Here I am, safely back from the Holy Land, still trying to process all I saw and did and heard. Amazing!
Food-wise: Well, since I got hideous food-poisoning from my very first trip there 26 years ago, I have to be careful when eating foreign food/drinking foreign water (annoying, I Love new food!), so I was. Unfortunately, something bit my insides on only the 2nd day there, and I missed the whole of that day's touring. Actually, the outcome was good, as I got to keep an appointment I wouldn't otherwise have made, and have some alone time in the old city, which was amazing.
Anyway, for the rest of the week I was uber-cautious about what I ate, and how much. This wasn't always easy, as every meal was an enormous buffet but the prospect of continuing to feel as dreadful as I did that day - "the runs", spinning floors, the lot - was too daunting to risk. I ate the wonderful bread, and small amounts of dry meat and cheese and egg; oh and hummus seemed to go down well. Only towards the end of the week did I dare try a little of the wonderful salads and fruit. Heyho.
Upshot is, I'm sure I've lost weight. I won't be weighing until Monday, to allow for flight-water-weight to drain away. The friend I went with - amazingly kind, amazingly self-centred - kept banging on about how delicious all this food was (thanks, friend); about how much weight she was piling on; was I putting on weight? When I told her no, she got really cross and said it wasn't fair. I asked her why she ate so much if she didn't want to gain weight but that didn't go down well. Indeed, she got her own back at the airport as we left. Security weren't convinced by my passport photo and asked additional questions. All was fine.
Friend said, 'Well, you looked like that 5 years ago when we went on holiday'.
Me: 'True. I'm a good 15lbs lighter now, and my hair is longer'.
Friend: 'Really? You looked much thinner THEN'.
Oh, all week I'd had 'Did you know you said that out loud?' poised on my lips for just such a moment but when it came to it, I was too gob-smacked. Isn't it weird how threatened our friends get the nearer we get down to their weight? It's so not necessary, she's still about 20lbs lighter than me. It's not necessary any way, why would it matter?
Thanks for letting me have the little rant. Clearly she annoyed me a bit but there ain't too many people who'd understand!! Bottom line, I walked miles every day, up and down hills, up and down steps; I wore clothes I liked; I ate enough food to fuel me, and enjoyed it; on the plane, oh on the plane - the drop down meal tray came nowhere near my spare tyres! Now That's a result!
My time was amazing, I can't wait to go back. I'm not sure how much I'll post about it because there are so many ways to offend people: so many people's rights are somebody else's oppressions. This is part of the fascination of Jerusalem - but I doubt I'd be able to do justice in words without giving grave offense to someone, so I'll button it!
Glad to be back. :hug:
01-28-2011, 08:43 AM
Good to see you back safe and sound!! I am so happy you had a mostly wonderful trip. 'Friends' say the darnedest things! Did you make any purchases?
01-28-2011, 08:53 AM
Glad you enjoyed your trip and it sounds like you did a great job staying on plan. Sounds like your friend may of been a little jealous.
01-28-2011, 09:25 AM
Glad that you had a good trip. Sounds like you handle the food well. I do have to ask, is she really a friend? Maybe she has hoof in mouth disease.
01-28-2011, 10:05 AM
Hey girl. Just thinking about you yesterday and wondering how your trip was going. Sounds like it was a success on many levels.
01-28-2011, 10:49 AM
Welcome back; sounds like you did very well! I'd love to hear anything about the trip; you're always very diplomatic so I don't think you'd offend us.
01-28-2011, 12:38 PM
I'll give it a shot:
I'd taken the dogs into kennels on Sunday afternoon, to get a good night's sleep in (for me, not them). I love them to bits but they can only go a very few hours through the night now without accidents that I'd got into the habit of going to bed late and up early, the sleep in between disrupted by the one dog on my bed who can't settle quickly due to dementia.
So on the Monday I slept in - 07:30!! and then did a little gentle shopping and some in depth floor scrubbing. I can take or leave the scrubbing but the shopping for this trip has been so much fun! Of course 162.3/5'2" is not slim nor anything like but it IS available in normal stores, so just to be able to buy an off the rack, cheapo T-shirt was a joy.
Case packed and repacked 4 times. I regret the jacket I left behind at the 5th attempt but I really couldn't have packed any more in!
