Hello Family, Friends and Followers,
We hope all is well. We are still working our way towards catching up on our posts. These events occurred almost a month and a half ago so we will do our best to recount our memories of Jordan and Israel.
We made our way to from Egypt to Jordan via ferry. It was supposed to take two hours but those two hours turned into five hours. Josh passed the time by gazing at Saudi Arabia through his dorkoculars, err...binoculars. It was hard to believe that Saudi Arabia was less than a quarter of a mile away from us. We had no idea we would be that close!
Leanne couldn't wait to get off the boat, endure the two hour taxi ride from Aqaba to Petra, and take a freshwater shower! At this point it had been six days of saltwater showers and our hair was a stringy mess.
One of Josh's top spots of our entire trip was Petra. It's every boy's (and maybe some girl's!) dream to visit Petra. We think this is in large part, because of the Indiana Jones movies. Evidently we're not the only Americans to feel this way. Petra is extremely popular with American tourists and at times it felt like we were back in our own country. As a matter of fact, President Obama visited a month before we got there and they closed the whole park down for him! It is most famous for its rock-cut architecture and water system. It is thought the ruler of Petra that originally supplied water to the entire town offered his daughter to whomever could figure out a way to get water to the city. This guy was serious! Whether that's true or not, it was quite a feat to get the water situation figured out being that it is in the middle of desert. We were initially shocked by how expensive Jordan and Petra were but we had to accept it. A one-day pass was 50 Jordanian Dinar ($71.43), a two-day pass was 55 JD ($78.57), and a three-day pass was 60 JD ($85.71). Expensive!! The food and hotel costs were higher than we were accustomed to in Egypt but we will save you from those details. We decided to settle in and enjoy the entire park for three days of exploring and searching for the holy grail.
Unless you wanted to take a horse carriage ride you had to walk almost two miles just to get to the canyon. It was quite an enjoyable walk though.
We tried to mimic the famous shot approaching The Treasury.
Anyone up for a camel ride? We passed this time since we've put in our fair shares of camel rides on this trip. We wanted to see everything by foot this time around.
The rocks seemed to change colors as the sun drifted in and out of the clouds.
Every historical site has an amphitheater. How else would they keep entertained without television?
Whenever Leanne tells Josh to "strike a pose" this is is go-to pose. Originality is definitely not one of his strong suites but he does look good every time he strikes that pose.
Wonder if each ring of color in the rock represents decades of its existence; like rings of a tree?
After 4:00 p.m. the place was a ghost town. We hung out to watch the sunset and enjoyed the peace and serenity of the park to ourselves.
We noticed another couple struggling to capture a picture of themselves outside of The Treasury on our way out. We politely asked if they would like us to take their picture. Of course they said yes and they returned the favor by taking our picture. Josh took an amazing picture of them and the picture they took of us was pretty much, meh.
The next day we were up and at it early. We mixed in some climbing and hiking on this day.
Meet our lunch and picnic companion. Who knew donkeys were drawn to the smell of tuna?
Not a bad spot to enjoy lunch with our donkey friend...just outside the Monastery.
After lunch we were recharged and ready to go for the afternoon.
Pop Quiz: What does this sign say? It took us a while to figure out too.
Answer: Fresh lemon with mint (not me nut) Bedouin tea cold drink
So much to see and not enough time in the day.
This was Leanne's favorite structure. We were especially awestruck at sunset.
Yet again, we were the only ones in the park after closing time.
Astounding view on the walk out.
Day Three: Bedouin people are CRAZY!
He was standing on top of a donkey at the edge of a cliff.
We climbed up nearly a 1,000 steps to get this shot on our last day in the park. Petra gave us everything we wanted and we put some serious miles on our shoes. It was sad to go but we had to move along to Israel.
The next morning we took the ride back to Aqaba in Southern Jordan and crossed over the border to Eilat into Israel. We had heard so many horror stories about crossing over the border so we were expecting the worst. Immediately when we entered customs they were playing The Lumineers and Josh told the girl, "Hey these guys are from our home town!" They scooted us on through and asked Josh a couple of questions and Leanne just had her passport run through a computer base. Uhhhh...where's all the questions?! We wanted to be interrogated, dammit!! Nothing, nada, nichts, zilch, you get the point. Entering Israel was no big deal at all and easier than other places because we didn't even have to fill out paperwork. Oh well, hopefully it will be just as easy for you if you ever find yourself visiting.
