I arrived in Jerusalem after spending a few nights in Tel Aviv. It was my first visit to Israel and Tel Aviv wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned Israel as being in my mind. After a walk from the bus station to my hostel, this, this is what I had envisioned as Israel.
Although I had to go through a mall and metal detectors after disembarking from the bus when I arrived, slightly odd to me but the landscape slowly made its way from new to old. I made my way towards the Old City and everything began to come together. Old buildings, street vendors, alleys filled with fruit stands, fresh baked goods and local wares. Mounds of brightly colored fresh fruit stacked high upon wooden crates, the aroma of unfamiliar food being prepared wafting through the air. I was also surprised at the diverse culture I was witnessing. I grabbed a giant fresh bagel and a coke as I soaked up the visuals. Not every day you pass a teenager with an AR-15 strolling down the sidewalk.
I found my way to Abrahams Hostel, an excellent location indeed. My twitter sources had steered me proper. Abrahams is a large hostel, friendly, clean and very inviting to say the least. I had booked a small private room and was surprised to see the nice view and a mini-fridge. They also have a bar and a common room as well as a communal kitchen. Travelers young and old, families and soloists. Everyone here is social and comfortable. There is also a desk in the reception area where tour operators book expeditions for various day trips. Highly recommend any of them but that is another story.
It was still early in the afternoon and I was eager to explore. I grappled with my map and headed towards the Old City. As I studied the map I realized that the Old City is made up of four quarters. Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. Call me ignorant, but I had no idea, but again this is why I travel. As I neared the walls of the great Old City you can’t help but feel humble and small. The age and the history have left me feeling insignificant in a good way. I’m not very religious and won’t try to claim much knowledge in the subject. But this appears to be the epicenter of the ” Big three”. To see Muslims, Christians and Jews in close proximity in relative peace sheds a small light of hope. After a few hours of walking and questioning if I had stepped in the same spot as Jesus, Abraham or Mohammad I was beat and headed back to the hostel.
I was lucky enough to be meeting up with a twitter friend , Joel Haber, aka @funjoel. He had invited me to a huge wine tasting event at a conference center. Joel is also a licensed Israeli tour guide so I consider myself lucky. We grabbed some food from a street vender as we walked to the conference center. As Joel and I arrived at the wine fest and checked our coats I felt underdressed with my basic travel clothes of fleece and jeans. After a few stops a the vineyard tables though that feeling at passed. Joel had a lot of friends at the even and introduced me to them all. Many from around the world who have moved to Israel . Joel himself is formerly from New York. It was quite the event. Sipping wine and meeting scores of people was as good as it gets for a solo traveller. After a couple hours , not being to much of a wine drinker I wanted a beer and said my goodbyes and thanked Joel for a good time and walked back towards the hostel. After roaming the narrow streets I came upon a bar called Birman. There’s was only a few people there but one guy was playing a guitar and the patrons were friendly. I hadn’t been there more than ten minutes before I met the owner of the establishment, also a musician. Friendly guy who insisted on buying myself and a couple other guys shots. Needless to say I ended up staying longer than I should have and made some new friends.
There is so much to see and do in and around Jerusalem that one could write for ever. West Wall to the Holocaust Museum. These are places that you can’t simply write about as they will effect everyone differently. The Dead Sea to Mount of Olives. Natural, religious and architectural sites are plentiful.
Just walking around Jerusalem is such an experience in itself. Hard to imagine another place where ancient meets cosmopolitan in such close proximity. Maybe the best of two worlds. It is definitely a place to see.