I'd been going to walk to the bus station but 18.9kg in the case and 6.5kg in the hand luggage plus additional handbag was a bit of a strain, so I called a taxi. It didn't come. I called it again. It didn't come. I asked the guy in the newly reopened corner store if he felt like taxiing but he couldn't leave the shop. He called another company for me.............. boy, I was going to fall at the first hurdle, help! then he locked up his store and threw my stuff into his van to drive me down. At that point taxi #2 arrived and we threw it in there instead. As we began to drive off taxi #1 arrived but I didn't stay to argue the point.
Got to the bus station in plenty of time. At the first stop, the screaming toddler got off (hurrah) and my travelling companion got on. Phew, at least we'd made it this far.
90 minute delay on the motorway (lorry shed a load of sand at a major roundabout), taxi from airport coach station to bed and breakfast for the night. B&B was lovely, Harmondsworth Hall; it had clearly actually been a Hall, i.e. a manor house for the village, in its past, so lots of dark oak and beams and things.
First experience of the twin room. Knowing S. of old, i.e. that she'd claim first dibs on everything, every time, I got in proactively and suggested I take the farthest bed (a lovely double) because it was near a window and the other near a radiator. She feels the cold, I feel the heat. It felt good that although she'd got what she wanted, so did I, and I'd done the suggesting. Unfortunately it set the picture for the week.... but I digress.
Super breakfast, taxi to Terminal 1, and we began to assemble. 41 of us in all were to travel and, interestingly, the friendships we struck up as we assembled were to be almost set for the rest of the week. Not that there was a single unfriendly soul on the trip, we gelled very well indeed.
El Al security, while still very tight, has learned to wear a friendlier face. So although we were asked questions about why we were going etc etc, we didn't queue hours to do so as in the (long distant) past. Cases checked, through security, we even had time to wander the shops. The flight was a good one, and the inflight meal perfectly acceptable. We exited Ben Gurion easily, onto the tour bus and off to the hotel.
The Golden Walls is in the Arab district, just outside the city walls, by the Damascus gate. We'd stayed there 25+ years ago when it had a different name.I was happy to go back, I remember it being simple but trying hard. Others of the party clearly have holiday resort or cruise liner expectations and weren't so keen. However, we were all satisfied because to me, it was still as kindly as ever, to them, it had been brought very much up market.
Room assigned, up one floor while we consumed a slender supper. I noted that I had the smaller side of the sink unit, the lesser space on the between beds table (my side mostly taken up by the telephone), and resolved to try not to let it bug me. I didn't need any more but if I'd got to the spaces first, I'd have made sure that I'd offered S. the larger spaces. OK, so the result would have been the same allocation of space, I guess I'm just politer.
We'd been travelling for many hours. Would we get to sleep? How long would it take? Would we ever......zzzzzzzzz
01-28-2011, 12:57 PM
Welcome back. I am so enjoying your account of your trip, and glad to have your voice back on these boards. We missed you.
PS It appears that you have gracious manners, your friend does not. And it is a true sign of that graciousness that you thought of her first, but didn't allow yourself to be a doormat, either. I think you would be a terrific traveling companion.
01-28-2011, 02:00 PM
Welcome back!! I look forward to reading about your subsequent days travel it you get a chance to post them - I can see it as you type! Good job on dealing with your "friend"...sometimes you just need to feel sorry for people like that.
01-28-2011, 02:08 PM
Day #0 was a very enjoyable read. Can't wait for the next installment!
01-28-2011, 10:34 PM
Welcome back! I'm delighted to hear the trip went so well for you (well, for the most part--getting your insides bit and having to deal with a difficult traveling companion aside). I saw your post and thought, "Yay, she's back!" :D
I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of your travel journal, or however much of it you wish to share. Your posts are always such a good read. :)
01-28-2011, 11:27 PM
Welcome back, Rosinante!
01-29-2011, 03:11 AM
Thanks for the welcome back, everyone! I really appreciate it! :hug:
01-29-2011, 07:09 AM
I've missed reading your posts while you have been away, and I'm looking forward to hearing more about your trip! Shame your friend is less than friendly, but it sounds like you didn't let that spoil your trip.
I bet you have lost lots of weight with all that walking :)
01-30-2011, 05:12 AM
One good thing about travelling with S. is that we both like to get up early. Breakfast was 07:00 every day, and the hotel sent us wake-up calls at 06:45. 06:45?!? That's not nearly enough time for my system to get up and running, eat breakfast, go bathroom sufficiently well for a whole day's touring! S. likes to pre-worry the day, so she got up at 05:00 to get the first shower, I got up at 05:30 at the latest to follow on.