We waited a couple of hours and caught a bus to Jerusalem. When we arrived it was Shavuot, a national holiday. EVERYTHING was closed down so we were forced to follow the light rail line to get to our hostel. One thing we will get out of the way so we don't have to address it anymore is that Israel is expensive. We mean over the top, "who do these guys think they are?" Expensive. By far the most expensive place we've been. Israel makes Australia feel like a bargain store. There, we got it out of the way. Be prepared if you ever find yourself there. We ate a lot of street food while we were there because we would have been home right now if we had eaten in normal restaurants and stayed in normal hotels. We would have been broke with no jobs.
Our first stop was a quick glimpse of The Western Wall (a.k.a. The Wailing Wall). It was late so there weren't that many people out.
The Dome of The Rock - Unfortunately, there was some unrest at the time we were visiting and they stopped allowing tourists inside the mosque for a few days.
We walked around the perimeter of the walled in city of Jerusalem and took in the surrounding sights.
This is the church where Mary was believed to have "fallen into eternal sleep." Josh made Leanne laugh when taking this picture because he said, "Hey, your middle name is Mary!" right when he was taking the picture. Smiling and laughing is probably not the most appropriate thing to do in this church. Sorry about that.
Israel is home to Jews, Christians and Muslims so wherever you laid your eyes, there was someone deep in prayer.
The room of The Last Supper
As we were determining what to do next with our day, a girl approached Josh and asked if he was from Denver. She was given the clue because Josh was wearing his Denver Beer Company t-shirt. She introduced herself as "Sarah, from Denver" and asked if we wanted to join her for food at their Shavout campsite. We had no idea what she was talking about but we were hungry so we took her up on her offer for food.
Basically, it was a campsite for Jewish hippies during the holiday. They stayed up all night praying so most of them had just awaken when we got there in the late afternoon. They were very kind and fed us a delicious spread of food because it was the dairy harvest.
We hung out with Sarah for about an hour before heading on our way. Thanks for the wonderful conversation, food and wine, Sarah!
Traveling teaches you to have an open mind at all times because you never know what you will stumble upon.
We figured out that if you ate on the Palestinian side it was half the price. That was the good part. The bad part was that there was a constant threat of violent protesting. While we were eating at a restaurant things turned bad in a matter of mere seconds. We got caught up in the middle of a protest. Police began spraying sewer water and shooting "noise bombs" to disperse the crowd and scare the protesters. One of the "noise bombs" went off 10 feet away from us where we had just been standing a few minutes before. That was enough to scare us so we grabbed our falafel sandwiches and got the hell out of dodge. Crowds swelled and ambulances swarmed all around. It was all over within 30 minutes. This is a common occurrence and a sad reality.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre - where Jesus was crucified and the sight of his tomb
We made another trip The Western Wall during the daytime.
Yes, Leanne is so short she had to stand on a chair so she could see over.
The Siloam Pool where Jesus cured the blind man.
Using an old Lonely Planet guide that we picked up from a hostel along the way, we decided to do our own walking tour of The Via Dolorosa. This is the street within the Old City of Jerusalem that is said to be the path that Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to his crucifixion. This route is a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage. As we weaved our way through the narrow streets, we found ourselves amongst large tour groups that were carrying wooden crosses while stopping along the way to sing and pray. It was truly a moving demonstration of faith.
Throughout history there have been several versions of the actual route. Now the streets are filled with seemingly endless souvenir and trinket shops so you have to dig deep to imagine what took place there so long ago. Today there are nine Stations of the Cross along the streets; the last five stations inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The spot that Jesus touched on his way to be crucified.
As mentioned, the last five stations are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We visited the church that morning but left a visit to Jesus's tomb for when we completed the Via Dolorosa tour. To say there are vast amounts of tour groups in Jerusalem is an understatement! During our morning visit, it would have taken over two hours to get through the line for a 10 second peak at the tomb. Luckily, it was later in the day and we only had to wait in line for 30 minutes. Leanne had to tell Josh to take a deep breath and put on his patience cap. He was at his wits-end with the masses of people.
People were literally pushing and shoving so we only had minimal time to snap some pictures.
Josh tried his best to get a picture of us before the Franciscan Monk moved us along.
Since Josh was so patient all day, he was rewarded with some ice cream and a stroll through some quiet streets.
Another view of The Dome of the Rock from our rooftop. This was one of the only redeeming qualities of our hostel. We wanted to stay in the Old City and that meant that we had to stay in a hostel because it was the cheapest option. While the hostel was a historical building it was one of the worst places we have stayed during our trip. There were people everywhere all of the time. It was the only affordable hostel and over 30 people were camping on the roof each night because all of the rooms and dorms were taken. It cost $12 to sleep on the roof with 30 other people. Ridiculous!!! Over 40 people shared the two bathrooms we had to use. Josh thought it reminded him of halftime at a Bronco's game.
