I’m off!! #3
I’m off!! No way back now. I will not lie about the fact that I had almost no sleep last night. Crazy idea. Anyway, I’m not complaining – it was my own decision. Time to arrange a few last things for my website that goes online the same day of my departure, and then off to Germany. Let the adventure begin! Here I will meet a travel buddy. Patrick will travel with me for the first 2 weeks to the Amman, the capital of Jordan. When I arrive at Düsseldorf airport I think for a moment that I am hallucinating when I look behind me from the strictly arranged check-in row and suddenly see a bunch of familiar heads turn up. These legends have secretly organized a moment of goodbye. How awesome! Then you know that they are real friends! With 1.5 hour delay and a pokerface at boarding (because I take my 15kg backpack with me as hand luggage and pretend it feels like the allowed 8kg) we’re finally off. Together with an old drunk Israeli who several times tries to shoot us with an invisible rifle. Maybe just a ‘different’ way of greeting or something?
``Arriving at Düsseldorf airport, for a moment I think I'm hallucinating.``
“If there’s a doctor on this flight, please report immediately”..Aight, everyone is awake again when the light goes on because a man has become unwell and is lying in the middle of the aisle. Luckily he is doing well after a while and the plane make ground at Tel Aviv. Because of the Sabbath, there is no public transport, so we sqeeze ourselves in a taxi to Ofir’s apartment. Ofir and Patrick got to know each other 4 years ago during a trip through India, always good to keep international contacts. Ofir immediately grabs a beer from the fridge. It is 04:30. Ofir is a hero.
``Ofir immediately grabs beer from the fridge. It's 04:30. Ofir is a hero``
Dear God! Tel Aviv is expensive! 6 euros for the cheapest beer, 3 euros for a small bottle of water -and that in the supermarkets! Let’s not talk about prices in restaurants and bars. Okay; with the exception of Happy Hour. Then there will be a 40% discount, but that price will still be 200% too expensive. However, let’s be healthy… a walk to Jaffa at about 6km distance. That makes me happy! Numerous old narrow alleys, beautifully lit, which brings you directly into old spheres. Classic!! Besides charming restaurants and nightlife there is unfortunately not much to do. To participate Tel Aviv’s nightlife you will have to bring at least a few hundred euros – so back to Ofir, enough for the first day. Besides, there’s been a sudden storm. According to Google: Bus 18. The bus driver of bus 18 thinks that he’s driving in bus 10 and shows us the door after one stop. The driver of the real bus 10 indicates that we have to take bus X, and the driver of bus X indicates that we have to change to other bus X a couple of stops later and SHALL let us know which stop we have to get off. Yeah … he didn’t. What a day. Taxi please!
- let the frustration be the fuel to your fire -
After a nice run along the boulevard, together with half the city, which all seems to be doing sports, it’s time for the highlight of the day. Carmel market; a busy local market. Polite as we are we also give the other highlights (such as a mediocre fountain) a chance to convince us.. Yeah… next to the white beach, some markets and so the nightlife, the city just doesn’t have much to do within our interests. Great city if you want to tan all day but that is not our thing at all. We decide to move to Jerusalem that day and less than an hour later we feel (according to many) holy grounds under our feet.
``less than an hour later we feel (according to many) holy grounds under our feet``
What a difference! Much more traditional. Starting with the clothing! That’s how I imagined Israel (more)! Not like Tel Aviv with western beaches, party music and expensive beer! Nope; it feels a lot better here. I’m glad we went to Jerusalem earlier than planned. Just a powernap in the Abraham Hostel (according to the Hostel, Abraham was the first backpacker) and then on tour! After swallowing up information, like the reason why the gates in Jerusalem have a name of a city (= the direction to this city, quite handy 500 years ago without navigation) and after helping out a woman in panic who lost her daughter in the crowded centre of Jerusalem, we decide to appoint ourselves to tour guide. As new fresh guides we do a good job by visiting the Wailing Wall (called the Western Wall by Israelis), the mountain of olives, the Jewish cemetery and we end up with a nice climb to the top of the temple mountain that gives a fantastic view over Jerusalem at sunset! What’s left? Yep; the various bars in old town Jerusalem! I’m inn! Blurp…
``We visit the Wailing Wall (called the Western Wall by Israelis)``
Ein Gedi & Eilat
3.5 days after arriving in Jerusalem and after many Jewish, Arabian and Armenian alleys (where a traditionally dressed old man pronounces the legendary words “I have good coffee BRO!”), we wriggle ourselves on the bus to the Dead Sea. I’m used to a lot of wellness spas, but seriously, this salt water tops all spas together! It feels like a gel, it’s half warm and swimming forward is simply not an option (and looks stupid). With an average of 28-33% salt, it’s truly a dead sea… (comparison: salt percentage in the North Sea = average 2.8%). Anyway, great spot and also flooded with (mostly) Russian tourists. Off to the other Russian enclave… Eilat. After the last local bus from the Dead Sea drops us off in Eilat in about 3.5 hours we find a city full of Fancy hotels and expensive boats. If you find banana boats and a tourist train… you know enough. The western influence has done a good job.
``After the last local bus drops us off in Eilat we find a city full of Fancy hotels and expensive boats``
What is my final conclusion about Israel? It is a beautiful country with modern beaches. Israelis are either very friendly and helpful -or not at all. There seems to be no middle ground. It takes some getting used to the fact that there are heavily armed men and women walking down the street with -or without a uniform. With the exception of traditional places, mostly in Jerusalem, it is westernized and it is an expensive country. You can do great backpacking, but not for the budget you are used to with backpacking. If you ask me, Jerusalem is the most interesting and seems to have escaped some western influences. Is it worth a visit? Yes, it is! Would I like to stay an extra week? Not necessarily.
While writing this blog we are heading to the border of Jordan. Riding in a local van (the one with knitted curtains) we are going to Petra, our first destination in Jordan. It’s already a legendary ride. We have, using our hands and feet, some kind of communication with the other Jordanians on the bus and we are forced to participate socially in the food that they share with each other. Already a big difference with Israel! I look forward to Jordan!