travel diary – day 395

day 391 – we had breakfast with mike, ed and rosa. afterwards, the three of them were planning to head south to petra. christina and i switched hotels and then went out to explore amman.

the first stop was the roman ampitheatre. it was enormous and really cool. we walked around and took some photos before the long walk up hill to the amman citadel. the amman citadel is a set of ruins on the top of a hill overlooking the centre of amman. it’s really quite nice and the walk was fun.

after walking back into town, we were hungry and had a big late lunch. we walked around the markets and returned to the hotel.

day 392 – today we had planned to cross into israel but no borders were open (due to some kind of public holiday). instead we jumped on a bus and make the trek north to jerash to look around the ruins.

the bus ride to jerash was fast and we had the whole day to wander around. jerash is massive and, although we saw most of it, there was a lot we skipped. we got another bus back to amman and i spent the afternoon editing photos.

day 393 – our second attempt at entering israel – we checked out in the morning and left our luggage at the hotel. we only planned to spend a few days in israel, so we packed light bags and left the heavy stuff behind in amman.

the system for entering israel is somewhat complicated but, at the same time, straightforward. crossing via the allenby/king hussein bridge, jordan border officials don’t stamp passports. we got stamps on a piece of paper and crossed the border.

when we reached israel i was stopped and had to undergo a long security interview. they saw the iran, pakistan and syria visas in my passport and wanted to know why i’d been there. they kept asking retarded questions and i answered ‘no’ to practically everything they asked. here’s a sample of the questions:

- do you know anyone in these countries?
- do you have phone numbers or email addresses for anyone in these countries?
- did police or military personnel approach you and ask if you were going to israel?
- did anyone talk to you about israel?
- are you planning to visit west bank or gaza?
- do you know anyone in west bank or gaza?

etc etc

while i’d always been sympathetic to israel, understanding what a difficult position they whole ‘middle east vs jews’ thing is, i came to realise that the israel govt is, in a nutshell, paranoid. the questions were stupid and achieved absolutely no purpose at all.

however, they were satisfied with my answers, so i was ‘allowed’ to get my visa and enter the country. in keeping with most tourists who cross this border point, i got the visa on a separate piece of paper (not in my passport).

finally, we entered israel and caught a bus into jerusalem. we went to a few hotels and realised that staying in jerusalem was going to be expensive (passover and easter were coming and many hotels were booked solid). we checked into a hotel and went to find some lunch.

while looking for food, we bumped into a couple who were on the bus from amman. we asked where they were staying and found out that their hotel was much cheaper. christina and i walked there to inquire whether they still had rooms. they did, so we grabbed our gear from the other hotel, apologised to the owner, and switched hotels.

happy, we had a nice lunch in a street cafe in the middle of old jerusalem. we walked around the old city, which is incredibly beautiful but very touristy. i had an afternoon sleep and went for another walk at night.

day 394 – today was the first day of passover so some things (sights and churches) were shut to the public. we had breakfast and wandered around the old city some more. the golden dome was shut to tourists but the wailing wall was open. i went inside and looked around.

after that, christina and i went for a walk along the old city’s ramparts (which was really fun). we had a sleep and some lunch then went to mt zion. two drunk locals were there downing alak and i had a few with them. then we went into the domition church, saw the room of the last supper, king david’s tomb and st mary’s tomb.

after coffee, we bought a crucifix for christina’s sister and returned to the hotel. the hotel owner (and his family) enjoy playing chess. i played a game with him, i lost, and headed off to bed.

day 395 – christina and i got an early start so that we could see as much as possible. we headed to the dome and were again told it was shut. so instead we walked up to the mount of olives from which we had an incredible view of jerusalem and the old city.

in that small area we were able to vist mary’s tomb, gesthemane grotto and gardens, and the basilica of agony. after that we went to the top of the mount of olives, through the cemetary, to st mary magdeline’s church, dominus flevit and then back to jerusalem city. in the city we looked at the tower of david, but the entry fee was too expensive, so we skipped it.

we achieved all of that before lunch and then walked to the bus stop to catch the city bus to bethlehem. to reach bethlehem we have to pass through a checkpoint and we get to see the infamous ‘wall’ separating israel from palestine.

we arrived in bethlehem and, annoyingly, spent ages looking for an atm (since we were running out of money). we had lunch and then looked around manger square and the church of the nativity. the line to visit the actual ‘manger’ area were incredibly long, so we skipped it and wandered back through town. we got on the bus back to jerusalem. at the checkpoint we had to get off the bus while they inspected everyone’s id. then we returned to jerusalem.

i had a small sleep and then we walked to the bus station to check times for the return trip to amman. i had another game of chess with the owner (this time i won), talked with a brazilian couple from the hotel, packed and slept.

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