The Old City
After an incredibly weird night’s sleep (5:00pm to 10:00pm, 5:00am to 7:00am) I surprisingly felt rested and got up and ready for my day visiting Jerusalem! My hotel, Dave Tel Aviv, has breakfast partnerships with two nearby restaurants and I chose the one called Bread and Co. It was a great little spot with a nice outdoor patio. I had french toast and apple juice that was green and tasted like it was literally just an apple - both were so good! I then headed back to Dave Tel Aviv where I checked out and thanked them for an incredible stay. I took a taxi from Dave Tel Aviv to Tel Aviv 2000 Terminal.
The terminal is both a train and bus station which ended up being so helpful. There were luggage lockers inside of the train terminal where I stored my suitcase for the day. I then headed out to the busses and found bus 480 which heads straight to Jerusalem! The round trip ticket was cheap at around $10. The bus ride took a little under hour and the drive was so pretty. It seriously looks like exactly where you would imagine the Bible takes place (which I know makes sense, but it was still cool). The bus dropped off at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. From there I took the light rail (which I bought a day pass for and was incredibly easy to use) towards the Jaffa Gate.
I was immediately amazed by the walls surrounding the city - I entered the Old City through Jaffa Gate where I then walked to my first stop, Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The inside of the Old City is a bit difficult to describe but, basically, it is very old obviously, there are stalls along every walkway with lots of souvenirs and other items being sold, and then there are very historic spots throughout. There are four quarters that split the city into sections: the Armenian Quarter, Christian Quarter, Jewish Quarter, and Muslim Quarter.
It makes a lot of sense that my first stop was in the Christian Quarter, as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is home to what is supposedly the Tomb of Jesus. There are a few of these in the world so it’s not definite, but it was still quite interesting to see and the church itself was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There were multiple items that had some supposed relation to Jesus that people lined up to touch or pray at. The church was huge and there were many rooms to walk through. After walking through I waited in the thirty-minute line to go inside the tomb (it can be significantly longer during the summer). I was inside for maybe ten seconds but it was still very interesting!
From there I walked along Via Dolorosa which is the path that Jesus walked along on the way to his Crucifixion. My next stop was Mary’s birthplace where you just look in and see a room. Next I headed outside of the Old City to the foot of Mount Olive where Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations are located. The Garden of Gethsemane is where Jesus prayed the night before his Crucifixion, and the Church of All Nations is supposedly built over the rock where Jesus prayed before he was betrayed by Judas. Across the street I went to the Tomb of the Virgin which is believed to be the burial place of Mary. Like I said - lots of history here!
My walk back into the Old City was very uphill. I headed to the Western Wall which I was told by police officers was closed. This made no sense since I knew that it wasn’t (because it doesn’t close), and after finding another entrance it was definitely open thank goodness! It was such a unique thing to see. The Western Wall is the last remnant of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It is incredibly sacred and important to Jewish people and was so interesting to see in person. By far one of the most unique parts of my day was standing in front of the Western Wall, watching both Jews and Christians pray, and hearing the Muslim call to prayer. Jerusalem has it’s political difficulties but it was cool in that moment to see all three religions at once.
After the Western Wall I walked around the Jewish Quarter and made my way to quite the unique spot - the Alabama Heart of Dixie store located in the heart of the Old City! It was started by an Alabama alum and is currently run by his brother who I met and was really great. The store sells tons of Alabama merchandise in Hebrew and was honestly just hilarious to see in the center of Jerusalem. I bought lots of gifts and really enjoyed talking about Alabama Football with someone from Jerusalem!
This was my last stop in the Old City as I then made my way to Ben Yehuda Street, one of the main streets in town. I walked up it for a bit until I got to Jaffa Street which I walked for a bit as well. I ended up at Marzipan Bakery where I tried the rugulah and it was amazing! Shoutout again to my friend Jennifer for the amazing recommendations for my time in Israel! Marzipan Bakery was definitely one of them. My last stop in Jerusalem was then Mahane Yehuda Market. It was amazing! There were so many stalls and I really enjoyed walking through, especially as it wasn’t too large to see everything.
I then made my way back to the Central Bus Station where I took bus 480 back into Tel Aviv! There was a little more traffic on the way back as it was rush hour, but the ride still took about an hour. When I arrived back at Tel Aviv 2000 terminal I retrieved my luggage from the locker and then took the train back to the airport. It was a good thing I was unintentionally almost four hours early because the airport turned into a bit of an ordeal. I had to go through special security screening (likely because of my passport and its growing wealth of weird stamps if I had to guess), and this would have been fine if it didn’t take over twenty times as long to go through as regular security. I had to take every single electronic item out of my bags (every USB cord, hair straightener, adapters, everything) and the people in charge made this an incredibly slow process.
Once I finally cleared security my passport, of course, wouldn’t work with their biometric systems so I had to wait in another long line. Increasingly fading due to sleep deprivation this was not ideal as I also hadn’t eaten a full meal since breakfast. After over an hour of lines (though there were almost no people in front of me, just inefficiency) I finally made it through and to the boarding gates. I had a great grilled chicken and hummus sandwich (I made sure I tried something at least a little local instead of the Pizza Hut) and then headed to my gate. I was working on emails when the two guys next to me got into a pretty scary screaming match in Russian. I immediately got up and moved away but it went from silence to screaming in like two seconds which was just bizarre. I couldn’t understand them, obviously, but I thought they were about to actually fight and eventually the police showed up. I have no idea what it was about but it was quite the ordeal.
For unrelated reasons the flight was delayed for an hour which was annoying due to how late it was already scheduled to arrive. I slept the whole flight as I had now reached the point of exhaustion where this is actually possible which doesn’t happen too often. When I landed in Tbilisi, Georgia, immigration and customs were a breeze and I was greeted by Tigran, the owner of the hotel where I was staying, Du Vin Rouge! He was so kind to pick me up and I definitely appreciate it. I really enjoyed talking with him on the drive into the city - he’s from Armenia but actually lived in NYC for four years which was cool!
By the time I finally got to my room and went to sleep it was past 4:00am. I don’t have a ton of time in Tbilisi tomorrow so I’m going to have to wake up relatively early, unfortunately, but at least I didn’t have a problem getting to sleep. It was a great (but busy) day and I thoroughly enjoyed all of my time in Israel and am looking forward to Georgia tomorrow!
62 countries down, 135 to go.
Read about my first day in Israel here.
To learn more about Dave Tel Aviv click here.
To learn more about Du Vin Rouge click here.