November - December 2019
  • Day10

    Acre, Haifa & back to Jerusalem

    November 28, 2019 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    We had a lazy start in the day as we didn't really have a plan. We just walked through the town again after breakfast and then to another museum which was included in the combi ticket we had. I'm not going to recommend the "Treasures of the Wall Museum" :D
    Then we left this beautiful place in direction of Haifa just a 15 minute drive South. It's main sights are the Bahai Gardens and the German Colony. Even though I didn't plan on visiting the German Colony we still ended up there because it was right next to the Gardens. It belongs to a religion I've never heard of before, Bahaii. We got on a tour, the only way to enter the gardens, which lasted 1.5 hours, was in Hebrew and we needed to walk back up around the gardens... Nothing all too special.
    We had one more stop planned before driving back to Jerusalem, in Ceasara. A port town from the roman era and a National Park with these ruins. But unfortunately they already closed one hour before closing the park... So we couldn't even take a quick peek.
    We decided to have an early dinner before driving back to Jerusalem. We thought it would be nice to see the sunset meanwhile so we drove down to the beach. Surprisingly there was a roman aqueduct right there on the beach. Perfect spot for dinner!
    The drive back to Jerusalem took again pretty long and we were glad to have a place to stay.
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  • Day9

    Sea of Galilea and Acre

    November 27, 2019 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    In the morning we went first back to the Church of the Annunciation because we couldn't get inside the previous day. It wasn't as interesting on the inside as the outside. Afterwards we had a quick drive up to a viewpoint but the view was rather underwhelming. The next stop on our tour was the Sea of Galilea with the biggest city Tiberias. We walked a bit along the promenade and then moved to the other stops along the Sea:
    - The Church of the Multiplication of Bread
    - Capernaum
    - Greek Orthodox Church
    They are quite close together so we saw the sights and by midday we drove on in direction of Safed, where there was supposed to be another Crusaders Castle but we didn't find it but we also didn't try very hard :D In the early afternoon we arrived in Akko, a charming little port town that used to be the capital of the Crusader State. It has a long and interesting story and one of the most Liberal Muslim cities in Israel.
    We went straight after our arrival to the walkway on the city walls to get an overview over the city. From there we visited the former headquarters of the Hospital Order. A similar branch like the Knights Templars but instead of the protection of the pilgrims they oriented on the housing and caring for them. The old city directly around the headquarters was restored and offered insights in the time from daily tasks, politics and culture. We spent more than two hours in there which is extraordinary for us in a museum.
    Afterwards we went straight to the port to see the sunset at the lighthouse. As soon as the sun set it got immediately pretty chilly but there was one more thing to see before going back to the hostel. The treasure tunnels of the Knights Templars. I've been fascinated by them since I was around fifteen years. I've read books on them and was curious about the things left behind. The tunnels were pretty cool, explaining about their history and for what they used the tunnel but also relatively short.

    For a proper end of the day we sat down on the rooftop terrace and enjoyed a beer with a view all over the city.
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  • Day8

    Latrun and Nazareth

    November 26, 2019 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 13 °C

    We slept in because we were awake after 3 AM when it started to get chilly and we didn't have proper equipment. Luckily the sun warmed us quickly and we hit the water for a 15 minute swim to a salt island with a tree. Very instagrammable according to Julia ;) We put on mud masks and just relaxed a bit in the water. It was really fun as long you don't get any water in your eyes. Salt enough is already bad but together with sulfur it doesn't sound like something you'd like to try.
    Around midday we started moving in direction of the Mediterranean Sea and then up. On the way to Nazareth we stopped at a Monastery and some Crusader Castle ruins. The Monastery looked beautiful in the middle of the green lush garden. The Crusader Castle had been built by the Knights of the Temple and recently been used by the Jordan army in the Six-Days War. There also leads the Israel Trail along and we saw some hikers.
    It looked like a short drive from there to Nazareth but it led closely by Tel Aviv and we were stuck in traffic that we arrived almost 1 1/2 hours later. Not that we were on a schedule but it's annoying ;)
    Our hostel was pretty cool and we had the dorm rooms almost to ourselves. After settling in we took a walk through the streets...
    Everything of interest is within a 15 minute walk distance.
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  • Day7