Breakfast was a good array of breads, spreads, cereals, cheeses, salads, fruits, meats. Because of my insides that were tenderized by Israeli salmonella 25+ years ago, I have to be careful what I eat in new places, so I stuck with bread and cheese and hummus. Lovely. The coffee some found a bit weak but that was good for me too. Very nice.
We were introduced to our local guide, a Palestinian Christian, and together we got back in the coach and drove to the Mount of Olives. The guide warned us that pick-pockets operate in that area but this was the only time we needed this warning, the city felt very safe. In fact, because we were not into the main season yet, there were very few crowds around, which presumably makes life harder for pick-pockets.
We looked down over the Kidron Valley and the Russian Orthodox church of Mary Magdalene, then over to the Dome of the Rock. I took the first pictures of around 1,000 - hurrah for digital cameras! I must review and name them soon, the sights/sites that seemed so vivid at the time, vanish so very soon.
We walked down to the Paternoster church, where the Lord's Prayer is displayed on wonderful ceramic tiles in many, many world languages. For my own purposes I photographed English (seemed kind), French (my first foreign language), Old Church Slavonic (I'm closet Orthodox!), Amharic (for my Ethiopian congregation) and Doric - Scots dialect!! I don't remember that from last time! We went/peered down into the underground remains of a church built by St. Helena to commemorate Christ's ascension. Later in the week I began to suspect our guide had a huge fascination for things underground - I've been down that many caves, grottoes and cisterns!
We visited the Dominus Flevit (The Lord wept) chapel but couldn't get in as someone was saying Mass there already. We walked on down to the Garden of Gethsemane, with its big old olive trees. 25 years ago you could walk among them but now they're fenced off. Perfectly visible though. 25 years ago, they told us the oldest trees dated back to Jesus's time but now they say that the roots go back that far, not the actual above ground tree.
Next to the Olive trees is the Church of All Nations, designed by Antonion Barluzzi. He seemed to have the monopoly on church architecture! Nearly every one we saw was his! What I did notice was how he tried to make some feature of each design fit the Scriptures. So the Dominus Flevit chapel is in the shape of a tear drop (well, kinda). The Church of All Nations has windows of violet coloured glass, to pick up on the gloomy events of Gethsemane.
We visited the Pool of Bethesda - probably one of the only original sites in Jerusalem, everything else tends to be churches built on alleged sites or to commemorate bilical events; they're none the worse for that, they're huge testimonies to faith, but Bethesda really is a 1st century or earlier pool.
A quick visit to the Church of St. Anne, then on to the Convent of the Sisters of Sion, where we said Mass. That was my first 'blown away' experience of the trip. The chapel is under the 'Ecce homo' arch, where Pilate showed the prisoner Jesus to the crowds before his execution ~ 'Behold the man'. P., our fantastic English priest who accompanied us, had asked me to serve with the chalice, and to stand under the place where Jesus was condemned to be executed, holding the chalice with the blood of Christ - kaboom in my head!!
Lunch upstairs. Hm. A cabbage salad. I'll have a miniscule amount. Some kind of dry roast meat and veg. That's better. Can't remember dessert, jelly? Ah. The only thing to drink a jug of water; not sure about that, I usually only drink bottled while I'm away. Still, I trust the tour company..... of this, more anon.
I was intriguingly dressed for today's outing. I had an appointment for later in the afternoon to meet the Ethiopian bishop, to take him greetings from our Ethiopian congregation and to give him a booklet of photos and the gift of one of our antique stoles. I hoisted this around Jerusalem in a shopping bag. As respect to bishop, I had my clerical shirt on, minus collar (didn't want to let the rest of the group think I was one of those who have to keep emphasizing my priestliness); a long, bright skirt and waistcoat; patterned leggings and an Ethiopian prayer shawl. Worked for me.
We then walked along part of the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was where I was to meet the bishop, while the others were touring the church. The English guide hived me off but the bishop was nowhere to be found. A layman escorted us to the monastery, about 10 minutes' walk away but he wasn't there either. The custodian didn't seem too convinced by our request but when I waved a letter at him from the Bishop of Northwest Europe, he understood better. I got to speak to the Bishop on the phone, and we arranged to meet the following day, late in the afternoon.
Yomped back to join the group, on to the Garden Tomb. The Tomb guide obviously hadn't listened when he was told that we were a group of ministers, so did his explanatory spiel as though we were slightly dim kindergarten students.Despite there being, I estimate, about 1,000 years of ministerial experience among us, we were all either too tired or too polite to say anything, and just let his patronizing sweep over us.
