German Goodbyes

August 28, 2016 at 5:42 am (Germany)

This might possibly be the hardest blog entry I’ve ever had to write.  I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t really been ready to voice what I think needs to be expressed here or more importantly, what I need to express here.  How do I explain the feelings I have leaving a country that I love, that has been my home for the majority of my adult life?  A place that has taught me to be independent and proud of who I am, a place that has given me beautiful friendships that I treasure.

I’ve managed to leave and I’ve started a hugely bizarre new chapter in my life and yet I keep having to pinch myself that I have truly taken this step and emerged from my German bubble.  I didn’t realise that I was so brave and so strong.  Others have told me that I am, but I don’t often feel that way.

I have truly been blessed during my six and a half years learning, loving and experiencing Germany and I miss my life and my friends and my students every day.  There is no way I could mention you all in this post.  The acts of kindness, the extra smile, the traditions and laughter you have shared with me.  I can’t even begin to thank you for the memories and kindness.  For sharing your joys and your tears, for making my time in Germany one I will never forget.  But perhaps the following pictures will give some justification as to how I feel and how proud I am of myself and the person I have become because of the experiences that you have given me during the past six and a half years

Thank you for sharing, thank you for letting me into your life.

I will be back…

xoxo

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The Holy Lands – Part 2

August 21, 2016 at 1:48 pm (Travel)

Day 4:

IMG_1842We began by visiting the Wedding Church in Cana where Jesus is believed to have turned water into wine.  We also visited a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church and listened to part of their sermon.  Afterwards we travelled to the the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth.  It is believed that the Archangel Gabriel visited Mary here to tell her about her pregnancy.  We also saw Mary’s Well and Joseph’s Church.

We had been lectured about wearing appropriate covered clothing for all the holy sites and to our credit mum and I were pretty good about it.  We did  find it enormously funny though when I managed to rip mum’s pants I had borrowed.  It left a huge gaping hole on my thigh.  When I showed our tour guide Alex he said it didn’t bother him and not to worry.  So much for being decently covered at the Holy Sites lecture!  Needless to say, mum’s sarong came in very handy.

Continuing through the Jordan Valley we arrived at Beit Shean and explored the ancient ruins.  The amphitheater was  particularly impressive.

Day 5:

We took a break from most things religious and headed out to the lowest point on the Earth’s surface: The Dead Sea.  First we visited Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  This archeological site was first established between 134 – 104 BC and is believed to have been a Jewish sect settlement.  This was a very religious community who lived apart from others to focus purely on their connection with their religion.  The area was destroyed in approximately 68 AD by the Romans.  The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in both natural and man made caves in the area in early 1947 and hold great linguistic, historical and religious significance.  972 manuscripts were found in Qumran and fragments of each book of the Old Testament apart from Esther were found!  There were also hymns, psalms and many rules concerning the way of life at Qumran.

We continued on to Masada, the ruins of an ancient fortress built on top of a rocky outcrop facing the Dead Sea.  This is another example of King Herod’s crazy building schemes and it is hard to believe that people actually lived and survived here.  It truly is in the middle of a barren and a relentless landscape of sand and rock.  In fact, the whole area around the Dead Sea reminded mum and I of Cooper Pedy in Australia.

Built between 37 – 31 BC, Masada is most well known for the mass suicide stand by the Jewish Sicarii rebels that ended the First Jewish – Roman war.  These people chose to die rather than to become slaves.  This certainly adds to the atmosphere on this rocky outcrop.

Mum and I had ditched our favourite tour guide and survived the heat to explore as much of the site as possible.  We had arranged to meet the group again at a designated spot at the top and were on time and ready to go.  To reach Masada you can either walk or take the cable car and due to the heat the walking track was closed.  We waited and waited but there was no sign of the group.  We couldn’t really believe that the guide would leave us on the mountain… but he HAD!  Eventually we went down and found the group.  Alex claimed he were not at the designated spot at the right time and when he looked around he couldn’t find us.  Not a very good tour guide if you ask me…

A:  You don’t go down the cable car without your whole group.

B:  When you do go down and realise people are missing, you go straight up and collect them.

IMG_1897Reunited, we were more than ready to go for a swim in the Dead Sea to cool off.  This body of water that shares its borders with Israel, Jordan and Palestine has 34.2% salinity.  If you get water in your eyes it HURTS.  Floating in the luke warm water was quite a bizarre feeling especially as you can float on your stomach!  I also covered myself in the mud, which is supposed to have wonderful properties for your skin.  Not so sure about that, but it was fun and a cheap beauty treatment.

