Africa XX: Nomad Tours Day 8, Stone Town Zanzibar

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater
Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam

____________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we just finished traveling overland to get to Dar es Salaam where we took the ferry to Stone Town, Zanzibar. At the end of the last post I promised you a scary story and I won’t disappoint!

Stone1

But first, lets set the scene. Above is our hotel room! You heard me right not only did Erica and I get a hotel room here (unlike the camping we’ve been doing the whole trip) but we also were super lucky and got a room right on the water! Look at the view off the deck, below.

Stone2

So pretty! Since we were right along the beach (which can get a little dangerous at night for tourists), we also had armed guards that sat outside our room all day and night.

Stone3

Paradise!

Stone4

While we were getting ready for dinner we got to watch locals play a match of soccer out here at sunset.

Stone5

The following morning Erica and I both signed up for a walking tour, which was one of the optional excursions on the trip. This maze of a town reminded me of Old Jerusalem, Israel and it was nice to have a guided tour.

Stone6

We started at the fish market in Stone Town. Above is a live auction happening right in front of us. The fisherman auction off the fish and people buy the fish, cut it up saving some of the fish for their families, and then they move to a stall where they sell the rest of the fish for a prophet.

Stone7

This was dragged through the market when we got there. It’s huge!

Stone8

Above and below are photos of the different fish, squids, shrimp and seafood that vendors were trying to sell after just purchasing them from the auction. It was cool to see, but there were probably 1000 flies in that room. It was pretty smelly too with all the un-iced fish sitting around.

Stone9

We also went through the meat market, which you can imagine I didn’t take photos of. Yuck, that room was disturbing.

Stone10

I didn’t take may photos within the fruit and vegetable stalls in Stone Town because the vendors are pretty fussy about it. Above are some of the other Nomad Tour group members walking through the stalls.

Stone12

I just love these types of winding narrow streets.

Stone13

Above is our local guide teaching us about Zanzibar doors, something Stone Town is famous for.

Stone14Stone15

Narrow alleys are fun to explore.

Stone16Stone17

I just love the colors and textures around the city.

Stone18Stone19Stone21Stone22

We cut through the Old Fort and Cultural Center in Zanzibar.

Stone23Stone24Stone25

We moved over to the Shangani section of Stone Town where Freddie Mercury lived as a child. I should note that Zanzibar is like 90% muslim which means a dress code exists here, and women should not wear tank tops or other revealing clothing while not at the beach. It’s good to pack along scarves to help coverup too. I say this here because it’s also illegal to be homosexual here, which probably explains why Freddie Mercury lived here as a child but not as an adult.

Stone26Stone27

We walked by the Shangani Hotel, which is where I booked a room (with the help of Norman) for my last night in Zanzibar.

Stone28

In the center of Stone Town is an area where poeple sharing coffee and talking about current events. Since it’s a Muslim town, only men are allowed to partake in this tradition. They have a sign hanging about making international calls and a phone tied to the tree (above).

Stone29Stone30

As part of the walking tour we went into the Christ Church which sits on the old slave market. As part of the tour they take you down into where they kept the slaves before auction (below).

Stone31

They crammed tons of people in here and when the tides rose water would seep into this room located in the basement. People lived here for long lengths of time, with limited food and of course no bathrooms. Being down there was eerie and I just can’t imagine how bad it was down here.

Stone32

Above is a painting of Bishop Edward Steere who worked to abolish slavery in Zanzibar. Does he look like anyone you know? Maybe John Travolta?!

Stone33

Above is the Cathedral from the exterior. They are still doing restoration work on it.

After the tour ended we drove back to the hotel, picked up the rest of the Nomad Tour group and headed to the north part of Zanzibar. More on that in my next post!

WARNING– OPTIONAL SCARY STORY! 