    Masada and Dead Sea

    November 25, 2019 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    We had a bit of time to sleep in (one of the first times) because the rental company just opened at 9. With the car we drove straight to a nearby hostel where you could buy the Israel Pass, a similar system as the Jordan Pass but only for National Parks.
    We made the detour because we went straight to a National Park. The Masada National Park is located next to the Dead Sea and contains an ancient fortress dating way back before Christ. The access to the fortress can be done either via cable car or hiking up. The cable car was way too expensive so we hiked up in the midday sun and it felt pretty hot. I can't imagine what it would be like in summer! The 350m climb led over 800 stairs, surprisingly it took us just a bit more than half an hour. But we were glad that there was water available on top.
    The fortress itself is not a good condition, many parts were just merely ruins. But the views were gorgeous and you could imagine the beauty of it standing on top of the mountain in former times. We took our time exploring the top before moving back down. As it was still daylight we decided to go straight to the Dead Sea. By the time we arrived the sun almost set and I just took a quick dip.
    Our options to stay for the night were limited as there are only luxury resorts nearby starting from 150€ a night. But, to our surprise, there were parking spots available right next to town to camp out. After some walking around in town (also overpriced) and a stop in McDonald's (to our great disappointment there's no McFalafel) we went to the car. We moved the seats all the way back and we were able to lay down quite comfortably.
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  • Day6

    Bethlehem

    November 24, 2019 in Palestine ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    After just a few hours of sleep we got up to the morning mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was a lot more quiet but at the same time as the mass some other congregation decided it would be a good time to scream their prayers through the halls. We could barely understand anything the priest said and left after half an hour frustrated. Next stop was the Temple Mount with the magnificent Dome of the Rock. Yesterday we couldn't go because it's closed to the public on Saturdays. Also on the other days the access it restricted to certain times. Therefore we were one of the first ones to enter it by 07:30, we had almost the whole area for us until 08:30 when the tours entered. From there it was a short distance to the Gizimaneh Garden (where Judas betrayed Jesus), and the Mount of Olives. Later we went to some rental companies to check for available cars and rates to get on the road the next day. The rental company we chose recommended to go to Bethlehem by bus/taxi because it can be a hassle to cross the border to the Palestinian Territories by rental car.
    It went pretty smoothly until we arrived at the taxis, just after the border crossing. Actually we just wanted to go the Church of Nativity where the birth place of Jesus was. But he offered to take us to other places as well, which we refused and he still did... Among them was also one of the most famous graffiti from Banksy. At the Church of Nativity we just walked around until we encountered steps leading down, which we checked out. It turned out we took the exit from Jesus cradle and skipped like 3 hours of waiting time... It was by accident but we wouldn't have stood in the queue for hours anyway. When the taxi driver brought us back he expected three times the initially discussed price. After some reasoning he accepted the doubled amount because he drove us back. It was still an unpleasant experience...
    When got off the bus from Jerusalem earlier to visit King David's Tomb. A structure right outside the inner city walls where Jesus had the last supper. This room was rather disappointing as it was just a small room with four arches in the middle. The Benedictine Abbey right next to it is run by German Monks who also hold masses there. In the crypts was a mosaic of the Virgen of Guadalupe and a tourist group from Mexico that sang a song in her honor. This was way more touching than our previous experiences in the Church of the Selpuchre.
    Afterwards we had planned to go to the Southern Walkway on the walls but it was already closed. As we had bought it yesterday and it was only valid for two days we couldn't use it anymore :( So we just went out into the city later to explore some more and found an alley with some cool bars. On the way back we visited the Western Wall - aka Wailing Walls - again and watched the people praying there.
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  • Day5

