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Posted by LargeTuna 01:01 Comments (0)

The Way of Sorrow

the land of 1 million metal detectors

snow -2 °C

After a day in Cairo - pyramids, camels, coptic churches and coffee house - we took the overnight bus to Jeruselum.

Well, not exactly to Jeruselum, we took an overnight bus from Ciaro to Taba the bordertown of Egypt and Israel. We were randomly stopped in the middle of the night for a quick passport check, then the bus stopped and some people were changing buses... this is the moment when I wish I would have invested in those arabic lessons, because we were half asleep trying to ascertain whether we should be staying or switching buses. A kind archeologist that could speak arabic told us that we needed to change. So we got on the other bus and I was freaked out so I kept asking everybody, "Taba?" "Taba?" and pointing to the bus and everybody said yes... but I was still paranoid, so when another old man on was getting on and he said "No Taba"... I was freaked out and sure that we were on the wrong bus until everybody on the bus that I had asked - about 8 people - all simultaneously started yelling "Taba!" "Taba!" (if this isn't funny sorry... it was hillarious at the time)

We walked across the border (about 20 seperate checkpoints, but Israel is very American friendly so they sped us through the process). And since they have mandatory military service for men and women, and, I guess they don't want to put women into battle, they get stuck guarding the border... which was nice because most of them were decent looking - especially compared to Egyptian women. So a good welcome to Isreal.

Then we caught a bus from the border to Jeruselum. We should have known that something was amiss when our cab driver at the border told us that it was cold and rainy and Jeruselum and it might even snow. Hard to believe when we wer standing in 70 degree weather on the banks of the Red Sea.

The drive to Jeruselum was absolutely beautiful! Rugged dessert mountains that terrain on the left, the the blue sea on the right and sun shining overhead. It was beautiful that is, until we got to the city limits and literally, it dropped 25 degrees and rain fell from thick black clouds.

But we prayed for clear skies and the clouds broke for the afternoon allowing us to expore the old city and go to the wailing wall. As we were placing our prayers (written on a piece of paper) in the wall - as is the custom - it started to rain again.

So we headed to the Holocaust Museum, which is probably the best museum I have ever visited. Obviously the topic was powerful, but the use of multimedia, the architecture and interior design layout were perfect for that space. An incredible - if depressing - venue, that should be visited by every person that visits the city... And I would especially recommend this to the President of Iran Adminijad.

After the museum we hit the covered market for some sandle shopping and Karoline scored some sweet leather flops after a fair amount of bargaining.

Then we hit Zion square for a drink - very hard to come by in egypt, so it had been a few days... which is far too long (all of you Manhattanites know that a few days without a drink is uacceptable). We hit the Irish Pub... Karoline's choice, of course. And some dinner....

Now there's something you must know about Jeruselum, you have to walk through a metal detector to go anywhere... seriously, bar - metal detector, restaraunt - metal detector, wailing wall - metal detector (which by the way, in case you were wondering, is not in violation of the sabath or kosher laws), bus station - 5 metal detectors.

So, at dinner, we had to get scanned by a bouncer at the door. Mind you, this was not a club, no, it was a small italian restaraunt that holds maybe 20 people tops, but it had a bouncer with a metal detector. At the end of the meal we had an additional 4 sheckle 'security charge'! Incredible!

All that being said, be thankful for the ease of travel in the US.

Our hostel had no heat so it was about 12 degrees when we got back and the reception guy had left for the night so we had to steal blankets to stay warm in our prison cell.

I woke up and our worst fear had come true, not only did it not stop raining it was raining harder and the temperature had dropped to right around freezing. But we had not walked the via de la rosa (the last walk of Christ to the cross) and we knew we had to do it no matter the weather... and we left our bad weather gear in ciaro.

Note to Self: if you have a bunch of really warm waterproof gear with you for climbing Mt. Kilimanjo, you should not leave it in istanbul if you are going to jeruselum when it's cold and wet.

We layered up with about 20 t-shirts and took off to the start of the path... it was freezing, so we stopped and bargained with a vendor for a pair of cotton sweatshirts.

Then we took off to find the begining of the via de la rosa - not an easy feat, the streets of the old city are not easy to navigate. There are 14 stations of the cross culminating with the tomb of christ.... and they are very hard to find even with our guide book we missed a few. We had to fight our way through the packs of elderly foreign tourists, we couldn't feel our hands and feet, and by the time we finished at the church of the seplecur, it was a full on flakes-the-size-of-a-quarter snow storm... IN JERUSELUM! IN MARCH! So it was indeed the via de la rosa, which translates to "the way of sorrow" for us. But I suppose it could have been worse... I guess we could have been stripped, wearing a throny crown and carrying a cross.

