A Travellerspoint blog

Second day on the Jesus Trail

The sun is out again!

sunny 22 °C

Today was a beautiful sunny, and warm day! We started early this morning, after breakfast at the Leonardo Tiberias Hotel (on the Sea of Galilee), heading to the Arbel Cliffs to start today’s walk where we finished walking yesterday, and close to where we had lunch. We were bussed to the top, walked down the path in the brilliant sunshine and were on our way. The morning sun is always interesting when it comes to pictures, as it hits the subject at different angles. Similarly, the evening sun during the “golden hour” is also great for capturing stunning shots; these pictures are very different in character. I remember some amazing shots I managed to capture of the Cathedral in Leon, Spain, just because I happened to be in that square at that hour of the day. Next to the subject being photographed, I think light and shadows are the most interesting things to consider when composing a picture.

At the Arbel Cliffs we carefully picked our way down this very steep trail through gigantic boulders. The Park authority very thoughtfully sunk rebar “handles” into the rocks in strategic places to be used both as handles and/or rungs on a ladder to make the descent much easier. It was tricky, but if negotiated slowly and carefully, was not difficult. We all commented on how treacherous this would have been if trying to tackle it the day before, in the rain. Rocks are very slippery! In actual fact, they would have closed this particular part of the trail on a day like yesterday, as it would have simply been too dangerous. We all made it down, often passing our poles down to those below, as they became a bit of a hindrance when trying to grasp the handles in the rocks.
Once through the tricky narrow part, we found ourselves on a rocky, gravel path that wound its way through the valley. Looking up at the cliffs, we passed many ancient cliff dwellings and numerous caves. This is where people actually lived - or hid out in some cases. When we reached the bottom of the valley we continued walking, at times by the side of a road. Still on foot, we stopped for lunch at a small local place recommended by our guide. The most common lunch choices were either a Shawarma or a Falafel. I chose the former. It consisted of meat and veggies in pita bread. Very good!

After lunch our bus was there to pick us up and take us to nearby Tabgha, situated in rolling agricultural land. Before we went there however, we climbed up a very steep hill toward the Mount of the Beatitudes, the traditional site of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Unfortunately our timing was a bit off, and this place was not open yet. So our bus took us back down to Tabgha, where we explored the beautiful mosaics in this quiet peaceful church. This was the traditional site of the feeding of the 5,000. After that we continued around the northern side of the Sea of Galilee to visit the church of St. Peter. This was also a lovely peaceful site with a long walkway through tall trees, ending at the church which had the waters of the Sea of Galilee lapping at its foundation. We walked on the small rocky “beach” - a pebbly expanse, and dipped our hands in the warm water. A few of us might have even brought a pebble or two back with us from there! The church itself was a small tranquil building with stunning stained glass windows. From there we walked a couple of kilometres on a paved path to Capernaum. In Capernaum we wandered around the ruins of the city that was the centre of Jesus’ ministry. We also went into the ancient synagogue, and the church built over the home of Simon Peter. It was awe-inspiring to see the actual place(s) where Jesus interacted with people ... and taught those people with whom he came in contact.

After our time there we got on the bus and went back up to the Mount of Beatitudes, a domed church on a hill. It was open for visitors now. It too had beautiful mosaics on the floor of its tall, octagonal-shaped centre. Sunlight streamed in through many stained glass windows, high up on the walls. Many of these panes contained phrases in Latin pieced together in the stained glass. Outside the church, on the grounds and in the garden area, there were still more intricate pictures and stories depicted in mosaic in the pavement.

After this long, albeit very interesting day, we went back to our hotel in Tiberias. We were informed this evening that Jordan had also closed its borders to Israel, which means that we will not be going there afterward. Hmm. My return flight leaves from Amman, so I will have to think about an alternative plan.

Posted by Laura Walking 11:24 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Walking on the Jesus Trail

Our first day of walking, and therefore of rain ... naturally!

rain 15 °C

Well we knew it was going to happen! Rain was indeed forecast for today.

It looked a bit gloomy when I looked out the hotel room window this morning. There were dark clouds around, with some mist. They are calling for rain, so in preparation for our first actual walking day on the “Jesus Trail” we were reminded to pack our rain gear in our daypacks. We’ve had beautiful sunny weather thus far, while looking around in Nazareth, so it’s a bit funny that on our first official walking day, it should be raining! We also had to pack up all the rest of our belongings, as we were leaving the Legacy Nazareth Hotel after three wonderful nights. The food was great as well!