Back to the hotel, a light partaking of the evening buffet, then bed by 22:00. Not quite so easy to get to sleep this time but eventually........
01-30-2011, 04:36 PM
This is a good story and you are a good story teller. I can't wait for the next installment.
The English guide hived me off but the bishop was nowhere to be found.
Yomped back to join the group,.
Um,... can you translate these phrases for me? I do watch BBCAmerica but I am not familiar with these.
01-30-2011, 05:22 PM
Hive off - to separate from the crowd.
Yomp - military route march.
:D:D:D Two great nations divided by a single language!!!! :D:D:D
01-31-2011, 10:07 AM
Loving the travelouge!
01-31-2011, 10:53 AM
Up bright and early again, and was just consuming a moderate breakfast, when I suddenly had to run upstairs. And again and again and again. I was so upset! I'd been so careful with what I ate and drank. I blame the water at yesterday's lunch.
I asked the English guide how far it was between stops today but it sounded like too far. I'd taken plenty of the usual tablets but they hadn't kicked in yet. I decided to stay at the hotel, and went back to bed. The floor had gone all spongy, the rest of the room was spinning, I couldn't stop shivering - I would not have been good company on a coach of 42. I didn't so much go to sleep as become unconscious.
The English guide rang me mid-morning, and we agreed to rendezvous for lunch - they were meeting at a restaurant near the Garden Tomb where we'd been yesterday. I found it - woohoo! look at me out on my own! - and sat on a bollard to wait for them. And wait. I moved after a bit when I realized I was sitting on a bollard outside a men's public lavatory, and waited a bit more. Finally, 40 minutes late they turned up. I sat down with them for lunch - they ate huge quantities of salads and fried food and sticky desserts. I had half a pitta bread and some bottled water. I hadn't taken money with me, so was kind of surprised when the restaurant asked me to pay for the small bottle, given that that and a slice of bread was all I'd had. I guess I see the point, they'd made food for me as part of the group and this was extra but still. The priest paid for me.
Later that night I went confidently to the English leader and said, I think it was definitely the water. Can you make sure I get bottled water from here on in? He said, Sure, you just pay for it. I was kind of surprised. Not that I minded really but S., who was perfectly able to drink cowsmilk lattes all day had demanded and got soy milk at every breakfast and dinner in the hotel. I who couldn't drink the local water could just buy my own drinks. Hm. They were such a nice company, I know they didn't mean to be mean but wow, apparently if you're a demanding bch you get somewhere! Snarl ends.
They told me they'd be back from the afternoon's trip in plenty time to keep my appt with the Bishop but that was clearly unlikely; time-keeping didn't seem to be too fixed. So the English guide showed me on the map how to get to the monastery, and then the Palestinian guide came and wrote on a bit paper some instructions in Arabic for if I got lost. This was kind of him because we'd had a bit of a contretemps the previous day when I'd asked him about getting to see the Bishop. Note to self: Copts and Ethiopian Orthodox in Jerusalem - not good buddies. On the other hand, I'd been annoyed that he'd made me uncomfortable about asking. Didn't seem to hospitable.
Anyway, off they drove, and I took myself into the Garden Tomb for a bit. We hadn't had too much free time the previous day, and not long before I left England, I'd discovered a (tiny) connection between our church and the Garden Tomb. I'll tell you another day. So I had a nice sit, and took ....hang on, the guy's come to mend the photocopier. Back later.
01-31-2011, 01:05 PM
So, I had a nice sit, and took lots of photos, and chatted to a priest I used to know in England who happened to be out there being a guide for 3 months. Back to the hotel for a brief comfort stop, then off to see the Bishop. Off into the big, scary Old City. Aloooooone.
Jerusalem gets a 3 day sabbath, what with the 3 main religions, and today was Friday. The old quarter is mostly Muslim, so I decided to carry my dog collar in my hand rather than flaunt my faith through my uniform. I walked along, followed the instructions, which were right! until I decided I needed a bit of help. I spoke to a man leaning on a wall, and showed him the Arabic instructions. He immediately said, "Here. This man is a guide, he will show you". All I could think was, "Oh gee, how am I going to get rid of him?" - Sorry but I've been in many places where "I very good guide" follows you round all day. However, this nice young man very civilly took me to the corner I needed (Via Dolorosa & Ethiopian Monastery, should you ever need it) and said goodbye.