In all seriousness, it was incredibly sobering to follow those steps. Even if they were not exactly historically correct, it was powerful to stand on the same geographical spot as Christ.

After the snow we wanted to hit the beach, so we packed up as fast as we could and headed for Dahab a beach resort on the Siani peninsula.

After another bus and another border crossing, we haggled with taxis for about an hour until we got a private car for the 2 hour ride for $22.50 US each. We didn't realize it at the time, but we were also required to have a 'security officer' ride with us. Apparently every 'important national' that hires a ride for an extended period needs a gun-toting security officer.

In Dahab now... all I can say is that we have a super cheap room with a view of the sea. Cheap eats and cheap drinks and good sun.

Posted by LargeTuna 07:31 Archived in Israel Comments (2)

welcome in...

everything is possible.

sunny 23 °C

I am not sure kyle or i have ever been so welcomed in our lives. i think we were officially welcomed to egypt 25-30 times in our short 2 day stay..."welcome in egypt..do you want me take you to better hostel?" us:no thanks, we already have it booked. cabbie:"welcome, welcome, whatever you wish, welcome in egypt." and when we ask how to go about doing something we hear in response, everything is possible--which i am a huge fan of.

So, Kyle and I woke up tuesday morning and went to the Pyramids. We were, of course, welcomed in Egypt by the people at the stables. We paid an enormous amount of money for the camels without even realizing it. When a currency is so much lower than yours, you begin to not think so much about high numbers. Anyways, we headed off to the sahara desert, and the Pyramids. We both rode camels..even though some of you may remember me saying i would never ride a camel after my Thar Desert experience in India...however, i felt it necessary. We had a cool guide who thought it was funny to make our camels trot from time to time..im positive he was impressed with seeing me attemtping to keep balance...i did my best. We made it to the top of a hill overlooking the three big pyramids and got off the camels...not as easy as you may think..and snapped some photos. Kyle quickly made friends with a man on a camel who dressed him in a cloak. I attempted, utilizing my bilingual skills, to tell kyle: "ello necesitas dinero para esta." Kyle refused me, and his friend replied.."senorita, no problema." How the hell do they know spanish in egypt--unfair! After we mounted the camels again, our newfound friend was quite upset we didnt tip him and once far enough away, our guide lectured us that nothing is free in egypt...although all things are possible..apparently nothing is free. We spent some time down near the pyramids...walking along the side of it. The enormity of how huge the big pyramid is cannot be explained. Standing down next to it, trying to capture with the camera how amazing it really is puts into perspective that you cannot capture it. Theres nothing to scale it with. We kept riding along and just staring at these huge sand triangles and i just kept saying to myself...im at the pyramids...THE pyramids..the only surviving original 7 wonder of the world..i am hanging out next to it, touching it..fighting off little kids trying to sell me cokes. Its really quite sad how touristy its become, how dirty, and how sad with everyone trying to make a buck..and even with all this...its impressive beyond belief. In the background is the whole city of Cairo, in the smog and down in the vally, its a huge city sprawled out...more chaotic than any place I've yet to be. We trailed down the path to see the sphinx, and headed back to the stables. We played jovially with a baby camel 6 weeks old..and headed back to the city. From there we packed up and headed to the bus station for our overnight bus to Iseal...kyle tells you about this...

After Isreal, kyle and I were craving warm weather and some comfort and relaxation. Its odd...you feel this presure to be and see all when you travel..but its refreshing to hear europeans call this thing "holiday." It really puts into perspective for me what it is..it is in fact a holiday. While i do need to take advantage of the places we are visiting and the things were seeing..its a vacation..i need to relax and regroup. So, after just a week and a half of traveling, we were in need of just this. Dahab seemed just the place. It was described in the Lonely Planet as a heaven constructed by backpackers...indeed it is so. We arrived here last night after a long time on the road we pulled up to our hotel. It is so clean and built like an Mac. They said, how can we make this amazing, and then did it...and its all so inexpensive. We will be moving tonight to a seaview room. You can pretty much lay anywhere you want..on the beach, in the bar, which is all couches and pillows and at all times be served cheap food and booze. Its been a bit windy, but ky and I got plenty of sun already. This place is the solace we were seeking and will energize us for kenya until we hit the next beach--ZANZIBAR!!!

Egypt has been quite more impressive than i ever thought it could be. The ease with which they impart in you makes you feel like youre hanging out with people singing hakuna matata in the background. The people here are so friendly, and they even consider us a "special nation"--escorted by bodygaurd. I loved Jerusalem and will definately make my way back there at some point in life. It gave out a magical feel that welcomed you to discover and rediscover all it has to offer...with the shopping and the amazing views, to the reality of the holocaust museum, to the sacredness of the wailing wall and the tomb of christ..the piece of earth Christ himself walked along.