After breakfast, we hopped on the bus and were taken to the trail head. Our trek today on the Jesus Trail would be from Kibbutz Lavi to Mt Arbel. We headed out across agricultural fields to ascend the Horns of Hattin, a volcanic structure where a famous Crusader battle took place in 1187. It was starting to rain by this time and the wind had really picked up too. It reminded me very much of my experience in Iceland a few years ago, on one of our very windy, “raining sideways” days. It wasn’t quite raining sideways today, but the muddy ground was getting very slippery in places (thank goodness for walking poles!). In some spots, through the clouds and rain, we could see the Sea of Galilee and beautiful views of the vast Arbel valley.
We continued down the rocky hillside to Nebi Shu’eib, the holiest shrine for the Druze religion. Unfortunately, due to some mixup, (they seemed to be a bit nervous about foreigners perhaps bringing in the Coronavirus), we were not allowed inside to see it, but were allowed to use the washrooms near the parking lot area. Later, the rain finally let up, and it warmed up considerably. We visited the tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses ... and then had lunch at an outdoor picnic area near the top of Mt Arbel. Although there were still dark clouds around - and thunder! - it had stopped raining and things (the roads and path) were starting to dry out.
After lunch we continued on the trail through the Arbel valley past ancient olive groves and the ruins of the Palestinian Hattin village. We saw many caves in the sides of the cliffs and the many wildflowers made willing subjects for photo opps!
At the end of the day, my Fitbit said I had walked 21,810 steps and 14.85 km. We are staying in nearby Tiberias tonight for three nights.

After dinner tonight we got the news that three cases of Coronavirus had been recorded in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is in the West Bank, and so the Palestinian Authority has decided to close the West Bank to tourists, to help contain the disease. This means that we will have to revise our travel itinerary. We were supposed to go to the West Bank on Monday ... now however, that is not possible. The suggestion that we head to Jerusalem instead, (in our original itinerary, we were to go there after Bethlehem) has been floated, and so I think that will be what we’ll do. We’ll have a third night here in Tiberias, and then head off to Jerusalem on Monday for 4 or 5 days. That may change again; we’ll have to take it a day at a time.

Posted by Laura Walking 08:04 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Seeing Nazareth

Exploring Nazareth on foot

sunny 22 °C

Another beautiful hot sunny day!

We left the hotel at 7:30 am after a hearty breakfast. Today was to be spent looking around Nazareth on foot. We began by exploring the wonderful Church of the Annunciation, the largest Basilica in the Middle East, which is famous for its many large mosaic depictions, sponsored by countries around the world. This Basilica was right across the street from our hotel! In fact if your windows were on that side, you would have its inspirational view to ponder every day. Unfortunately, our balcony was on the other side.

We also looked inside an old, and very small Synagogue off a very small laneway. The laneway was lined with souvenir shops and fresh juice stands ... one of which received a lot of business from our group! We then walked to a nearby place called Nazareth Village, (a Biblically-themed “ancient” village). We had a tour guide who told us about some of the food that was grown, the way carpentry was done, how wool was “carted” and dyed for weaving and about how they worshipped in the temple, as we moved from station to station in the “village” watching staff members in period costume perform these tasks. In this village, they try and maintain these activities in the manner that they would have been done in those ancient times. We sat down for a simple lunch of lentil soup, bread, hummus and salad. It was delicious after being outside exploring all morning.

After our first-century lunch we visited Zippori National Park to see the extensive archeological ruins of the main administrative city in the Galilee region at the time of Jesus. There were many mosaics still quite intact on the floors of these ruins. Their wonderful stories are told through these pictures. The people, animals, and actions in the mosaics reveal invaluable information to historians about the events and “atmosphere” of the times. These were from the Byzantine period. We climbed to the top of the Crusader fortress to take in the 360 degree view, and were able to see part of Nazareth from there. There was a visitor centre with still more examples of mosaics - some authentic, others reproductions - and saw a short video about the history of the ruins we had been looking at. There was another enormous amphitheatre there, still in very good shape. It is truly mind-boggling how much and how well some of these structures have been built to still be standing today, 2000 years later. It was a beautiful day for a stroll through these ruins.

When we got back to the hotel that afternoon, we had a speaker from Nazareth Baptist School speak to us about the school, but before that, he told us about his own history. He is a Palestinian Christian (I hope I have that right - how people identify themselves in Israel is often quite a complicated matter) and the Director of the school.