We would tell you to avoid the hostel we stayed at but they're all like that so if you have the money just avoid all hostels and get a regular hotel.
View outside the Western Wall.
We headed out one day for Bethlehem, Palestine and stopped for coffee at Stars & Bucks. It was funny to us and the coffee was ok.
This is the Church of the Nativity, the spot where Jesus was supposedly born. This is up for debate with scholars who argue it was in other spots. This was also the spot of huge battles during the crusades.
The inside of the church was beautiful and rich in history. There was an original mosaic floor that was opened in the day for tourists to see.
"X" or "Some sort of star" marks the spot! Jesus was born exactly in this spot. Nah, we're poking fun because we thought it was funny how there always has to be one specific place where "this" exactly happened. Truth be told, this church wasn't even built until hundreds and hundreds of years after Jesus was born so it is impossible that this is exactly the spot. It's not only in Israel where this happens but all over the world. We guess people just have to think this way to be satisfied. This way when we go home we can tell our friends, "Yeah, this is exactly where (fill in major event in history) happened." So here's ours. Sorry for being so cynical, we do feel blessed to be in such a sacred place.
Do you ever watch the Christmas services broadcasted from Bethlehem? This is exactly where it happens every year.
The Church of the Milk Grotto. Legend has it that a drop of Mary's breast milk fell onto the rocks in the church and turned them all white. Women come here to touch the rocks in hopes of increasing fertility. Josh guarded the gate to make sure Leanne couldn't get in. We're not ready for that just yet. Let's get home first! (That was for you mom and dad)
We visited the wall of Palestine to see it for ourselves and heard that the graffiti was amazing. We'll save the history lesson on the wall but it is very interesting and easy to research online if it catches your fancy. Basically, the wall was put up in one day and before you knew it you were either in or out. We talked at length to a lady who was on the out and had the wall slapped up right in front of her house. She's not allowed to visit Israel without special permission.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Even the famous graffiti artist, Banksy, added to the wall.
Picture of the wall.
After our time in Jerusalem we decided to rent a car to take a little road trip through Israel. We wanted to drive along the Dead Sea and stop at various places along the way. We also heard it was nice to drive up to The Sea of Galilee so we locked it in! Josh hadn't driven a car in nearly a year so it was nice to get back behind the wheel again. Peugeot Power!!
The hotel was a short walk to the Dead Sea. Happy Birthday to this guy!
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and is the world's saltiest body of water. It is 8.6 times saltier than an ocean. It's so salty that you can literally stand or lay in the water and you're completely buoyant. It was a strange, zero gravity, feeling. Another fun thing about the Dead Sea is that you feel cuts on your body that you never knew you had. We had read everywhere not to shave before you went in so we heeded the warnings and didn't test that one out. However, Josh went underwater and couldn't see for quite a while. We later saw the signs stating not to do this. Yeah, he should really pay more attention.
We got our float on.
A plus to having your own car is that you can stop and go for a hike on a whim. Leanne changed in the car and we took a short stop to hike Masada.
We ended the day at the Sea of Galilee (the sea of Tiberias); actually a freshwater lake. No big deal but Jesus walked on water and fed thousands of people here.
We made a day trip to Nazareth the following day.
Church of the Annunciation- the place that Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be carrying the son of God.
This is also the spot where Josh sported his new "fancy" shirt that Leanne bought him in Egypt. He wears it sparingly because 1) he doesn't want it to smell too bad and 2) it will probably unravel at any time.
The Carpenter's Church - Joseph's carpentry shop was underneath the church
We made our way back to our hotel at the Sea of Galilee. Leanne was able to work her magic and negotiate a stellar price on a great room with a beautiful view from the balcony. As a bonus a 4-star breakfast buffet was included at the swanky hotel next door. It was Josh's actual birthday so we went out for dinner to celebrate. Hence, the wearing of the fancy shirt.
A liter of beer and a spread of food = happiness!
We returned the car in some random town 60 miles outside of Tel Aviv and took a bus from there. We had two days to spend in Tel Aviv before we had to catch a flight to Istanbul.
Remnants of the Dolphin Disco that was bombed in 2001 by a horrible act of terrorism. It is definitely as sad reminder of the past (hopefully).
We walked along the promenade to Old Jaffa.
View of the city skyline
We tried to use CouchSurfing during our stay in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, no one could host us on such short notice. Gal and Gal (a common name for both males and females) offered to meet us for dinner since they couldn't host us due to plumbing problems in their apartment. We exchanged some laughs over travel stories and felt so fortunate to get some real insight on Israel. Thanks, Gal and Gal!
Thanks for following us! We look forward to catching up in our next post on our travels throughout Turkey with our friend, Margherita.
Leanne & Josh