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Hallooo. I just came back from a 14-day tour around to various biblical and historical sites in Israel and Jordan. Writing things down before I forget it all >< already my memory is kind of muddled.
Just a warning this is REALLY REALLY LONG and VERY IMAGE HEAVY - I am not even exaggerating. I skipped over a lot already but it's still humongous. Took me 4 days just to write it.
Anyway, in loose chronological order here goes:
Our flight was 9 hours from US to Germany, then another 4-5 hours from Germany to Israel. We went with a group of around 70, about half of which are my friends/acquaintances.
I couldn't sleep on the flight but luckily the movie selection was pretty good. I watched at least 5 movies including the Rurouni Kenshin live action, twice, and eventually a 3rd time on the flight back. Sato Takeru is a really good Kenshin =w=
As usual the cabin air is really dry and the little jar of moisturizer I tossed into my backpack as an afterthought turned out to be a lifesaver (and again in Israel, where the air anywhere on high grounds is really dry as well, and the water somehow dries out hands like magic). 9 gross hours later we land in Frankfurt. We had over 8 hours before the next flight so we took a train out to the city.
Lucky our guides were familiar with Frankfurt too cause the subway map is ridiculous.
It was Dec 22 so there was tons of Christmas decor and toy/snack shops and even a carousel *w*
Tried some apfelwein but I didn't care for it.
Even the trash cans are awesome.
But this bunny is creepy as heck.
Obligatory pork knuckle and schnitzel 8)
We made the mistake of asking for water thinking it'd be free tap water like you'd get in the States, but it was bottled water instead and $5 per bottle o__o
Unfortunately it was also a Sunday so the mall was closed, and we ended up going back to the airport to wait the rest of those looong 9 hours, finally followed by a 4.5 hour flight to Tel Aviv, then a bus ride to Jerusalem. Everything's kind of a blur at this point because we'd been up for well over 24 hours and it's past midnight and we get up around 6am every day after this.
First meal in Israel is the breakfast buffet at our Jerusalem hotel (where we stay for the next 4 days). The smoked fish is very salty but the potatoes are pretty good. The best thing by far though is the fresh bread, literally hot from the oven *0*
I picked up a bunch of napkins that a waiter dropped and laughed when he "xiexie"-ed me. Turns out every single day for the rest of the trip, people will come up to us and go "nihao!" (and also "anyonghaseyo", one something-hamnida, and a "nihonjin desu ka?"). Later this one man chased after our group yelling "ni hao xie xie!" over and over. Random people would come up and be like "China?" and then look confused when I reply with "Canada." I guess they don't see huge clusters of Asians very often :v
There are still patches of snow on the ground in Jerusalem from the freakstorm about a week earlier. It doesn't melt even though it's not super cold.
Old Jerusalem is surrounded by stone walls, like a castle in the middle of the rest of the city *w* It's so cool. There's 8 gates, one of them is the Dung Gate and the one we entered is Lion Gate.....and that's all I remember OTL
We went by the Pool of Bethesda (which is way bigger and deeper than I thought) and walked along the Via Dolorosa (which is much longer than I thought) with lots of small stops. Pretty much every possible landmark has a church built over it.
The streets are narrow since things were built before cars, so when a car does need to go by (like every 10 minutes), we all have to squish against the wall and the car just barely brushes by. I wonder what they do if 2 cars need to pass each other cause it doesn't appear possible.
There's stray cats everywhere :3 For strays they're quite pretty, and most are friendly.
Day 2 we went to possibly the only Chinese restaurant in Israel (also obligatory because our group is Chinese)
It was um.......not very good.. But the owner is a friend of our guides and one of the few people who can still read/write/speak Aramaic which was cool. He gave everyone chocolate 8)
Garden Tomb (possibly site of Golgotha and Christ's tomb, the other possibility being Holy Sepulchre).
The tomb itself is quite small unlike those movie depictions that skew my expectations. The guides here are volunteers from around the world. I liked his explanations lots.
The Wailing Wall + my attempt to take covert pics without bothering people around me. It's really crowded. If you're male, they provide you with one of those little hats to wear before you can approach. People write prayers and stuff them into the cracks of the walls.
So many graves! Something like..the Jews all want to be buried near the sealed gate because that's where the dead will rise and enter into heaven (and if they're nearby they'll go first) and then the Arabs want to block their way with their corpses so their graves are between the Jewish graves and the gate LOL. I forget where the Christian graves are.
My little friend cut her foot open on an exercise bike on Christmas morning, so we stopped by the hospital first. She almost got surgery but it turned out she didn't need it, which was great they just stitched it up. She got piggybacked/limped around the rest of the trip.