Posted by Laura Walking 07:27 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Nazareth - Second day

Road trip to the Golan Heights

sunny 21 °C
View Palestine and Israel on Laura Walking's travel map.

Today is our second full day here in Nazareth. We have had fantastic weather so far, and it looks like that will continue for a few more days. I think we may have some rain on Friday, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
Departure time was again 7:30 this morning! I tend to fall asleep on the bus, especially if there is a long trip ahead of us! It’s like big cradle to me!
We have three nights at this hotel, and it was really nice not to have to pack everything up this morning.

Our day begins with a drive in the northern Galilee (valley) to Tel Dan. There we are going to see the high place where Jeroboam, son of Nebat, set up a golden calf. In the Old Testament “Dan” (this place) frequently represented the northern boundary of Israel, as in the phrase, “from Dan to Beersheba”. Dan is located near the headwaters of the Jordan River. In 1993, an inscribed Stone was discovered there on which an unnamed king (perhaps Hazael of Aram (Syria) boasts of having defeated the king of Israel and his ally the king of the House of David, the first time the name of King David had been found outside of the Bible. We walked around the ruins of this remarkable place, and at one lookout spot over a valley, we could see the borders of Israel and Lebanon, and where they had changed and moved over the years.

After a couple of hours there, we eventually got back on our bus and continued on to nearby Caesarea Philippi and the Druze villages of the Golan Heights. Caesarea Philippi is the site where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). Later, we had a fantastic lunch (all 18 of us!) at the home of a Druze family in Bucata. There were a few simple, yet wonderful dishes. There was a chicken with rice dish, spiced with cinnamon with slivered almonds on top. There was also a bulgar and lentil dish with onions and other spices, that was phenomenal! Also a variety of salads and olives. After the main meal we moved into a sitting room area where strong coffee and ginger tea were served, along with some date cookies and various nut squares. Everything was delicious! We thanked our hostess and were on our way.

After leaving the village of Bucata, we headed for a National Park (the specific park name escapes me at the moment) to walk to the Banyas waterfall. We were in a bit of a rush to get to the falls because we were told the entrance (and exit) closed at 3 pm. It was 2:15 and it was a 65 min hike! You do the math ... it wasn’t likely that we would get there in time. So we all trekked down the path as hard and as fast as we could! Amazingly, we all got to the falls around 3:04, and that was fine. The falls were picturesque; thundering water with mist overhead. Many pictures were taken.

Posted by Laura Walking 07:04 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Tel Aviv to Nazareth

Travel by private bus to Nazareth

sunny 21 °C

And so it begins ...
We got up early today, as our busy touring schedule started first thing! The weather was sunny and warm.
The meals at this hotel have been great ... both buffet style, last night and this morning ... with more variety than I’ve ever seen!
After breakfast, we left early, 7:30 am, on our bus for Nazareth. It’s a very comfortable bus, and with only 18 of us we could each have our own double seat if we chose to. In addition to our group leader, Gordon Matties, we have a tour guide, Dahoud, who is very knowledgeable about the area and each historical site we are going to see.

On our way up to Nazareth today, we visited Caesarea Maritima, a major administrative centre for the Romans during the New Testament period, the place from which Pontius Pilate governed the region. King Herod the Great, dedicated the city to Caesar Augustus, and constructed a deep water seaport, a famous aqueduct to supply the community with water, (much of which is still intact), and a quite spectacular amphitheatre for Roman games. It was here that Peter encountered Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. We stopped at each of these places, walking to the next one on foot, and learned about their significance, not only in the Roman world, but also their connection to biblical and current times as well. As one would expect, many pictures were taken.

We got back on our bus, it was getting very hot by this time, and headed to Akko (Acre, the Capital of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem), now a UNESCO Heritage Site, and looked in the museum. It had wonderful imaginative displays, and Dahoud would also add some commentary. It was all very interesting. We had lunch in Akko. After that we looked around some more, went through a Templar Tunnel - you had to bend down quite low for a few steps - and returned to our bus where we drove to Nazareth to spend the night at The Legacy Nazareth Hotel. We will be there for three nights and will take our day trips from there. As we drove up in our bus on the busy narrow street, we could see the entrance at the end of a long, store-lined corridor. It is beautiful! The rooms are big enough for two, and Helen and I are continuing to get to know each other. We have had some fairly in depth conversations on many topics, and seem to be on the “same page” about most or all of them! She can really tell a funny story! It really is nice to feel so at ease with someone so quickly! Did I mention that she happens to be an Anglican Priest?

Posted by Laura Walking 13:56 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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