tbt to 2.5 months ago….

It’s been longer than I care to say since I’ve published a post. A lot has happened in the past week, however, so this is going to be an action-packed post. I have a week’s worth of pictures to share!

Last Sunday (while we were staying in Haifa), David and I took a day trip to Akko (also called Acre) across the bay. The trip only took 25 minutes by train, which only cost $4! I wish the NJ Transit would implement a similar pricing policy…

According to wikipedia, Akko was first inhabited in 3000 BCE and has been continuously inhabited since then. It’s been conquered by the Greeks, Romans, Judeans, Islamic empire, Crusaders, and most recently (until early 1900s) the Ottomans.

Like most of the ancient cities in Israel, Akko has been built, destroyed, and rebuilt countless times, such that the current city is a conglomeration of many cultures and traditions. Apparently it was common practice in the conquering days of old to simply build a new city directly atop the rubble of the old city. For example, the crusader’s hall that David and I toured (now excavated) was once filled completely with sand so that an sultan could build a new palace directly atop it.

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The crusader hall is called the Hospitaller complex, because the knight’s order that occupied it maintained a pilgrim’s hostel and hospital there during the first Crusader period. We descended a stairwell into series of large halls used for various purposes by the knight’s order. The rooms were entirely bare (they’ve been buried and abandoned for almost a century) but the architecture was really cool. The sheer size of the halls, their columns, and their arching ceilings were impressive to behold. Somehow I lost my photos of the inside, but David has some. At some point I’ll get those from him and post them..

On Monday, we returned to the Ba’hai gardens for a chance to explore the inner ring of gardens and visit the shrine to the Ba’hai prophet Bab. The garden is undoubtedly one of my favorite places we have visited here.

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After visiting the gardens, we took a bus to Stella Maris, a monastery on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. The monastery is located atop a natural cave believed by the order to be the location where the prophet Elijah sought God’s advice before attacking the prophets of Baal. Regardless of whether that’s true, the church has some beautiful frescos and stained glass representing Elijah’s story.

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Then, we accidentally took an arduous hike down a humongous hill toward another cave, where Jews think Elijah also stayed.IMG_0160IMG_0163

After that, we realized we hadn’t had lunch. So we took a bus to Angus, a meat restaurant that came highly recommended. The kebabs were seriously good.

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Tuesday, we woke up early and took the bus from Haifa to Jerusalem, which took about two hours. We took a walk around our new neighborhood, the charming Rehavia, and had lunch at a kosher sushi restaurant!

Wednesday, we started the day by taking the bus to the Garden Tomb, located just outside the Damascus Gate into the Old City. The Garden Tomb is a beautiful spot: it’s a lush garden surrounding the spot where Protestant Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried. IMG_0169

From there, we walked into the Old City in search of the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus supposedly walked from his conviction to the spot where he was crucified (according to all the other sects of Christianity), the Holy Sepulchre.

It’s a pretty long road that Jesus had to walk, so we took a break in the middle with some Apel Streudel at the Austrian hospice.

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The views from the top of the Austrian hospice were amazing!

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When we finally reached the Holy Sepulcher, it was really crowded. The Sepulcher is an amazing church surrounding the location where many believed that Jesus was crucified and buried in a tomb. The original part of the church was built in 335 CE, but has been added to, subtracted from since such that the current church is kind of an architectural mess!

It was incredible, though, to witness these places that hold such meaning for so many people. There was definitely a heavy but excited feeling about the whole place.

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Pilgrims waiting to kiss the spot where Jesus’ cross supposedly stood. IMG_0182IMG_0184

The line to get into the tomb where Jesus was reportedly buried (above) and the ceiling above the tomb (below).

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Over the centuries the walls of the church have been carved into by countless pilgrims…IMG_0186

Around three o’clock, we finally sat down for lunch!

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Thursday was Yom Ha’Atzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day. It’s sort of like the Fourth of July, except people get a little more into it and there’s more folk dancing. Th fantastic Israel Museum had free admission on Thursday, we joined the throngs of people to see their huge collection of ancient artifacts from the region.

The museum was amazing, and that’s coming from someone who normally has a very limited tolerance for history museums. They probably have one of the largest collections of artifacts from the biblical era anywhere in the world (makes sense, it happened here), plus some cool Egyptian and Greek stuff. They even have the world’s first nano-sized bible!

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The Israel Museum also houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are some of the oldest biblical writings ever discovered. They’re housed in the “Shrine of the Book” and are pretty incredible to behold. I would have taken a better picture but there was a vigilant guard watching the place…

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Friday we took a trip to the gigantic Jerusalem Mall. We wandered around, ate some terrible food court asian noodles for lunch, and had a relaxing day. Most notably, David, who has bought one new pair of shoes since I met him three and half years ago, purchased a pair of boots.

And today is Saturday! I’m almost entirely caught up!

Today we woke up slowly. We had cornflakes at home for breakfast, and then walked all the way to the Old City around 11am. We briefly joined a free tour at the Jaffa Gate, but promptly wandered off to find lunch. After lunch, we spent awhile relaxing by the Garden Tomb again, before heading back into the Old City to find an open pharmacy for some cold medicine! After finding the cold medicine, we explored the tiny Armenian Quarter of the Old City. We looked at some interesting pottery, were almost run over by a procession of Armenian priests, and then settled in at a coffee shop for awhile. Then, we walked home by way of the famous King David Hotel (the fanciest place in Jerusalem!) and the president’s house.

Which brings us basically up to the present! In a few minutes we’re going to have a late dinner at the Carousela Coffee shop, next to our apartment!

XO

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