    Jerusalem

    November 23, 2019 in Palestine ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    At 5:30 we got up and into the private taxi waiting to get us to the border crossing between Jordan and Israel. It was supposed to open at 6:30 but the border guard left us - and others - waiting until 7. Then the chaos began with border officers not showing up, therefore necessary stations were not occupied. Also nobody told us what's happening. Some other 25 foreigners were waiting with us and we were pretty tense because the Israeli side of the border was supposed to close on 10:30 because of Sabbath. With a lot of delay we arrived at the Isreal border after passing several checkpoints. There the process was organised and went pretty smoothly. We expected it to be more complicated as we've travelled previously into muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. We hopped on a shared minibus to Jerusalem and half an hour later we had the first glimpse of the majestic old city.
    First we went to the hostel called Chain Gate Hostel directly in the old city center. Getting there proved to be a bit complicated because it was right next to the Temple Mount where two important mosques are located. The entry to there is just possible in specific days and timeframes. We were stopped by heavily armed police (or military) officers before we found the right way to get there.
    After a short break we headed into the city. First straight through the markets to the visitor center to get an overview. Afterwards we walked the ramparts (old city walls) for a view over the city and to get a feeling of distances and landmarks to navigate. Then we walked the Via Dolorosa (where Jesus carried the cross) with all stations until the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A place I've never heard of before where Jesus is supposed to have been laid down and ascended to heaven. It was quite a circus in there, packed with people from the several Catholic congregations. Different parts are dedicated to these congregations and there have been - even violent - clashes between them in the past. It wasn't a place of calmth or reflection. We decided to come back the other day at 5:30 for a Roman Catholic Mass.
    After this we needed something to eat and some rest. So we stopped at the first shop we saw and bought a Falafel pita with cheese. It turned out to be super expensive at 30 NIS each, which is around 12.50€ :(
    We went to the hostel, had some coffee, tea and rest. Later we got out again and explored the surroundings of the old city. Spoiler: There's not too much to see. But it's more lively than the ghost town of the old city at nights.
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  • Day4

    Baptism Site, Jerash

    November 22, 2019 in Jordan ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    Finally a chance to sleep in a bit because our next destination just opens at 9. So we got to enjoy a really lovely breakfast in our hotel before starting the day. The entry to the Baptism Site of Jesus was included in our Jordan Pass but as an addition for around 7 Dinar. We go there later than expected and were surprised by the organisation... Every half hour leaves a shuttle bus to the location of the Baptism from the parking lot. It's not possible to get there by yourself as the whole area is a military zone. We arrived a few minutes too late to get the bus so we needed to wait for half an hour.
    The baptism site was a bit weird because you always needed to be with a guide. There is a direct border with the Israel controlled Palastine, just a few swimming strokes away. Therefore guards from both sides keep a close watch of the bathing activities. The ones on the Israel side were definitely more lively :) But it was an interesting experience even though I wasn't prepared to go in the water. Julia put at least her feet in the Jordan River.
    Due to the necessary tour and shuttle bus service it took until 12 to be back at the car and on the road. So we decided to skip Ajloun Castle and go straight to another famous site in Jordan, Jerash. It's an ancient byzantine and roman era city with a huge area of ruins. An impressive sight comparable to the ruins we visited in Sicily, Agrigento.
    At the end of the day we drove back to Amman to return the car and plan our journey to Israel. We bought some food for the trip and went out to eat again at Hamameh restaurant to conclude our Jordan part of the trip.
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  • Day3

    Petra, Dead Sea and Mount Nebo

    November 21, 2019 in Jordan ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    We wanted to see the sunrise so we got up at 05:30 to be there when the gate opens. The first stop was at the treasury, but we didn't stay long because we wanted to get a better view. So we hiked up to a lookout for about an hour and got there just before the sun touched these ancient stones. From there it was a strenuous walk of 6km to the Monastery. An even larger structure but without the details. Overall less impressive but very picturesque.
    By 12 we were back in the car park after another stop at the treasury and a - crazy overpriced - local Jordanian beer called Petra with the slogan: 'When in Petra, drink Petra'. The only thing we couldn't do was the High Place of Sacrifice trail leading through an oasis because we didn't have time. Initially we had planned to go to Mini Petra on our way to the Dead Sea but decided not to after we've been hiking for 6 hours in the heat.
    Just as we got out of Wadi Musa I stopped to take two hitchhikers with me that had a Dead Sea sign holding up. They happened to be a couple living in Switzerland, Marianna and Sebastién. She's Mexican and he's French. They were super nice people and we enjoyed the time driving with them even though I ended up on a super bad road. Steep climbs and descends, potholes and even partly washed out streets. It got better after about an hour and we arrived at the dead sea and the Lowest Point on Earth Museum. It definitely sounded more interesting than it was but it was included in the Jordan Pass.
    Then we dropped the couple off on the Dead Sea and drove on to Mount Nebo where Moses saw, according to the Bible, the promised land for the first time. We just had half an hour left before it closed so we walked quite quickly through. But it had its upside, the place was almost empty and we saw a beautiful sunset...
    We spent the night in Madaba because it was a lot cheaper than the stays near the Dead Sea. And we got lucky to meet some locals who invited us for tea and some fun conversations.
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  • Day2