The night we stayed in Zanzibar, in the room by the ocean, there was a snake in our room. I was alone in the room from 9p-11:30p, when Erica came back to the room. At 11:30 I went to sleep and at 12:30am I awoke to 2 of the guards in our room. When I asked in my sleepy stat ewhat was going on, Erica assured me that there was a rodent in the room and they were just getting it out. My mind immediately jumped to “THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE ROOM!” Erica assured me that there wasn’t any issue and I should go back to sleep. Then, WACK! One of the guards whipped something in the corner of the room. I was within the bed netting and my glasses were on the counter so it was all a bit blurry, but it freaked me out. I had nightmares the rest of the night about snakes.

The following morning after Erica and I checked out of the room, she finally explained to me the full story. She found a snake around midnight and tried to get it out of the room herself. Realizing how dangerous this was she called in the guards who were outside our room. Knowing I HATE HATE HATE snakes, her goal was to just get it out of the room without me knowing what was going on. She shared this photo with me the next day:

1530647_794427237246198_917210813_n

 

Celebrating July 4th in Big Bear (Mountain-Style)

Did everyone have a fabulous 4th of July? Did you check out my instagram? I was in Big Bear for the 4th of July an it was AWESOME! A bunch of friends chipped in on renting THIS cabin from HomeAway and boy was it fun.

Only 2 hrs outside of LA, it felt like a real getaway without being too difficult to get to. I drove up after work on Thursday the 3rd. I stopped off at a Ralphs to get some food essentials to share with the gang. I arrived around 10pm on Thursday evening to see our awesome bear-themed cabin. Everyone was in the hot tub when I arrived.

The house had a master suite, 1 bedroom with a queen bed, and a bedroom with full size bunk beds and another queen bed. We also had two sitting areas, each with fold out couches. Lets just say our huge group fit comfortably. Everyone brought some food along and we ate each meal at the house (a money saver) plus it was super fun cooking and helping prepare the food. I’m not a good chef, so my way of helping was on the cleaning end.

The cabin was also so full of activities: a hot tub, ping pong/pool table, picnic table on a big deck, foosball table, and giant dining room table which was perfect for boardgames. One of my favorite things to do on any vacation is get up early and do a neighborhood walk. This was especially nice in Big Bear, as we were on the south side of the lake in a great walking neighborhood. There were several spots with views of the lake.

On Friday our first big activity was renting a pontoon boat! We walked to the docks, then realized we made a reservation at a different dock and raced over to the right dock (on the north side of the lake).

10474974_1510286659190406_126432708_n

By the first dock was a pirate boat for rent! That was a bit more than we needed, but I still needed to take a picture with my boyfriend (above), Black Beard.

10513782_1439722169635822_519158919_n

After making our reservation at the right dock we took the boat out on the lake for 2 hours of pure boating bliss. We packed sandwiches and snacked out on the water. Our plan was to swim (technically not allowed) but the water was so cold we just put our feet in. The clouds came and went and we even saw a rain storm brewing on the mountain.

At 2pm we made our way back to the cabin where it became hot tub/shower/nap time for most of us.

Around 5pm we walked to the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain where for 4 dollars you ride a chair lift up he mountain and sled your way down.

10488704_254684954739196_1710033299_n

Here’s a shot (above) of some of the group preparing to sled down. Super fun and super cheap! I highly recommend this even for young kids visiting the lake. We also had tremendous views from the top while waiting in line.

10514143_553682098075561_331154815_n

After Alpine Sledding, and a bbq at the house, we packing up our to-go drinks and walked to the water for an excellent view of the fireworks show over the lake.

10474953_265898816931132_879986866_n

The next morning while making breakfast we experienced a pretty big earthquake! The cabin was a’shakin! After the quake, some rain storms rolled in so we decided to have a big game of 7 Wonders at the giant dining-room table. It was a lot of fun, especially playing in teams due to the large number of people participating.

Another great group game we discovered on this trip is Quickwits. It was developed by a coworker of mine and is a great party game. We ended up playing this multiple times throughout the weekend. It’s got a similar vibe to Cards Against Humanity, is super easy to pickup, and doesn’t take too much focus/time so it was a great “lets play around while the food’s grilling” game.

