Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back and in one piece

I finally got back to Jerusalem yesterday! Kyle and I had hoped to make it the night before, but thanks to the border guards who wouldn't let us bypass a line of 300 Christian Nigerian pilgrims, we missed the last bus. More unbelievable tales to come. In the meantime, here's a story about the Cairo blast that we thankfully missed, and a pic from the pyramids with Kyle on the right.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

From a cafe in Cairo

Yep, we made it to Cairo. The bus ride across the Sinai went smoothly, except for the part when it broke down, our couchsurfing host is cool, not that we've met her yet (she left a key under the mat for us) and we've been to the market and the antiquities museum, where we each lost 50 Egyptian pounds, Kyle to a sneaky necklace vendor, I to the museum bathroom attendant.

More on all this later.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Heading South. And then West.

I'm taking off for the week with Kyle. We're going to the Negev desert in the south of Israel, then to Eilat on the southern tip, then taking a very lengthy, uncomfortable, and cheap bus ride to Cairo.

Will try to blog from Egypt, but in the meantime, check out very new photos from our trip to the zoo last week and our valentine's day excursion to Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee. Slideshow's in the sidebar at right.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Five months

It's officially five months that I have been away from Chicago! Good news: I haven't eaten through quite half of my travel money yet! Bad news: I probably would have spent a lot less if I'd picked any continent but Europe and any Middle Eastern country but Israel.

The plan from here is to travel around Israel a bit, maybe go to Egypt for a week, then fly to Madrid in March. I'll travel to a few spots in Spain, see some friends and probably my dad there, maybe meet Kyle in Barcelona, spend a week with her family in Paris, and reevaluate. Paris puts me at the end of April. I have a wedding to attend in Chicago at the end of July. The months in between are up in the air.

I'm almost caught up on photos. Check out my cheese-making adventures at the last farm in France and my family Christmas outside Paris.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The zoo, the Assumption, and belated photos

looking at the orthodox families looking at the elephants

Thanks to my dad for pointing out that Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven, body and soul together, and therefore they think her "tomb" is not a tomb at all. (This is called "the Assumption.") According to Wikipedia, some Catholics believe that Mary never died; she just zipped right on up to heaven. Other Catholics and other Christians think she died, was buried, and ascended three days later. Either way, my Streetwise Jerusalem map labels the spot as "Tomb of the Virgin Mary." And, apparently, I'm a bad former Catholic.

Please enjoy a slideshow of photos of my last French farm, to the right. You can hit the larger slideshow on Picasa with a click.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bad blogger

I'm trying to be a bit less of a blog slacker. One post a week just doesn't cut it. I know.

Today I took my bike out to try to visit the tomb of the Virgin Mary and the room of the Last Supper. As in the Virgin Mary and the Last supper, which is kind of hard to wrap my head around. Mary's tomb was hidden away, across the street from the church where I thought it would be. One had to enter a dark doorway and descend two levels' worth of stairs to get to the tomb. Here's a visual of the decor at the bottom:

My search for the Last Supper room was less fruitful. I rode around the east and south sides of the Old City walls, enjoying lovely views of the Mount of Olives (the enormous cemetery on a hill where Jews think the messiah will come first to resurrect the dead) and Jerusalem:

The building that allegedly held the Last Supper site was dim, sketchy and under construction. Men wearing hardhats were walking around showering plaster bits everywhere. A Jewish man greeted me at the entrance and took me to King David's tomb, then offered to show me the LS room if I paid him afterwards. I told him I'd brave it alone. I wandered around this very odd building, which seemed entwined with the Mt Zion Yeshiva (religious school). I never got to the Last Supper room, or at least not a room that was labeled as such, but I did make it onto the roof:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Checkpoint queue and a trip out

So, I think I have the answer about the line of Palestinian men outside of the checkpoint. Palestinians with permits to work in Jerusalem have strict curfews; they are only allowed to leave the West Bank at a certain hour and generally have to return by 5pm. There are so many people trying to get through the checkpoint in the morning to go to work that some arrive a couple of hours early to get in line. At about 2:30 or 3am, we ran into the very beginning of the line.

This Monday, Kyle and I went to Tel Aviv to visit a couple of her friends there. What a relief it was to get out of Jerusalem! We found our way out of the Tel Aviv central bus station--a veritably creepy maze--and stepped out into a real city. For the first time in a month, I felt like I could breathe. People walked the streets wearing all sorts of fashionable and trashy clothes--the sorts of clothes that real people wear in real places. There were no black-clad orthodox Jews to be seen. The subtle tension in the Jerusalem air was palpably absent. The sun was a little hotter. We took off our coats and walked down the street holding hands.