La Serenissima

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cruising the Mediterranean from Jerusalem, Israel to Antalya, Turkey

Ashdod Israel
The old city of Ashdod dates back some 3000 years, but the modern one was
established in 1957. From here, we drove about 1 hour to Jerusalem, which can
be divided into 3 parts – Old City, East Jerusalem and, you guessed it – New
City. The Old City contains the holiest Jewish site – the Western/Wailing Wall;
the 3rd holiest Muslim site – the Haram Ash–Sharif at Temple Mount, from where
Mohammed rose to Heaven and the Holy Christian sites of the trial, crucifixion,
 burial and resurrection of Jesus. East Jerusalem and the Old City were under Jordanian control until 1967.

On the way to the Old City, we stopped at the Garden of Gethsemane next to the
Church of All Nations on the Mount of Olives. It is fascinating to see olive trees
that Jesus and Judas perhaps stood under, with massive petrified wood trunks
and freshly pruned and harvested canes sprouting from the top. There is an olive
harvest and special olive oil bottling from these trees every year.

Then we drove to the Old City, entering the Jewish quarter we suddenly came
upon at least 3 Barmitzvas in full swing! Lots of music, dancing and food – laid
out within our reach!! No-one seemed to mind. Then on to the Western Wall,
which is truly moving. Itʼs part of the Second Temple and is also actually part of
the Temple Mount foundation erected by Herod the Great.

 We then walked on to the Jewish Bazaar, along the Via Dolorosa, observing the
Stations of the Cross, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which enshrines the
sites of Christʼs crucifixion, entombment and resurrection. The 12th century
church is shared by several Christian denominations.

After a very long and, even for a pagan, as my Nan used to call me, very moving
morning of history and spirituality, we lunched at a wonderful kibbutz. It had the
best hommus I have ever had!!

Then on to Bethlehem, to where the whole story started I guess. A couple of
interesting things: I felt safe in Israel. Then a little before Bethlehem, our Israeli
guide told us she had to leave the bus, as she wasnʼt allowed into Palestinian
territory. A little further on, we went through a razor-wired military checkpoint; the
bus inspected, and we plunged back into urban Egyptian scenery. One of
Bethlehemʼs specialities is gold – so of course, to mark such an auspicious
occasion, I availed myself of this art with a pair of earrings, henceforth referred to
as my Jesus earrings.


My intention had been to take a tour from Haifa to Nazareth and Galilee.
However, after 3 days of intense touring, I decided to opt for some low-key
relaxing on the ship and a little exploration of Haifa. I didnʼt know what form the
latter would take, so just went ashore. I saw some taxi drivers near the terminal,
so I asked about prices to go downtown _ which was nearby, but too long for me
to walk. After a bit of negotiation – their prices started way too high and I wasnʼt
falling for it – one of the drivers agreed to take me.

En route, we got talking and I revised my idea of just stopping in the main drag,
which wasnʼt too thrilling. The driver would do a round tour for me including the
museums, fashionable café areas (the German streets) and up to Mt Carmel to
the Bahaʼi Shrine and Gardens. It was terrific and I was lucky as this man was
very knowledgeable about Haifa and spoke good English. We agreed we both
had good luck. The Bahaʼi gardens were simply beautiful, cascading down the
mount to sea level, where the city is. Haifa is considered the world centre for the
Bahaʼi faith.

Limassol Cyprus

This is a charming city with a pedestrian only main street, teeming with tourist
shops (not so charming really). However, as I discovered at a leather clothing
boutique, the people very friendly and helpful. Run by a husband and wife team,
they told me their daughter was studying fashion design in Florence, and she had
designed several of their leather jackets. It transpired that there were some small
ones “at the back, for half price” – my kind of shop indeed!! I liked several of
these, but one especially. I said Iʼd think about it, and looked a bit further afield.

It was a gorgeous day and perfect for strolling and looking at nothing in particular-
… but now, I was on a mission! Having seen nothing I liked better, and having
resisted the imitation Bulgari pendants (quite good actually, and for 10 euros,
whoʼs complaining??!) I returned to purchase the jacket. Well, I was greeted like
a long lost friend, given a chair and a glass of orange juice, and the deal was

Getting back to the history of such a strategically located island, Cyprus has been
invaded and conquered by Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs,
Venetians, Crusaders and Ottoman Turks dating back over 9000 years. Since
1974, 37% (a strange number – why not 35% or 40%?) is under Turkish military
occupation. The “green line” border cuts directly through Nicosia, making it the
last divided capital in Europe.

Antalya Turkey

Antalya dates back to 150 BC when it was founded by the king of Pergamum. My
cruise guide notes said Antalya “is perched on a cliff overlooking the bay, there is
a quaint contrast between the narrow streets of the walled Old City and the
elegant boulevards lined with stately palm trees”. Thatʼs a very apt description – I
began my walk from our bus, along Konyaalti Street which follows Ataturk Park,
the Gulf of Antalya on the Mediterranean in the background. Up ahead, I could
see the Tekeli Mehmet Pasa Mosque and the Kesik Minaret – a minaret attached
to ruins of a mosque that was once the site of a Byzantine church, which in turn
was built on the foundation of a pagan Roman temple. (I think Edna Everidge
once commented that the Catholic churches always have the best view!! Well,
 temple, church, and mosque – they all have had stunning views in this spot!)

I continued through the old city, winding down steep, narrow cobbled streets. A
shop owner tried to interest me in the pottery he sold. I could see it was a nice
shop, but I was just starting out really, so I told him Iʼd be back. I continued on,
past more traditional, hand painted Turkish pottery, jewellery stores, fashion
shops, knock-off designer bag and belt shops and found a lovely outdoor café
(part of a hotel, I think) that had a beautiful terrace overlooking this very
picturesque bay. When I went to the loo, I discovered that the building appeared
to be part of an old fort and I was able to take a pic of the bay through what I
assumed was a gun emplacement – the stone walls were about 2 feet thick.

After lunch, I walked back through the bazaar, exploring side alleys, and
ultimately returning to the shop I had first passed. Again, the owner greeted me
and welcomed me in, and because I was a person of my word, ushered me to the
rear of the store, offered me a large comfy armchair and proffered a glass of
chilled apple tea – all of which I accepted cheerily. I bought some little hand
painted bowls and a ceremonial Turkish hat for Julian. Early childhood photos
affirm that he has always loved a hat! Well, this is the kind of flatter, “pillbox hat”
that you see Colonel Gadaffi, complete with beads and little mirrors woven into
the design!

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

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