Once the storms passed, we made our way out for a short hike. Turns out the hike required pretty much off-roading in order to reach it. My Mazda 3 was SUPER not happy about it. But we did get some exercise eventually, which was the goal. And it was on this hike where I took the above photo. You can see the clouds started rolling back in again.. we even heard thunder! It was exciting for us city-folk.

10522286_822602394425743_1396299128_n

Here’s a shot of the hikers above. When we made our way back to the house and rejoined the rest of the gang, we had a fun bbq’ing night. After dinner I had to take off to try to beat the sunset down the mountain and head back to LA. The group continued on for another day, kayaking and picnicking out by the water.

I think it was unanimously a fun weekend full of good times. Especially given our large group, it was great to find so many activities we could all participate in. I’m loving these staycations! Big Bear for the 4th was a big hit and I totally recommend it to people looking to get a taste of the mountains.

Istanbul IV: Taksim Square, Asia, and the Grand Bazar

To catch you up to speed check out earlier posts about my trip:
My travels around Israel
Istanbul I: Exploring The City + Suleymaniye + The Blue Mosque
Istanbul II: Topkapi Palace
Istanbul III: Hagia Sophia and the Cistern

_______________________________________________________________________________

Well, it’s time for the last trip post. I know it took forever to get through it all, but it’s helpful having all this info saved incase I plan a trip back. And hopefully, it helps you with your trip planning as well.

For this last post (and basically our last day of the trip) we crossed a lot off the Istanbul to do list. One place which had been in the news when we were planning our trip was Taksim Square. Here we were mapping out our time here and yahoo’s front photo was the riots right here in this square.

IstanD1

You’d hardly know it though! There were no signs of riots or any unrest, but there was a strong police presence.

IstanD2

Toward one end it was much more crowded, but this area is clearly a more modern section of Istanbul with lots of shops.

IstanD3

After exploring Taksim Square we met up at the dock where all the ferry/taxi boats come in. I think the ride cost us a dollar or two each, and we got into a boat which took us to ASIA! My uncle insisted that since I was the only one who’d never been, I had to touch Asian soil and Im glad we did this. It was super cheap and didn’t take much time. Plus it gave us a 10 minute boat ride on the Bosphorus.

IstanD4IstanD5

We even got to see the water-side of the Palace.

IstanD6

The bridge where Europe and Asia meet here.

IstanD7IstanD8

I was disappointed there wasn’t a “Welcome to Asia!” sign. All I wanted was something that said “Asia” that I could point to and it was hard to find, but we found it.

IstanD9

Once on the Asia side, we went for a short walk and decided there was more to see on the Europe side, so we hoped onto another ferry which took us back closer to our hotel.

IstanD10

Another BIG thing in Istanbul which I haven’t talked about yet is the Grand Bazar! You can’t miss this place, and it’s truly unique.

IstanD11

Here’s one of several entrances above.

IstanD12

Not only is it a market indoors in a maze of passageways without windows, it’s also got an outdoor section. Above you can see the cats on the left. Cats are EVERYWHERE in Israel and Turkey. The whole trip we always had a cat within eyesight if we were outdoors.

IstanD13

Here’s the inside of the market. It’s not packed with people, but it is packed with merchandise and vendors. Everyone talks to you as you walk around. You can’t just browse here. For fun I was looking at knock-off (or fallen-off-the-truck) handbags to get a sense of the pricing. Just by looking, the vendor, was throwing out numbers and “facts” about the bag. Knowing I didn’t want it, it was fun to see how low he would go with the price, especially as I walked away.

IstanD14

Thankfully I didn’t really need anything, so the pressure was off me to buy anything. I bought one little soy sauce dish for the equivalent of a dollar. I probably over paid, but it was worth a dollar to me. And now I have something from the Grand Bazar!

IstanD15

I actually really enjoyed the building where the market is held. So much stone and tile work. I wouldn’t want to be in here during an earthquake or fire (as exits are NOT easy to find).