Having the time of our lives...wishing you could join--

Karoline

Posted by LargeTuna 02:57 Archived in Egypt Comments (1)

on traveling solo into cairo

sunny 22 °C

Since my brother is a lucky sucker...(well more fairly, because he graduated with a masters degree and you travel after that in our family)..and his ticket was purchased from his lovely mother, he and i had different flights into Cairo today..mine departing 4 1/2 hours after his and arriving about 10 hours prior. This situation allowed for me to brush up on my solo traveling skills...it has been a while. I got off the plane and although i was about halfway through the queues to get through customs, somehow, literally, i was THE last person to get through..i don't have a clue what happened. Damien Rice was whispering sweet nothings into my ear and i must have not paid attention. I walked out into the amazing hot sun and humidity and confidently walked to where i thought the cabs would be..there really weren't any, so after a tried to blow off some dude overcharging me, i put on my sunglasses and hoped he wouldn't recognize me when we rebargained...he recognized me and we went with the original quoted price...good job karoline.

Off i went into the mayhem of traffic..it made India look like the suburbs of Orlando. It was INSANE!!! Also, in other news, i have begn telling people i am Canadian and my cab driver kept asking facts about my country..numbers, population, etc...i kept forgetting..not a good liar. So we began approaching the city center and the westaway in me kicked in...the car broke down in the middle of the road. After about 3 minutes of him just turning the key(im thinking, hello, its not going to just magically start with this crank..)he asked me to step outside of the car...on the side of the highway mind you. not fun..white girl, in aviaters, with her bags on the side of the highway in cairo...lots of beeping followed. After he got it cranking again, it broke down another 3 times... and he finally dropped me off. wrong hostel. good stuff. I began traipsing down the road my hostel was on, passed a street fight with a riot ensuing along the way, along with about a half mile of cars all being worked on on the street. It was beginning to get dark and i was sure i wasnt going the right way. A small amountof panic set in..as i had to be at this particular hostel, it was where kyle would meet me. Some very "friendly" person asked if i needed help and i told him the address and he excitedly said.."you are lucky, i know this, follow me" Now previously when my fortune was told in Istanbul, i was told i was lucky, so i knew it had to be true. This character claimed he worked there, then that his best mate owned it, then that i shouldnt change money at a bank, but instead down some dodgy ally. And when i would refuse him, he continually asked, "Why are you scared?" so, i finally made it to the hostel, the correct one, and i joked sarcastically with the desk guy that his best friend had brought me here...he replied, "you are best friend too" so he took me to my room, opened up the cool balcony view we had and did the fatherly railing lean and warmly warned me against letting anyone follow me. It was very sweet and made me feel comfortable. I of course knew otherwise, but this character i could not lose.

I did dinner with some other kid from new jersey and now im awaiting my brothers arrival at the hostel..phew, its been a day...

this place really is crazy...unlike anything i have ever seen!

Posted by LargeTuna 22:24 Archived in Egypt Comments (1)

One last spin...

leaving Istanbul

sunny 13 °C

One last spin around Taxim square in the bus then to Ataturk International airport....

This morning it was hard to leave Ceren and her apartment beacuse it quickly felt like home. She was such a great host (even though White and Case stole much of her time from us). We had some great tourguides around the city though and we did a whirlwind tour of all the sites followed by a hammam and a supper of compir followed by a turkish coffee and fortune telling.

The hamam - a turkish bath was incredible.... more so for Kyle than Karoline. You just walk into a huge steam room and lay down on this huge circular marble slab that is heated dressed only in a towel. About the time you are gfalling asleep you get woken up by a big Turkish man. He brings you over to his part of the slab then rinses; scrubs; washes; rinses and massages you for about a half hour. I thought he was going to squeeze my insides out... but after he finished I felt like a new man.

Compir is a baked potato filled with a bunch of different fillings. After dining on compir at a cafe located on the Bosphorous we had turkish coffee - which is really thick espresso. At the bottom of the cup is a thick sluge. When you are down to the sludge you flip the cup over and let it sit. After the cup is flipped back over the sludge has created crazy designs all over the inside walls and the fortune teller looks into it to decipher your future... a fun and informative process.

Kroline and I are pretty much a travelling library. I think we had 10 books on us and I just picked up 2 more... so that gives us an even dozen plus our magazines... but I've heard that good books are a necessity in Africa because they work on Africa Time - meaning that there is a ton of waiting and a good book comes in handy.

so... there's this wierd - almost shocking - thing about hearing English when you've been used to hearing only a foreign tounge for a little while. I had that wierd thing today on the plane from Istanbul to London Heathrow. Since we are heading to Egypt today I am trying to keep my headphones in as much as possible in London. I will just stay in the airport for a long lay over.

Posted by LargeTuna 11:55 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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