A Travellerspoint blog

November 2014

Bremen again....

overcast 6 °C
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As is almost a tradition, I once again returned to Bremen this winter for a good old catch up with my besties in Germany.

Having only got back from Israel around 2½ weeks earlier, and almost exactly repeating the trip from 2012, I flew out on a Thursday afternoon from Stansted and returned on the Monday night - However this time as I was working, I did a half day in the morning, before driving and parking at the airport, catching my flight and arriving in Bremen in time to join Elena's preparty before the international day party took place in the city. Having arrived less than half an hour before, at the pre party I was already fondly reminded of how fun the Erasmus experience was, being able to catch up with my good friends, meet new people and all under the influence of some booze.

Pre Party

Pre Party

Waking up on Friday I went along with my German friends to a Sushi Bar for Brunch. Here we were joined by Johanna's mother, who coincidentally had come to Bremen the night before and was also leaving on Monday. As they all had class and I had been to Bremen before (obvs), they all thought it would be a great idea for me to give her mother a guided tour of the city. "No problem" I thought, and so we headed off into the city whilst everyone else headed off to class.

Sushi Breakfast

Sushi Breakfast

However it soon became clear that after two years away, my German had become a little rusty, and Johanna's mother didn't speak the best English. What resulted were hilarious conversations in some sort of English-Germany creole. But as those who have travelled before will know - a language barrier does not stop you having fun! Walking together around the Christmas markets I found out much about Johanna's mother, as she told me all about the farm they own in southern Germany. One of my highlights of our little tour was when we stopped at one of the stalls that was selling candle light covers of various designs. One in particular had a design of sailing ships and lighthouses to which Johanna's mother exclaimed "Urgh, so typisch Norddeutsch"....having experienced as much of Germany as I had, this internal joke reminiscent of England's North-South divide gave me a warm chuckle.

Glühwein

Glühwein

After enjoying a Glühwein after spending several hours in the freezing temperatures, we were eventually rejoined by Johanna and I left to go back to Elena's and get ready for the night - for this was Friday, and therefore the free Mojitos in La Viva were waiting for me!

Ghettofluff & Businessman

Ghettofluff & Businessman

Getting ready me and Elena clearly didn't read the script, as I went for the professional businessman look, with tieclip in hand, whilst she was there with a big fluffy jacket and rebel hat. Dubbed "Ghettofluff & Businessman" we then recoordinated our outfits a little more and headed for the club. Having waited two years I was finally returning to my favourite nightclub, where not only do Students get free entry, but for the first hour of entry (11-12), Mojitos are given out for free.

La Viva

La Viva

Still holding on to my UH ID, I attempted to gain entry as a student, and was successful! Next stop: the free Mojitos. Grabbing three I then sat drinking my free drinks before the inevitable dancing began. Whilst I had clearly matured since my Erasmus experience three years ago, there's still enough party animal in me to enjoy the night - as the dodgy nightclub photos showed.

The following day was a lazier day, with Ingo coming around to eat dinner with us before watching a film. The guys then had to go off for their class meeting at the ÖVB Arena in the city as part of their events management class, where they experienced the Farmer Party, whilst I stayed at the flat and took some much needed rest. On the Sunday we went out to see the Christmas Markets, enjoy more Glühwein, before heading off for cake at Susan's place, whilst on my final day I took a day to see the city by myself whilst everyone else had class. I then rejoined them all one last time before I headed back off to the airport, flew home after a delay and eventually got to bed at 12:30, before going back to work the following morning. Like. A. Pro.

Seeing Bremen once more had reminded me so much of why I loved the city so much. The city itself is beautiful, and is just the right size to explore by foot without getting too bored. It also has a lot of student life, with a mix of foreign students that bring about so much interest and fun. I miss Erasmus!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Germany Tagged markets party christmas erasmus Comments (0)

"Though you don't have this in England..."

Holy Land - Tel Aviv

sunny 25 °C
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After leaving the south coast, I then arrived in Tel Aviv just before the sunset, now just entering the Shabbat. Having checked in at the hostel I then headed off to Old Jaffa - the oldest part of Tel Aviv, where the Old Port was illuminated.

Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa was a pleasant surprise, being much nicer than I had imagined - Whilst Jerusalem is the Old City with all the history, Tel Aviv for the most part is a modern secular city, so to find some historic pretty buildings that looked so pretty was rather surprising, and gave me something to enjoy on my final night.

Jaffa Clock Tower

Jaffa Clock Tower


Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

I then headed up the promenade walking towards Tel Aviv proper, before heading back towards the hostel via McDonalds and the most amazing McFlurry I've ever witnessed (tonnes of M&Ms AND Mango Sauce, scattered throughout the ice cream).

Family Reunion

Family Reunion

The following day was my family reunion, as I was picked up outside of my hostel and taken to my aunty's house, by her husband and spent the day with her and her family. Having only met her once since I was little, it was also time for me to have a catch up and ask lots of questions about her life since she moved to Israel. I was taken on a tour of their village, where the wall separating the Palestinians from the Israelis is visible, as well as a tour of their house. "It's very much the same as you have in England...well, except this room" I was told as I was led behind the kitchen..."oh it might be a pantry or something" I was thinking, before I saw the thick walls and solid iron door that is clearly used as a shelter in the event of rocket fire. "We only used it four times during the summer" I was told...

Enjoying a lovely barbeque and catch up I was taken back to the airport after a week's long travel. Once again I was subjected to many questions, and ranked 5/7 on the security risk scale, but after few real problems I headed through into the departure lounge, where after a proper Granny wave I met up with Tim and Wendy from my Petra tour again, telling them all about my day with my aunty, and them telling me all about the rest of Petra after we left and they stayed an extra day. They then asked me what I thought of Eilat, or "Benidorm on the Red Sea" as they called it - not that they'd been to Benidorm - I agreed with them on that, and I hadn't been there either! We then made our way to the plane for a particularly boring 5 hour flight in the dark, with no newspaper, Internet, entertainment or view to look at. But eventually we landed back at Luton, and after saying goodbye to my new 'besties' I headed home to rest!

Despite being a little nervous about going after everyone repeated the same line - "oh, is that safe?", I'm glad I went as I saw so much, and it really did feel safe. Had I not seen the news and heard there was all the trouble going on, I wouldn't have even known. And anyway, I lived to tell the tale!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged city family holyland Comments (0)

"I'm just going to ask you a few questions..."

Holy Land - Eilat

sunny 30 °C
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The border

The border

Leaving Jordan was no problem, but coming back into Israel after walking across no man's land was not the case. As the lady at the border gate did a check through my passport there she saw my stamp from the UAE. Before I knew it, I was asked to place my bag down at the side, walk through the security scanner and sit on the bench on the side. Whilst she called for back up on her walkie-talkie and the guy with the huge gun turned up, I sat there and waited....eventually after showing my passport to her colleague another lady came and "asked me a few questions".

Where was I going in Israel? How long had I been in Jordan? How long was I going to be in Israel? Where had I already been? Who did I know in Israel? Where do they live? Who did I know in Jordan? With who else was I travelling? Why did I come to Israel? Why did I go to Jordan? Where do I live in England? What is my job in England? What did I study? What is the relevance of that to my job? Can I just clarify everything all over again?.....Even if I had written an autobiography on my life she still would have found something to ask me!

But I remained calm, answered her questions, for she was only doing her job, and she then escorted me to the security check, when she became more human and asked me if I liked Petra - yes, I said, it was still worth the effort of getting there. After passing this, I was then finally allowed to make my way to the border control. "Why are you coming to Israel" said the border guard - "Oh for God's sake...here we go again, can't she just ask the lady I just told my life story to?!" I thought to myself as I rolled my eyes..."I am holidaying" I said, before she asked me the standard, "who do I know in Israel?", "Where do they live?" questions. She then asked me what my job was...as I said admin. "Oh, computers?". I nodded "Why do computer people always travel alone?". As I laughed this off I then got the standard "Welcome to Israel" as I was handed my passport and allowed to re-enter the country and continue my journey.