The streets aren't too easy, up and down hill and up and down steps. I strode up to the monastery door, and was just slipping my collar in when the custodian arrived. Apparently, the Bishop wasn't expecting me for another half hour but I asked if I could wait inside. I can get lost in my own high street, I wasn't risking getting mislaid in the Souk. He rang the Bishop, then offered to show me the chapel, which was very beautiful, and one of their ancient, 1200+ year old books. I apologized for the trouble I was giving him but he said it was his job, whenever anyone knocked at the door to show them round. Eventually, though, his English ran out, and I came and sat in the courtyard again.
After about 10 minutes there was a rustling on the balcony, and I caught a glimpse of some black robes. "It's time!", said the custodian. "The Bishop is come." and he beckoned me up the stairs. Wow, these eastern clerics know how to do style and presence! After the big build-up, here was the moment. I said to the custodian, "I think I'm going to cry" and I think he appreciated it - at least he knew I knew what a big deal this was.
He showed me into like a big throne room, with the Bishop standing to receive me. Long, black robes, big beard, big turban hat. I knew from my researches that the correct way to greet an Orthodox bishop is to touch the ground then ask for his blessing. I'd wondered how weird that would feel but honestly, in front of holiness and splendour, it was not difficult at all! I'm proud that in the heat of the moment, I even remembered the Amharic for "Your Grace, give me your blessing" (Yibarkung, for future reference), and he understood me, and did.
We talked for 20-30 minutes about Christianity in Jerusalem - they feel they're way at the bottom of the pile, Jews first, Muslims second, Christians a long way last. I told him how unrespected Christianity was in the UK generally. I brought him an album of photos of the Ethiopians who worship in our church, and an antique stole from our church than my committee had given me permission to take. The custodian brough a small dish of sweets (I had one) and argh! glasses of lemon squash made with tap water! I said a prayer to the patron saint of Loperamide, and sipped. Fortunately, the Bishop didn't seem to sip much either, so I think they were more ritual hospitality drinks than anything. The custodian then took a couple of pics, for which the bishop posed in the stole I'd brought. He sent a minion out into a nearby office and gave me a small wooden cross as a gift.
Time was wearing on, so I suggested I'd taken up enough of his time, and made to leave. He asked who'd brought me, and I said me and God had managed. I asked if it was dark yet, and he said no. All I can say is, we have different interpretations of 'dark'! for it was deeply dusk when I stepped out. The side street was still not busy but once I got onto the main street, it was noticeable just how much emptier it was. Not scary but it would not be a lingering place. I swung out in the right direction and remembered I still had my collar on. I decided to leave it ~ I don't think anyone would have offered me violence but I'm pretty sure that no-one would have offered a priest violence. It felt pretty damn good, sort of cleaving along through the air; not shifting people out of my way, obviously, but somehow moving through the general atmosphere and ambience like a boat through water: the street scene parted before me and then closed around me, and I felt part of it. It was good.
As I got near the Damascus gate, it was noticeable that there were a few more armed police/army on duty. Friday evening means the Muslim Sabbath coming to and end and the Jewish Sabbath starting, so I guess there could be flashpoints. In fact, just as I was coming through the gate, I saw a long line of about 30 young Orthodox Jewish men streaming along, steaming along in a most determined fashion. Hey, I don't know, it might just have been that that gate was the quickest way to the Western Wall from where they'd been working but it didn't feel like that, it felt like "get out of the way, we're coming through, move". Jerusalem is a city of generosity and hospitality but also of huge religious passion, which is not always kind to those who are 'other'. Hey, after my short stay there all I should do is shut my mouth, I don't know enough to know what I don't know.
Anyway, back up onto the main road outside the city walls, through the market and back to the hotel. My little excursion was one of the high spots for me. I don't usually take tours, I usually travel independently. However, I'm very far off being comfortable doing that in a country that, however safe/hospitable/friendly, is far other than what I'm used to, and I was happy to be in a group. Still, this little solo trip made me feel wonderful!
Eventually, S. did ask if I'd got to see him but she wasn't very interested in hearing about a trip she'd had no part of, so she didn't listen to my reply. I've been reflecting on her, as on most parts of my trip this past few days: she is a nice, kind person, who'd do anything for you if you asked; but she gets very nervous and threatened if I've done something she hasn't, she has to be the first, the best, the most important. Hey, don't we all wish that sometimes, maybe she's just more honest!!!
Day #2 ends.