IstanD16

Another fun treat in Istanbul is the baklava. It’s so good and fresh from these bakeries spread around town. It was a fun treat in the afternoons to pop in for a piece of baklava.

IstanD17

More kitties.

IstanD18

One of the treats I bought for myself and as gifts for others is some soap. Brian, who I was traveling with, has some Aleppo (Iranian) soap that he got in Istanbul his last visit and he raved about it. This type of dried olive oil soap is very moisturizing and a specialty for this region. As someone with many soap allergies, this soap is completely natural and I love it. Buy soap when you visit.

IstanD19

On our last night we walked along the water by the bridge.

IstanD20

The next morning we said goodbye to Erica as she continued to tour around Turkey, and we caught our plane back to the US. I flew from Istanbul to Germany to Denver (where my uncle andI parted ways) and then on to LAX, where I took one of those ride-share shuttles o my house (about 2 hours later). Phew, it’s exhausting even thinking about it all. But it makes you really see how small the world is. How with a days worth of energy you can be on the opposite end of the world, that’s pretty miraculous.

Well this trip was amazing and I still feel like there’s so much to see in both countries. It’s also opened up my eyes to the beauty of the Middle East and how different everyday life is in other parts of the world. Well here’s to hopefully more travel in the future!

Istanbul III: Hagia Sophia and the Cistern

To catch you up to speed check out earlier posts about my trip:
My travels around Israel
Istanbul I: Exploring The City + Suleymaniye + The Blue Mosque
Istanbul II: Topkapi Palace
_______________________________________________________________________________

After seeing Topkapi Palace, we high-tailed it over to Ayasofya (or Hagia Sophia) hoping to get find a short line. All the popular historical sites are walking distance from each other, so it makes this jumping around pretty easy. We also used the metro system once while we were there, and it was pretty easy and handy.

IstanC1

Above is the Hagia Sophia from the mid point between this mosque and the Blue Mosque. See how close they are?

IstanC2

You can see this former mosque (and church) is currently being repaired. It’s no longer a mosque and instead a museum, so they charge admission. When telling people I went to Istanbul, everyone asks about this place. I liked it, but I also really enjoyed the Blue Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque a lot. In fact most of us agreed the Suleymaniye was our favorite Mosque. It was quieter, less crowded, up on a hill with beautiful views and the building was equally as gorgeous and well maintained as the Blue Mosque. Be sure to visit the Suleymaniye.

IstanC3

Back to the Ayasofya. Once tickets were purchased we made our way in.

IstanC4 IstanC5

Just as we got inside, my camera said “card full” so of course I was freaking out and furiously erasing earlier blurry photos and unfortunately some video so I could photograph this day’s sites.

IstanC6

This late morning timing made for excellent light in the structure. I love the yellow of the light and the blue of the stonework.

IstanC7

An important note is that this building wasn’t just a mosque but also a church. It was a church in 360 (it’s crazy old), and then a mosque from 1453-1935.

IstanC8

It’s such an unusual architectural mix, to see the layout and structure so iconic with mosques and yet there are jesus murals and mosaics all around.

IstanC9

After leaving the museum, we made a quick stop at another site from my tour book, as it was just across the street. We went to the Basilica Cistern. It was pretty inexpensive and worth seeing at least once. This is how water was moved throughout the city and was built in the 6th century.

IstanC10

It’s a great place to take photos as it has a Venice water-ways feel to it. You just walk the paths, take photos and look at the koi fish below.

IstanC11

There are 2 Medusa heads as part of columns in here. Since this was underground, built by slaves in the 6th century, and not meant to be seen as a museum, but as a functioning part of the city, when it was built they recycled these old Medusa heads to be part of columns within it. They weren’t even placed right-side up- they were just put in because their dimensions fit the bill. It’s a popular spot to photograph down here.

The Cistern is also seen in several movies (James Bond + Inferno) and written about in novels.