We arrived in our new hotel in Jerusalem and much to our relief, waved Alex goodbye.

Day 6:

A new day, a new tour guide… thankfully a huge improvement!  Our first stop was at the Israel Museum where we saw a detailed model of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple.  The museum also houses the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Shrine of the Book.  After seeing where they were found the day before, this was particularly moving.  I was particularly impressed with how historians have been able to piece fragments of these manuscripts back together.

It was a morning of museums as our next stop was Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.  My travels have taken me to many such places across  Europe but it was still interesting walking through the vast building.  Many of these places were places I have actually visited, which also helped me to make connections.I actually only got about three quarters of the way through and would have appreciated more time to explore the many personal stories represented in the displays.

IMG_1933Our afternoon was spent visiting Bethlehem with a new tour guide as ours was not able to cross the border into the West Bank.  The Church of the Nativity is located at the stable where Jesus is believed to be born and the first religious building at this site was completed in 339 AD.  I actually found the Israel West Bank Barrier most interesting.  It looks just like the Berlin war with graffiti on one side and bare walls the other.  Crossing it involves checkpoints and we were even asked to have our passports with us!  The wall is 708km and must have cost and absolute arm and a leg to construct.

After dinner we went out on a tour to see Jerusalem at night.

Day 7:

IMG_1960Visiting the Wailing Wall was truly a memorable experience.  This is the holiest place where the Jewish faith can worship due to its proximity to The Temple Mount.  The praying section is divided by gender and even though it was early morning, there were a number of people praying.  I always find it so amazing to watch other people engrossed in their faith.  It’s very moving to see how much their heart and sole is involved in their beliefs.  For example, women had their foreheads against the limestone, whispering their prayers to themselves with closed eyes and on the male side, people prayed alongside men openly wearing guns.

At Temple Mount the guards checked us over from head to toe to ensure we were decently dressed.  Mum thought it was hilarious that even though I was wearing long pants and a long t-shirt, I still got called out for being able to see my bra line through my t-shirt.  This was after I had ASKED mum if I was decently clothed before leaving the hotel.  Luckily a friend was able to lend me a scarf to make sure I was proper.  🙂

IMG_1987Temple Mount is considered one of the most religious sites in the world.  Christianity, Judaism and Islam all recognise the site as being important to their faith.  It is a beautiful structure situated in a lovely open space away from the bustle and sounds of Jerusalem.  Since the crusades, the site has been managed by the Islamic faith and tourists are not able to visit the actual building structure.

Next we followed Via Dolorosa to Calvary and the Church of the Holy Sepulche.  This is more popularly known as ‘The way of the Cross.’  This is not the actual way that Jesus is believed to have walked… it would be very hard to establish this considering how long ago this was.  Instead it is a spiritual walk that incorporates the stories surrounding his crucifixion.

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Mum standing on the old street of Jerusalem dating back to the time of Jesus

Via Dolorosa finishes at Calvary and the Tomb of the Resurrection.  Suddenly we were bombarded with tourist groups and people.  I found it hard to imagine that this was truly the place where these important religious events took place.  The close proximity of the different places where Jesus was crucified, washed and placed to rest don’t seem to add up in my mind.  It didn’t feel as significant and momentous as I thought it would.

It was a big day… we also visited Mount Olives, the site where Jesus first gave the Lord’s Prayer, the Garden of Gethsemane, the room of the Last Supper and Kind David’s Tomb.  Perhaps we just saw too much to really comprehend the historical and religious importance of the city.

IMG_0924We celebrated our last night in Jerusalem with some shopping and drinks with some our new found friends.  We were glad of our small group tour and lucky to find some wonderful people to share our experiences with.

 Day 8:

Our last day in Israel we ventured out without a tour guide.  Mum was keen to see the Garden Tomb and our friend Daniel tagged along too.  This site was found in 1867 and is believed by some to be the site of Jesus’ resurrection and burial.  This place felt much more natural and the gardens are beautifully maintained.  It didn’t fell pompous and they didn’t push that this was really the site where these things happened.  The Garden Tomb focuses more on spirituality claiming that it does not matter where the events happened, it matters that they did and your connection with them.  This was a breath of fresh air and my favourite place we visited in Jerusalem.

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Afterwards we visited David’s tower and had an amazing last panoramic view of Jerusalem.  The city is an amazing hotpot of beliefs, views and values.  There is so much passion and an electricity that is hard to describe.  I hope the city continues to function in peace as it is not too hard to imagine the ideas clashing and exploding.  Jerusalem is a city of intrigue and one I am very pleased that I got to experience.

xoxo

P.s  More pictures?

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