Went to Bethlehem and Church of the Nativity. There were young kids pickpocketing outside. They hold up a bunch of postcards with one hand and slip the other into your pocket (which I watched happen) (my pockets have nothing but tissues in them so they are welcome).
Then we went to Nazareth Village which is basically a village built using the same materials, tools, and techniques as they would've used in Jesus' time. There's actors in costumes doing various things inside and a guide explaining as you walk along.
After all the stairs we had to get a popsicle.
Somewhere along the way, we walked by an avocado tree farm, and the guy tossed me an avocado 8) It was delicious. I've never seen one this green and yet ripe (and this funny shape).
Next we stayed at a Kibbutz by the Sea of Galilee. (Basically Kibbutz are communal settlements, some of which run for-profit things such as hotels.) The rooms weren't as modern but their food and location were the best so far. And since it's below sea level, unlike Jerusalem and Nazareth which are both high up, the air quality is much better. It's also quite a bit warmer. We went from wearing winter jackets a few days ago to t-shirts and shorts.
Reenacting 5 bread 2 fish lunch xD cause we went to the place where Jesus fed the 5000. Wrong kind of fish and bread though. This one is called Saint Peter fish, the one that had a coin in its mouth for Peter to pay tax with. Our tour guide hid coins in some of ours haha.
On one of our random stops we met this camel named Jacky who smiles on command 8D
My sister got to ride him for free as a promo *A*
We stayed in Jericho in the fanciest hotel so far. There was a bidet in the bathroom......which I have no idea how to use and was too scared to "experiment"...
It's not super warm, but warm enough that a lot of us went in for a swim. You're not allowed to splash cause if you get salt in people's eyes and they will not be amused.
Meatballs. Just kidding. It's the boulders that the Romans catapulted when they attacked Masada.
Stopped the bus on the edge of the highway just after Masada because we spotted this goat standing beside a cliff like a badass.
Indoor smoking is a normal thing in Jordan so that was hard to get used to. You'd be in the bathroom and someone would just randomly walk in and fill the small confined space with smoke x_x
Our first hotel in Jordan was essentially a village, and each room is a little stand-alone stone house. Quite roomy too. Really really cool. We arrived there late at night though so we got lost trying to find our house and ended up in a garden where I almost stepped on a frog.
Food was not so great though....the fish had the weirdest flavor ever....like a mixture of fennel and candy and miracle whip. Ended up eating cucumbers and croutons for dinner cause those 2 were good.
The entrance fee includes a short horse ride from the gate to the entrance of the rock wall thingies, you just have to tip the horse handler (around $3-5, and they'll ask for more no matter how much you give them).
The ride is pretty bumpy especially if your horse starts trotting (most of them do because the handler wants to go quicker so he can take another person and get more money). I wanted my horse to trot but it seems I got the only lazy horse and horse handler there and we had a really boring slow walk the whole way to the entrance OTL Meanwhile all the parents got fast bumpy rides which shattered their old bones to pieces.
There's also the option of a chariot ride which are significantly more expensive.
After the ride, it's a walk through a narrow passage with high rock walls on both sides. The walls have really pretty patterns. Just gotta watch out for horse poop on the ground. There's a lot of Bedouin kids running around offering to sell you postcards and other things for a dollar. They can be really persistent and some of them make puppy eyes at you. One of my friends offered potato chips to the kids and eventually on of the kids snatched the whole bag and ran off xD
I rode a camel because that's pretty much what I most wanted to do this whole trip >W< After the first ride I paid to do again. The guy leading the camel wasn't watching where he was going so my camel almost ran over a bunch of people xD Camel riding is anywhere from $5-20 depending on the length of the ride and how well you haggle.
Me on the camel *-* and dad who joined me out of curiosity and pretty much freaked out the whole ride (they kinda lurch forward and backward). It's ok though cause I got a priceless photo of him with a face of horror.
A little beyond the Treasury there is a theatre from 1st century AD. Somewhere beyond that is a monastery but we didn't go that far. All along the way there are tombs and niches and also shops run by Bedouins.
I am neither Samson nor Hercules apparently.
There's these round indents around the bottom of the theater where if you speak into them right, you can hear it from all the way on the other end.. but we must not have done it right cause it didn't work .__.
Pretty sky from top of Mt Nebo (where Moses looked at promised land?)
On our very last night of the trip we went to this very fancy, very strange place for dinner. Almost everyone there were smoking hookahs at their tables. (sadly no pictures, couldn't take that without weirding anyone out)
Meanwhile I made this monstrosity.
After dinner (and the whole day of touring) we went straight to the airport for a few hours of waiting, followed by a 5 hour flight to Germany again, 5 more hours of waiting, then 9 hours back to Seattle. All week I've been sleeping right after dinner and getting up at 6am (which is actually awesome!)
I leave you with this picture of a creepy statue we saw in a museum.