Ancient city, melting pot of different culture’s history, art and lifestyle. Undoubtedly, Jerusalem became one of my favourite destinations.
Living in Jordan, it was only a matter of time to visit it. But honestly, after the many stories about everlasting and kind of strange procedure at the border crossing, I wasn´t that keen on leaving to Jerusalem unprepared. Deciding to give it a try, either way, it turned out that the crossing wasn´t that crazy but giving whole journey the adventurous touch it might need. Crossing the highly protected border at the side bank of holy Jordan River was both exhausting and thrilling experience. Driving through Jordan Valley the landscape doesn´t change for a while, in-fact it’s a no-man’s land due to (over)protection. However, there are also some residential settlements along the road with some kind of souk character where you could buy some pottery e.g. It was a fascinating drive from West Bank over the mountain ridge towards Jerusalem – in total taking about 5 hours from Amman, which shouldn’t be more than a hundred kilometre on the map.
Entering Jerusalem outskirts from the east it still looked quite familiar with what I had in mind from Amman, but suddenly we passed by impressing old town wall. A minute later the bus stopped; we arrived. Leaving the bus and after short taxi ride to our hotel, we decided to explore the city by feet. For us walking is always the best way to discover new places. Our direction was again towards the huge town wall aimed to protect the city’s centre, but nowadays attracting even more of the strangers to come in.
Entirely, there are eight gates to enter old town; we took Damascus Gate, which is the largest and the boundary between the Christian and Muslim quarter. Just to mention, old town is divided into the Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian neighbourhoods, probably THE reason making it that colourful. First we strolled through Muslim quarter, a souk full of pretty handmade things particularly ceramics. Certainly, we stopped for hummus and falafel.
A street in old town
Besides the plenty of impressive sights distributed over all four quarters, just to mention the Temple Mount, Wailing Wall, Tower of David, Mount of Olives e.g., I have to admit that Jerusalem by its own, as the melting pot, is the unique sight – the town wall, the narrow alleys with various shops, combined to a fascinating spot.
Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) Wailing Wall
But, there is also a modern side. Separated by the old town’s wall, Jerusalem offers everything you could imagine from a lively European city: chic bars and restaurants, huge shopping malls (for example the Alrov Mamilla Mall), fancy residential areas, variety of fine art galleries.
Bethlehem. Exploring the church of the nativity of Jesus we took a rented car from Jerusalem. Likely a bad idea. Besides the frightful wall and watchtowers, defining political lines, the city – or village – was remarkably empty compared to Jerusalem streets. But arriving at the birthplace of Jesus, there were a crowd, all with the same idea. Spontaneously, we decided to skip the crowded spot of the birth and just to visit the church. Truly a spiritual place – decorated with plenty of special Christmas tree balls. Back in the car we had real hard time to find the exit through the wall. We stopped at a gas station to ask for the way and a young boy told us we should leave the city as fast as we can especially with rented car. The boy himself was very friendly, but what he told us scared. Later, watching TV in a Jerusalem bar we found out that there were some disturbance.
Church of the Nativity
Back to Jerusalem and on last day of our trip we decided to visit the famous Shuk Mahane Yehuda market with its authentic and pure ‘market atmosphere’ I really appreciate. Besides the usual offer on fruits and vegetables the market hosts nice bars and food corners, perfect occasion to spent time and have some cold drinks. Exactly what we looked for just before the last night out in downtown Jerusalem.
I can´t wait the next visit.
Cheers with sunbeams.