The Gulf of Aqaba

The Gulf of Aqaba

On my final full day, I woke up in Eilat, and took a little tour of the city, heading down to the beach, before taking the bus back up to Tel Aviv.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged sea border holyland Comments (0)

Petra

Holy Land - Petra

sunny 22 °C
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After taking an early night, I was collected at my hotel at 6:30am (no problem, as sunrise was already 2 hours earlier) to take me to the Jordanian border, for I was on a day trip to Petra.

Arriving at the border to enter my 45th country, it soon became clear I was the only member of our group for the day below the age of 35, and one of the few without grey hair. But this was no problem, as it made it easier for them to talk with me. I got many questions about why I was travelling alone, where I was from, where I had been before, from the mostly Americans who had toured all around Israel in the last fortnight, and made friends with the other two Brits, Tim and Wendy from Bath, who it turned out would subsequently be on my flight home two days later.

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum

Crossing the border into Jordan was no problem, and we met our guide, Ali, on the other side where we were given a quick view of Aqaba, the Jordanian port on the other side of the border. Going to a vantage point, we could see the Gulf of Aqaba, where Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all crowd over this small area of water. We then drove up the country, passing Wadi Rum, before getting into the mountains on our way to Petra.

Entering Petra

Entering Petra

Arriving at Petra was again very commercialised, with salesmen trying to send all types of tacky gifts, scarfs and bangles. Ignoring them we carried on our walk down into Petra, with the rocks getting more and more steep and the track getting more and more windy.

Through the rocks

Through the rocks


The Treasury

The Treasury

And then it hits you - the Treasury. Carved out of the sheer rock face and opposite the Siq (the pathway into the whole area), it is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Ignoring all the commercialisation and the hundreds of tourists around who are all wanting that same shot as you it is still and impressive site that goes beyond the photos, and it was amazing to think until the 1980s this was still inhabited. Whilst we didn't get to spend that long in Petra, for me it was not much of a problem, as I'd seen most of what I had wanted. And after taking lunch we headed back down to the border with Israel.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Jordan Tagged history rock holyland Comments (0)

Dead Sea

Holy Land - Dead Sea

sunny 25 °C
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The second part of my trip to the Holy Land took me outside of Jerusalem to explore the rest of the country. Leaving Jerusalem as another terrorist incident occurred, I boarded my bus that drove eastwards towards the Dead Sea.

Whilst Jerusalem and the area around was very hilly, eventually you get to a huge valley, marking the border with Jordan, which at the bottom is the Dead Sea. As you then wind down the hill side there are some plaques denoting the elevation. And it is not long before you reach the "0m - Sea Level" sign. Fair enough, except when you look out to your left, you see the valley continues even further. Then it goes down "-200m", and you're still barely half of the way down.

Ein Bokek

Ein Bokek

Passing by the Masada, I eventually arrived at the spa resort of Ein Bokek, lying 426 metres below the sea level, the lowest dry point on the planet. It is a scary thought that you are so low, but luckily the nearest sea is around a three hour drive away, and I wasn't there for too long.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

Getting out in a lovely 27˚C, I took a short walk to the public beach, and then took a dip in the Dead Sea itself. The feeling is quite sensational, as even in my tiny frame you start to float immediately, and in any position you fancy - arms spread out, arms crossed on your chest, arms crossed behind your chest. Swimming backstroke there is a beautiful view whichever side you lay. On one side you look at the resort town itself with the large beach front hotels with their palm trees and a backdrop of the stunning mountains, whilst on the other side you the Jordanian mountains reflecting in the very water you are lying.

The Beach & Resort

The Beach & Resort

After having a float for around an hour, I then took a shower, got back changed and took a little walk to the Petra Shopping Centre - the lowest place to shop in the world, before waiting at the bus stop for my onward bus to Eilat.

The Lowest Place to Shop in the World!

The Lowest Place to Shop in the World!

Eilat is the southernmost city in Israel and is separated from the rest of the country by the huge Negev desert. From Ein Bokek at the edge of the Negev it took around three hours of almost emptiness to reach the resort on the Red Sea.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged sea beach relax holyland Comments (0)