December 26th, 2012

travel

Walking Jerusalem

I started the day by walking down to the Old City for the free walking tour that leaves from Jaffa Gate. My theory is that free walking tours are usually good because the guide wants to get good tips. The tour was two hours, which means it was a little superficial, but it was a good introduction to all 4 quarters of the Old City. And it did answer the burning question of why the Armenians get a quarter of their own. (In short, they've been there a long time.)

In one sense I was disappointed, because the Old City is not especially different from various other ancient places I've been. I have to remind myself of its specific religious connotations. It's also hard to notice every detail because you have to pay attention to your footing, with all the steps and slippery stones in the drizzle.

After the tour I wandered some more. Actually, I wandered more than I'd planned to, due to my unfailing sense of direction. (Unfailingly wrong, that is.) When I finally escaped the Old City, I took the light rail up to Mount Herzl. Fortunately, the signs for Yad Vashem are good. I've done a certain amount of Holocaust tourism in the past (notably in Poland) but I still couldn't have brought along enough tissues.
storyteller doll

Cousins!

Today was the day of the trip I was most excited about. I got to meet my cousin, Tal. She and I have corresponded (largely via email) and, when I was a child, I used to exchange letters regularly with her mother and her aunt (who are technically my father's first cousins, but around my age). We had a chance to exchange a little family info, which reminds me of my need to find more time to work on genealogy.

Tal is a lovely young woman and proved to be an excellent tour guide. We walked a lot, eventually going to the Kotel (the Western Wall) , which was very crowded. I have this idea about how people endow places and objects with power, which I will write about another time, but I felt it there. We had lunch at a bookstore / cafe (very atmospheric and good food) and then she had to leave. I went on to the market and, basically, walked my feet flat.

Tomorrow I pick up a rental car and head to the Dead Sea. I am a little nervous about driving here, but will manage.