Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Out and about

Quotes of the week:

American Couchsurfer: I've hosted people in hostels.

Turkish man: Do you speak English, oder?

Korean woman: Do you speak Turkish?
Me: No.
Woman: Then how are you following this?
Me: I don't know.

Methods of travel used in past four weeks:
Mountain bike
Pick-up bed

Time to slow down.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


No entry would be complete without a food shout out. This typical Israeli falafel pita is slathered with tahini, a savory sesame-based sauce, and topped with fries. Legs optional.

Jerusalem's Old City is predictably heavily patrolled. Teenagers toting M16s keep a vigilant eye out for teenagers of a certain other ethnic and religious background chucking stones. If only they could stop the endless rows of barking shopkeepers.

This gnarled, ancient tree in the Garden of Gethsemane seems to represent something. The grounds are meticulously maintained by a retinue of monks as Christian pilgrims wind their way around, listening to stories of Jesus' last days on earth.

The stations of the cross are another highlight for Christian pilgrims in the holy city. Snaking through the Old City, Christians mark the locations where Jesus was humiliated and publicly decried as he was led to Cavalry for his crucifixion.

More haunting and thought-provoking than the heavily trafficked sites of inner-city Jerusalem can be found in the city's wooded suburbs. Yad Vashem is the penultimate Holocaust memorial and research center, and academics that it supports are among those pioneering the latest research in exploring the fates of Jewish minorities in Eastern Europe during World War II. This wall is but one of many documenting non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Shoah. Approximately 5.8 million Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis and their predominately Ukrainian, Romanian and Baltic collaborators in a five-year period. Countless millions of others -- including hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma and Sinti, more than two million Poles, more than two million Soviet POWs and millions of others across Europe died as a result of Nazi expansionism.

Sign spotted in East Jerusalem. Translations?

A distinct tensity permeates every strata of Israeli society. This bomb shelter at the labrythine and constantly expanding Tel Aviv main bus terminal illustrates the value that Israelis place on safety.

Tel Aviv's Ha-Ir HaLevana, known in English as the White City, is the largest extant example of Bauhaus architecture. The site was initially engineered and populated by Jews who immigrated to British Palestine in the 1930s during the emergence of the National Socialist regime in Germany. Today the neighborhood is pockmarked with art galleries, cafes and ethnic restaurants, giving it a laid-back vibe and attracting a bohemian and student populace.

Solemnity of Petra

If you have the fortune of starting your day trip to Petra in Amman, be sure to eat at Hashem in downtown Amman, where for under $2 you can get a spread of hummus, falafel, pita and tea with fresh mint, onions, tomatoes and chili paste.

"Ride, mister?"

The true beauty of Petra lies not necessarily in the handiwork of the Nabateans who built it and the Romans who expanded it, but in the vast loneliness that inhabits the place today. Ceremonial tombs, long robbed and exposed to the elements, afford scenic outlooks and places of respite and relfection.

Despite its international status, tourism to Petra is not overwhelming as compared to other sites around the globe. Indeed, the site's sprawling nature guarantees that you will be relatively alone to explore the ruins for hours at a time.

Entire structures await entry.