Next up: My LAST post of the trip, as our time here winds down. I’ll cover Taksim Square, The Grand Bazaar, and oh yes, my first trip to ASIA!

 

Istanbul II: Topkapi Palace

To catch you up to speed check out earlier posts about my trip:
My travels around Israel
Istanbul I: Exploring The City + Suleymaniye + The Blue Mosque
_______________________________________________________________________________

 

 

IstanB1

For this post I’m focusing on Topkapi Palace. While Istanbul has many palaces, the palace is the one to see. It’s where the Ottoman Sultans lived for 400 years.This is such a prime site to visit in Istanbul, that we decided to start our day early here in an attempt to avoid the crowd. You can see above, we were the only ones with this idea.

IstanB2

The patterns and textures in this palace are unreal.

IstanB3

We decided to buy the entrance fee as well as a ticket to the Harem, which our travel book said was a highlight. And how often do you get to see a Turkish Harem?

IstanB4 IstanB5 IstanB6

Some rooms seem to have no purpose other than to show off all sorts of patterns. So pretty.

IstanB7

Of course a Harem has lots of beds.

IstanB8 IstanB9 IstanB10

They are all about the patterns! Even down to the last detail.

IstanB11 IstanB12

 

After exiting the Harem we walked the grounds, saw the royal jewels (amazing) and then had to continue on to cross more off our list.

Next up: we beeline it over to the Hagia Sophia, which is also a prime tourist destination. We wanted to go the day before, but the line to get in was so long we skipped it, so today we aimed to get there as early as possible.

Istanbul I: Exploring The City + Suleymaniye + The Blue Mosque

To catch you up to speed check out earlier posts about my trip:
My travels around Israel
_______________________________________________________________________________

Last I left off, we were taking off on a Turkish Airlines flight and heading from Tel Aviv, Israel to Istanbul Turkey. Now it was about 80 degrees in Israel (even in November!) so I was wearing a long thin skirt, hot pick tank top and thin cardigan. We get off the plane in Istanbul and I notice that everyone in the Turkish airport is wearing dark pants, dark thick winter jackets, and big black scarves. Everyone was in dark gray or black. Um… I clearly didn’t pack for the weather of Istanbul. Since most of our time on the trip was to be spent in Israel, I packed for the desert. I’ve made a huge mistake. In the passport line, there were 100 people and I was the only one in colorful clothing and not in a thick jacket. Crap.

We arrived midday and took a car service to our hotel  in Ortakoy (wear I promptly layered up anything I had packed with long sleeves. We were starving and walked down the hill (Istanbul’s very hilly) to the water and ate at the Hanedan Restaurant over looking Bosphorus. 

InstanA5

It was strange to think we were a quick 2 hour flight from Israel, and yet the weather was SOOO different. Everything was different. Israel is the Middle East, Turkey is very European (and Asian). Istanbul is a city in two continents, which I did not realize until we arrived. We spent most of our time on the Europe side (since it has the main city attractions) but I will talk about a quick trip we made to Asia in a later post. 

IstanA1

Since this city is so hilly, there are beautiful views everywhere. Every restaurant we ate at the entire time here, had excellent views. 

IstanA2

After our late lunch, the sun started to set (it was around 3:30p) so we decided to walk along the river and explore the city by walking until dark. 

IstanA3 IstanA4

This is the view looking south into the touristy/historic section of Istanbul. See all the silhouettes of the minarets and mosques? So pretty. Plus in the evening (and several other times a day) they do the call to worship. It’s really beautiful and after a few times of hearing it, you get used to it. In fact it’s like a clock, as the singing alerts you to what time it is. It’s also helpful as a tourist because after the call to worship, the active mosques will be closed to tourists for about 20 minutes. So when you hear the singing, you know you have 20 minutes to get to where you want to visit. 

IstanA5

This is at the Dolmabahce Palace. There are many palaces in Istanbul. 

IstanA6

Not only does Istanbul still have pay phones, but they are all different animals! Too fun! What a photo op! 