    Madaba, King's Highway and Petra

    November 20, 2019 in Jordan ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    As we've already got our rental car the night before we just grabbed a quick coffee and then went straight on the road around 7 AM. There was a lot on our plan for the day... But the first hurdle was to get used to the traffic and driving style. It's chaotic and dangerous but all of it at a pretty slow pace. Luckily there wasn't as much traffic as usual so I had time to adjust.
    After an hour drive south we arrived safely in Madaba, a town mainly known for its mosaics. And they're literally everywhere! With our Jordan Pass we got in the archaeological sites for free, just the main attraction did cost one dinar (about 1.5€). It's a floor mosaic of a map of Jordan. By the time it was discovered it gave quite specific locations for places about 300 AC.
    A quick snack later we were back on the road. This time the so-called King's Highway, a thousands year old connecting route going all the way South to Egypt. Naturally the route wasn't initially designed for cars so it was often winding which made our progress quite slow. The upside were the magnificent views over Wadi Mujib, one of the few Jordanian National parks. It's an oasis leading to the Dead Sea and offers hikes through the dry water bed. But around this time of the year it's closed to the public because of the dangerous spring floods. Last year a group of 22 school students with their teacher died due to a spring flood surprising them.
    Along the way we stopped at view points. At one of them a man came up to us and offered typical local tea and coffee. After the first hesitation we decided to accept and had another opportunity to enjoy the views. Then we really needed to get moving to Kerak, an old fortress with an interesting and moved past. It was a significant stronghold during the crusades.

    Initially we had planned to visit little Petra but by the time we would have got there it would have been already closed. So we skipped it and drove directly to Wadi Musa with the world famous Petra. We came there just in time to grab something to eat and then head out to Petra to watch "Petra by night". A spectacular arrangement of candles to lead the 2 km hike to the treasury - the most famous sight. This was illuminated by thousands of candles and traditional music was played by a bedouin. The feeling was surreal after having seen the building so many times on pictures.
    A fitting end for an eventful day full of new impressions.
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  • Day1

    Amman

    November 19, 2019 in Jordan ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    We were so looking forward to this trip... I got woken up by Julia at 3 A.M. with a sparkling candle in one of my favourite sweet pieces for my birthday. Then we got ready and headed for the airport as the flight leaves at 6. We even got there early and had a small breakfast.
    Then we slept almost through all of the 4 hour flight and arrived quite rested. It took quite long to get through the visa procedure and until the bus started the hour long journey, followed by a short taxi ride and walk. So by the time we arrived at the hostel it was already 2:30 pm. Time to explore the city!
    The main highlight is the citadel hill with caves dating back to 3000 BC and newer structures established during the byzantine and roman era. It's quite a strenous walk up there but the views over the city are amazing... From there it goes down a winding street to the roman amphitheatre which was pretty nice. When we were done there, it already started to get dark. We tried to find a pretty famous spot with umbrellas on the ceiling but it was either closed or we didn't find it. But instead we found some delicious corn ;)
    On a side note it was super cold! In the night the temperature dropped to about 0 degrees! Not what we expected!
    A lucky find was our hostel that is situated right across one of the most famous 'restaurants' in Amman. You can't really call it a restaurant because there's no menu but the locals come here like some tourists. After you sit down you get a tasty tea, a plate of tomatoes, onions and pickles. Usually the mixed platter consists of Hummous, a tahini olive oil sauce, some falafel and pita. Optionally, there is a meat variant available (spiced ground meat), French fries and a bean mash with lemon. Everything we tried was sooo delicious!
    For the remainder of the day, we booked a rental car, planned a bit for the next days and went to a Shisha bar to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately all the cocktails offered were without alcohol. Despite - or because of - that they were very tasty.
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