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Published: February 12th 2018
Following an excellent breakfast at the hotel (much to our surprise) it was time to explore Old Jerusalem, a city which just oozes history. We entered through Damascus Gate
, part police checkpoint, part time warp.
Fact: pilgrims are mental. I’m not sure if they start off this way or some sort of mass hysteria takes over, but it adds an extra element of entertainment to a trip to the Holy Land.
First stop, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
, built on the site where Jesus was crucified. Inside the door, the Stone of Anointing, where Jesus was prepared for burial. The stone dates from 1810, so a leap of faith is required, but there was a scrum of people desperate to kiss it and rub it with an oily rag to extract some stone juice (hence the need to replace the original which was evidently all juiced out).
Next, The Citadel
, Herod’s palace. Great views across the city and an eclectic array of artefacts. My favourite; a diorama
showing Muslims chasing Christians out of Jerusalem and vice versa.
On to the Room of the Last Supper
- one word - bonkers. The Holy Spirit is said to
be present here. We followed a group of Kenyan pilgrims. Immediately, the entire group were hit by the Holy Spirit, lots of shouting (in tongues - obviously) and crying. Cue a group of Korean pilgrims. They wanted some Holy Spirit too, so set about touching the Kenyans. Lots more shouting and crying.
Meanwhile, downstairs is King David’s Tomb
. The tomb has separate entrances for men and women, which means the iconic king has essentially been cut in half. We split up to visit separate ends, not sure which end I got.
Next stop the Church of the Dormition
, which marks where Jesus’ mother Mary died. More pilgrim madness, a sing-off between rival pilgrim 'gangs'. A bit like a surreal remake of Step Up.
Onwards to the Church of St Peter of Gallicantu
, built where Peter denied Jesus 3 times before the cock crowed, hence the proliferation of cocks. My guide book says the grave of Oskar Schindler is also nearby, but despite an extensive search, we failed to find it and moved on.
Time to tackle the Via Dolorosa
- route Jesus walked with his cross. Each station is marked with a plaque, so it’s easy
to follow (that and thousands of people following the same route through what is essentially a maze). After 8 stations, we decided we all cultured out and stopped for a beer.
We had dinner, a mezze at the excellent Families Restaurant
, including great hummus. I didn’t know I liked hummus, having only had it in plastic tubs from the supermarket, but freshly prepared it’s a whole different dish. Back to the hotel (moved to a dry room – yay!) through the old city which, although bustling during the day, really comes to life at night with the market in full swing. Props to the spice seller who has used his product to build a spicy Dome of the Rock
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