IstanA7

We walked well until after sunset (which happens so early). It was very beautiful and very very cold. 

IstanA8

I was telling our friends Brian and Andy about my secret stair walks when we spotted these not so secret stairs. Up we go! 

IstanA9

We meandered up and downstairs just exploring. It was a fun first taste of the city. 

IstanA10

We passed many beautiful mosques and walked through Sanatkarlar Park (which was a little sketchy, so don’t hang out here alone after dark). We meandered into shops and a beautiful art gallery. 

IstanA11

We made our way back down the hill to the main road and Tophane-i (Ali Pasha Complex Mosque), and caught a cab back to the hotel. We had 8p dinner reservations at the top of our hotel at the Meze Restaurant and we all needed to warm up. 

IstanA12

Since it was chilly we sat indoors instead of on the terrace. More excellent views and a delicious meal.

IstanA13

The next morning we decided to start our day at one of the many famous mosques, the Suleymaniye Hammam

IstanA14

It was so quiet here. We were the only tourists for a while. 

IstanA15 IstanA16 IstanA17 IstanA18

Since it was cold and I was wearing basically all the clothes I had packed, I had a hoodie on which was handy at the mosques. Women have to cover their heads and I didn’t bring a scarf (since I knew I would buy one while I was there- why pack one?). You also have to remove your shoes outside and you can see we (tourists) are restricted to certain areas of the mosques. Tourists men and women stay together, although if we were members there to pray, women have a tiny section in the back and the men get all this floor space above. It’s like this at all the mosques. 

IstanA19 IstanA20 IstanA21

We walked through the Grand Bazare (more on that later) and then made our way to the back side of the Blue Mosque to a special lunch spot. 

IstanA22

What beautiful walkways. It’s so European compared to the winding pathways of Jerusalem. 

IstanA23 IstanA24 IstanA25

Above is the view of the Blue Mosque from our restaurant spot at Seven Hills. Even though it was cold, we had to sit on the outdoor patio level. How could we miss out on looking at these buildings. 

IstanA26

Here’s the view of Ayasofya from the restaurant. 

IstanA27 IstanA28

The Blue Mosque, above. 

IstanA29 IstanA30

This is the inside of the Blue Mosque… it’s more red than blue- false advertising! It’s beautiful in here. This is also an active mosque (unlike the Ayasofya. 

IstanA31

Prayer time was ending as we were allowed in after lunch. This was a beautiful yet very crowded mosque. You wouldn’t know it from this photo, but the tourist section is packed with people.

This evening we ate a special dinner at the Sunset Grill and Bar. It had beautiful views (like all the restaurants), it was a delicious meal and it was fun to be with good company. 

My next Istanbul post will be about our time exploring Topkapi Palace Museum

 

Israel XIII: Last Day in Israel

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea
Israel X: Old City Jerusalem at Night
Israel XI: Old City Jerusalem Daytime Part 1
Israel XII: Old City During the Day Part 2

_________________________________________________________________________

After 12 posts, we’ve finally caught up with my last day in Israel, which also happens to be Thanksgiving. We woke up in Jerusalem and spent the day there before cabbing it to Tel Aviv for a Thanksgiving feast at Orna and Elle on Shenkin St. with our friends Brian and Andy. Jerusalem is about 45 min to an hour from Tel Aviv, of course we left in the late afternoon traffic and it took us 2 hours. But we made it and had a lovely night with good friends. But let me step back and tell you how I decided to spend my last 5 hours in Jerusalem.

My uncle had a work meeting, my sister decided to take a day tour to Bethlehem, and I was free to see whatever I wanted to see. I decided to stay in Jerusalem and cross more items off my to-see list. At this point I’d seen so many sites from other religions, but not many from my own upbringing. Here’s a map of how I spent my day:

Map1Jer23

I got all packed up and then walked from our hotel into the Jaffa Gate of the old city. I just love these pathways.

Jer24

I walked through the old city and excited through the Damascus Gate.

Jer25

The above photo is from the outside of the Old City looking at the Damascus Gate.

