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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)

Yad Vashem

Holy Land - Jerusalem

all seasons in one day 19 °C
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My final day in the capital consisted of visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, which when I visited was absolutely full of tourists, including groups of Israeli soldiers, all with their huge guns. The museum has recently been improved and expanded, with it now being built through a hill. Entering on one side you walk through a Toblerone shaped building with rooms located on each side beginning with the Nazi rise to power in Germany in the early 1930s, and ending with the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Whilst I had seen a lot of things about the Holocaust, the museum was particularly interesting as it dealt with the before and after, rather than only covering the Death Camps. However, saying that most captivating thing that will stay with me was a huge model of the process of extermination at Auschwitz - with models of people waiting out in the snow, to enter the cellar, get changed, be gassed and then have their bodies removed and buried.

Hall of Names

Hall of Names

The final room is the Hall of Names, a circular room with a huge bookshelf on its outer edge. On each of the shelves were thousands of books, containing over 2.2 million names of Holocaust victims, which are being added to all the time. Leaving at the other end of the hill, you then have a view of the hills that make up the area, before going above the building and visiting the Eternal Flame, where every world leader visits on a state visit to the country.

Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame

Heading back to my hostel for the last time, my journey in Jerusalem was over, but the rest of Israel was waiting.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged history war torture holyland remembrance Comments (0)

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Holy Land - Bethlehem

sunny 20 °C
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Having clearly not stalked Jesus enough, I took an Arabic bus from just outside the Old City to the supposed place of his birth, Bethlehem. The town is in Palestinian controlled territory, but entering caused no problems. I got off at the last stop, on the main road, and then walked up the hill, through the souq, and arrived in Manger Square just outside the Church of the Nativity.

Manger Square

Manger Square

Once again avoiding the touts, I headed inside, and joined the long queue to enter the grotto marking the spot of his birth. And as in Jerusalem, it looks nothing like it did in that time - gone is the stable, the hay, the donkey, and instead we find tourists, a church and candles for sale.

The star marking Jesus' birth

The star marking Jesus' birth

Having waited for over an hour I eventually entered to find a star in what looked remarkably like a chimney. Touching it and then making my way out I made my way back to Jerusalem on the Arabic bus. This time being stopped at the wall to be checked by Israeli security. After informing the guy with a huge gun I was English which proved to be no problem we were back on our way through the hills to Jerusalem, where I headed back into the Old City to buy souvenirs.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in State of Palestine Tagged religion history jesus christianity holyland Comments (0)

The Old City

Holy Land - Jerusalem

sunny 22 °C
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Waking up nice and early in Jerusalem, I grabbed breakfast from downstairs and then headed off for the Haram el-Sharif/Temple Mount, racing through the Old City and past the Western/Wailing Wall, making the queue by 8:10.

Tower of David

Tower of David

The complex is only open for three and a half hours a day, from 7:30 until 10:00, and then 12:30-1:30. With major security checks I had read that the queue was particularly long, and already by the time I was there, the queue was pretty long. Not knowing whether I would even be allowed entry (last I had heard, only men over 50 were allowed up), I waited and eventually after an hour and a half I was up there.

First thing I noticed - screaming Palestinian girls...followed by touts telling me that, whilst I was non-Muslim, and therefore not allowed access to the Mosques, they could guide me to a window they knew where I could have a peak inside. I declined. The complex felt very Arabic, and much like Morocco. Whilst it had been a long wait, it was definitely worth it, and despite not being allowed in, the Dome of the Rock was very impressive. For this is the supposed site where God created Adam, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, and where Mohammed was transported to from Mecca. A good start to my travels.

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

I then headed back down into the Old City and headed up the Via Dolorosa, tracing Jesus's last steps after he was handed his cross until he was crucified. Whilst in some ways you feel like you are tracing back the steps of a man 2,000 years ago, seeing every step marked out with large plaques designating each spot (VII - Jesus falls for the second time) and the commercialisation of the route (7th station souvenirs, and guided tours) it kind of takes away from the genuine history, and makes it feel almost like a theme park.

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Following the route I eventually ended up in the Christian Quarter, outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - the church that spans the site of both the Crucifixion and the Tomb of Christ. Again this would be a site that whilst widely known, looks nothing like it would have been at the time the events it celebrates took place. Instead of finding a hill on the outskirts of the city where Christ was crucified, and a tomb located some distance from that - a 5 minute walk from the centre of the old city takes you right into the church that has both enclosed within it.

Tomb of Jesus Christ

Tomb of Jesus Christ

Going left once you enter the church, inside the Rotunda is the very place that Christ was laid to rest on Good Friday and subsequently arose two days later. Waiting for over half an hour, you are allowed thirty seconds or so to touch a slab covering the rock on which Jesus was supposedly laid to rest. Leaving this, and talking a walk around the corner and up some stairs, lasting no longer than 120 seconds, you arrive at the site he was supposedly crucified on, again waiting in a queue of around 20 minutes for 30 seconds or so of 'experience'.

Site of the Crucifixion

Site of the Crucifixion

After exploring the rest of the church, I headed out to the Jewish quarter to visit the Western Wall in more detail. Heading again through a security check, I donned a kippah and touched the wall. Before writing a message, shoving it through the cracks, and then sitting back down and observing the most sacred place in Judaism from a distance.

Western Wall

Western Wall

Hall of the Last Supper

Hall of the Last Supper

My last activity for the Old City was to head south, walk along part of the wall, and head to Mount Zion. Here is the location of the Hall of the Last Supper. Now turned into a Gothic Hall, and crammed with tourists, this room marks the spot that Jesus held the last supper, before being betrayed by Judas and arrested.

Kosher McDonalds

Kosher McDonalds

After this long day, and eating a Kosher McDonalds, I headed back of to my hostel, and took an early night before the next day, which I had planned to visit Bethlehem.

The time was now 6:30pm and I was in bed trying to sleep. Like. A. Pro.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged religion history jesus islam christianity judaism holyland Comments (0)

Fascinating Fjords

all seasons in one day 15 °C
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My last excitement this summer was to visit the Fjords around Norway's second city, Bergen. Celebrating mum's 50th and my brother's 21st, we went on our family holiday in several years, and for once I wasn't travelling alone!

Norway was incredibly expensive, and I guess it was very much how foreigners, particularly from Eastern Europe must feel when they come to Britain. However saying that, there were lots of good things like WiFi absolutely everywhere - from getting on the plane at Gatwick until we returned several days later at the other end I was essentially connected the whole time! Despite being Norway's second biggest city, Bergen was still remarkably small, taking very little time to walk round and explore. Hence our visit of just two and a half days was more than enough. Arriving in the afternoon and staying close to the centre of the city, the first evening was spent walking around the immediate vicinity, seeing the main shopping area and the city squares.

Bergen from Mount Fløyen

Bergen from Mount Fløyen

The following day we took the funicular to the top of the mountain that overlooks the whole city and bays nearby, before walking down and seeing the rest of the city, including the castle and it's most famous attraction - Bryggen, the old Hanseatic port buildings.

Bryggen

Bryggen

On our final full day we took a 3.5 hour cruise up the nearby fjords, into the heart of Norway, witnessing scale of the country's valleys. It was only when we travelled deep into the cruise that we had our first rainy day, which considering the rate of 75% for the city, was pretty good going.

Fjords

Fjords

Despite the city being small, and our 4 day trip being very expensive and short, it was worth it, and I would highly recommend it, as the scenery was stunning!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Norway Tagged boat history fjords port Comments (0)

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