Hebrew.
On our walk back to the Old City, we walked along a street with many art galleries. The hot thing in Israel seems to be 3-d metal art. It’s really interesting and colorful. One gallery had many beach themed pieces.
We found a new outdoor mall area that was built in an area just outside Jaffa Gate and along the city wall. It had been an area that was falling apart and dangerous, now it’s filled with nice shops and restaurants. It’s now the most pricey property in the city….amazing! We found small art gallery with many Israeli artist’s work. One of the pieces really struck us both. It’s a double layered metal piece with many elements of the city integrated into a hand shaped surround.
Now, back to the hostel to relax and prepare for the next day. We would have an early morning. We watched a few episodes of Dynasty and talked about our plan for the week.
Tomorrow, Massada and the Dead Sea, this should be really fantastic!