Jer26

Just outside and north of the Old City is the Garden Tomb. At Sunday school as a kid, this is where we were told that Jesus was buried and then resurrected.

Jer27

This is a small lovely site. It was so peaceful considering beyond the walls is a bustling city. Everything about this site is donation based. Even using their audio walking tour guide was free. Everyone working here was so nice and considerate. The whole vibe of this place was so different from all the other religious sites that I had seen. No one was kissing where Jesus touched. No one was selling religious trinkets. It was just such a lovely peaceful place.

Jer28

These above markings are what help indicate that this is the site of the tomb described in the bible. The only bummer is that on the other side of this fence is a bus depot, so it’s smokey and loud at this edge. It’s quite a juxtaposition to be looking at these Biblical markings from Jesus time with buses pulling in and out right below it.

Jer29

This is the tomb where Jesus body was placed and then gone the next morning.

Jer30

Since I was the only one at this portion of the garden (there were tour groups spread around the different garden stations), I couldn’t tell if it was okay if I went into the tomb. So I tippy-toed in hoping not to get yelled at.

Jer31 Jer32

It was so interesting being inside the tomb. Wow.

Jer33

I went back into the Old City and cut through the Muslim Quarter to the Lion’s Gate.

Jer34 Jer35

It’s hard to tell that the Lion’s Gate exit is a steep decline.

Jer36

This is the land on the east side of the Old City.

Jer37

This is the Church of Gethsemane. This was on the must-see list for Israel.

Jer37b

It is so beautiful, but know that the tour buses empty out here, so it’s always packed with people.

Jer38

The Garden of Gethsemane sits to the north of the church, and is where Jesus and his Disciples prayed the night before Jesus was crucified.

Jer39

Inside the church, I wasn’t willing to wait in the long line to touch the place Jesus sat. Instead I sat and a pew and took in the space. The mural on the wall shows Jesus sitting on the rock that everyone touches. I’m sure in Jesus time, this area was all rocks so how is this rock “the” rock? It’s the same with all the religious spots.

Jer40

More of the garden.

Jer41

Right by the garden is the Grotto of Gethsemane.

Jer42

I also really enjoyed this place. It was not crowded at all, which is good because it’s a tiny room buried below. This is supposedly where Judas betrayed Jesus and the guards found him here.

Jer43 Jer44

Next to the grotto is the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.

Jer45

The tomb is at the bottom of these stairs. It’s very smokey in here from all the incense.

Jer47

I continued up the hill (right next to Mount of Olives).

Jer48

I stopped to see the Church of Mary Magdalene. Several female saints are buried here.

Jer49

Afterword I headed back into the Old City where I saw this grafiti. Religious graffiti.

Jer50

I had to stop into this tiny pastry shop which came highly recommended. It’s called Zalatimo’s and it’s at the south east corner of the Church of the Sepulcher. It’s right at the bottom of a stairwell that connects the market level to the upper level of the church. It’s a one man operation, he makes one item (mutabak), and it’s been passed down for generations. Stop in this place if you can find it and chat with him while he bakes. He only spoke a little English, but we managed to have a conversation which was fun.

Jer51

After picking up this treat, I headed back to the hotel where my Uncle and I check out and headed for a very quick trip to the Israel Museum. Above is the roof of the building which contains the Dead Sea Scrolls. So interesting.

Jer52

There’s also a scaled model of the Old City of Jerusalem (not as it currently is). Look how large it is compared to the people.

Jer53

It was a very short stop, and after 45 min we had to head off to Tel Aviv. I really look forward to coming back to Israel at some point. I enjoyed it so much that I know Ill be back. If I had more time I would have walked the top wall of the Old City, visited where the last supper supposedly took place and I would have gone to Bethlehem.

Thanksgiving dinner was a lot of fun back in Tel Aviv. We all had an early wakeup call in the morning, as we headed to the airport with Andy and Brian to take off to Istanbul, Turkey! The adventure continues!