I left the hostel early and walked across the South of Tel Aviv to the Central Bus station to get on of the frequent services to Jerusalem, the terminal was a complete minefield with no set out structure and seemingly no proper floors as they were all over lapping and sloped, eventually I found the correct desk and bought a ticket before getting some food for the journey and getting on the bus.
On the journey itself we drove past countless olive groves and past fields filled with grass scorched brown by the sun until we neared Jerusalem where it became built up like any modern day metropolis. Having not booked anywhere to stay I got on a team to the centre of the city and chanced my luck at a hostel recommended in my guidebook, thankfully they had a bed for me for the 3 nights I anticipated staying. Although my room always by ready as I was too early I was able to leave my bag there and go off exploring unencumbered.
For those of you who have never been Jerusalem is distinctly in two parts; the new city which could be mistaken for any European city and then the Old City which consists of 4 distinct districts (Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters) as well as Temple Mount which attracts pilgrims from all 3 religions. I walked through the new city to the City Walls of the Old City.
I entered through the Jaffa Gate which is at the top of the Old City by David’s Tower. To get to Temple Mount you have to walk directly East through a number of long souks, eventually it opens up in a plaza with the impressive Western Wall along one edge. The Western Wall is the most important place in Judaism and along its front there are always countless Jews praying. Whilst there I arranged to go on a tour of the underground tunnels which stretch from the Western Wall all the way underneath the city, following the wall, but it wasn’t for a couple of hours so I went to explore more of the Old City.
The maze of winding, narrow paths and passages is just what I like exploring and then finding my way back to somewhere I recognise, along the way I stopped at a cafe for a late lunch of falafel which was delicious.
The tunnels were not quite what I was expecting, geographically they were exactly as I had anticipated and was suitably amazed by them but the whole experience was ruined or at least tarnished by the tour guide.. Firstly I had no idea there was going to be one, I presumed we would be able to explore them at our leisure but clearly not and secondly she wouldn’t stop talking, there is information and there is information overload and she was defiantly in the latter part, her voice didn’t help as I found it irritating from the start and it lasted for an hour and a half which was about an hour longer than I would’ve chosen to spend there as we were constantly waiting for people to catch up and ask silly questions. One positive from the experience was it has completely cemented my dislike for tour guides.
Needing to blow off some steam I walked out of the city and headed east to the foot of the Mount of Olives, here I went into the Garden of Gethsemane which certainly was considerably quieter than Jerusalem so I could see why Jesus went there often. I then climbed to the top of the Mount of Olives where I had amazing views back across at the Old City with the Dome of the Rock clearly visible in the skyline. Back down at the foot of the hill I went into Mary’s tomb which was rather too Catholic for my liking but it’s hardly surprising seeing the importance they place on her in their religion.
Back at the hostel I showered and changed before going out in search of food, after about 20 minutes I hadn’t found anywhere which took my fancy so I went to a kebab shop which I had passed earlier which was full of locals (never a bad sign) and proceeded to have one of the best (certainly in my top 5) kebabs if ever had.