Throwback Thursday: Domica Cathedral of Jerusalem

Sometimes a place or a building makes a big impact on you and lingers in your thoughts long afterwards. The Domica Cathedral and my experiences inside a couple of years ago is still with me even today.

The Cathedral is a  grand structure surrounded by narow alley ways.  The church is very impressive and looms over the alley that leads around the building. There were no clear markers to where you could find the entrance and it is built like a fortress.

Once inside my eyes were drawn to the painted ceiling, decorated walls and even the floor. All of these colourful surfaces formed a stark contrast with the bleak outside of the building. The floor is decorated with the symbols of the Zodiac, names of Prophets, and a verse from Proverbs (8, 23-25) written on its circumference. The Cathedral was quiet and warm inside with the faint smell of insence everywhere.

Walking down a spiral staircases down to the crypt under the church I heard sof voices rising from below. In the center of the crypt is a sculpture of Mary’s deathbed, made of ivory and cherry wood. On the ceiling of the crypt above Mary is a beautiful painting of Jesus surrounded by famous Biblical women figures: Eve, Esther, Ruth, Yael, Judith and Mary sister of Moses, all here to honor Mary. 

Domica Cathedral
Inside the Domica Cathedral. The only photo I took as I didnt want to intrude on people while praying

People were nlighting up candles before the sculpture and a priest was conducted a service or reciting scripture. Although I could not understand a word he was saying I sat down to listen and to embrace the peaceful atmosphere. Sitting here amidst all these people praying I closed my eyes and for the first time in a while said a prayer of my own.

Without knowing why ears sprung to eyes and I will always remember how peaceful and loved I felt at that moment. I bought myself a beautiful rosary before I left the Cathedral and every now and again when I need reassurance I will hold the rosary while saying silent prayer.

This was a first for me. Has a place or building ever affected you in such a way?

This beautiful gate is just opposite the Domica Cathedral
This beautiful gate is just opposite the Domica Cathedral

The cobbled streets of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an amazing city filled with great people and extraordinary places to see. You can pick any street to wonder down and you will be surrounded by the most amazing architecture ever. Millions and millions of feet have walked across these same cobbled streets. Some in search of adventure and others on a pilgrimage through this historical city.

Early in the mornings the streets are quite deserted and you get to feel quite alone as you wonder through the city.  These are photos of some of the alleyways and lanes that I wondered through on my way from New Gate down to Zion’s Gate on the other sde of the Old city. After exciting through Zion’s Gate you nearly walk into  David’s Tomb and the room of the Last Supper.

King David’s Tomb is a site traditionally viewed as the burial place of David the King of Israel. It is located in a ground floor corner of the remains of the former Hagia Zion, a Byzantine church.

The Last Supper Room is arectangular room with gothic style pillars and a vaulted ceiling. This is said to be the room where Jesus and his deciples had their last supper together although it looks more like a small chapel to me.

Monasteries and Churches of Moscow

Moscow is a city that draws in flocks of visitors each year with its culture, its history, and its beauty. The best of Moscow‘s beauty can be seen in the stunning churches and graceful cathedrals that are dotted among modern skyscrapers and apartment blocks in the city’s iconic skyline. There are so many different churches in Moscow that you could visit one each day and not have seen them all within 3 years. Walking along the  Moskva River there are a couple of monasteries, nunneries and churches that were part of the cities outer defenses.

The architecture of these religious buildings exhibits a variety of styles: from traditional Russian, to lavish Italian Renaissance, to Moscow’s own take on Baroque.

Some of these structures date back to 1645 and sadly is in chronic need of restoration. But they are still beautiful, each with its own charm. Even though they are in need of repair, most of these buildings are still being used, and are slowly being restored to their former glory.

Throwback Thursday: Sea of Galilee in Nazareth

I dont always plan out all my holidays in detail in advance and my Israel trip was one of these. I didn’t have any specific plan of action once I arrived in Nazareth so when two strangers at the hostel mentioned a road trip to the North of Israel all around the Sea of Galilee I couldn’t think of one reason not to go. Going on a road trip with two strangers has never been on my bucket list but this ended up being one of the most amazing trips I have ever gone on.

Pia and the Polish dude I road tripped with. ( I never could remember his name)
Pia and the Polish dude I road tripped with ( I never could remember his name)

Pia was the designated driver and I sat in the front with the job as map reader in our little yellow rented car.The polish guy that was traveling with us lives in Ireland at the moment. (Jaric) He has lived there for 9 years but his English is really not that good and he doesn’t always understand our questions or give us straight answers. Whenever someone asks him where he’s from he says Ireland, you can see how confused the people seem as he doesn’t look or sound Irish at all. I could never remember his name so ended up calling him Polish Dude the whole time. Getting to see the countryside covered in mist while driving along the windy roads was absolutely amazing. It was chilly at 16 degrees and very foggy so we couldn’t see too far ahead, it actually gave the area an eerie fairy-tale feeling. It felt like we were entering the unknown and didn’t know what’s waiting around the next corner.

It was amazing walking next to the Sea of Galilee with all those boble stories in the back of my mind
It was amazing walking next to the Sea of Galilee with all those Bible stories in the back of my mind

From Tiberias we headed up north all along the coast of the sea of Galilee to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is situated right next to the Sea of Galilee. It is a cute little church, although its modern, it stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches, right where it is said that Jesus divided the fish and loaves to the multitudes of people. Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic of the loaves and fishes as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was laid. It is said that pilgrims are known to have commemorated this site since at least the 4th century.

Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic
Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic

My last look over the Sea of Galilee, before heading up North into the mountains.  

Throwback Thursday: The Socialist Sculpture Park in Moscow

Moscow has countless churches all over the city, but not all of them are open to the public
I love exploring the small churches dotted all over the city. Moscow has countless churches all over the city, but not all of them are open to the public

I explored the Tretyakov gallery area a couple of times during the first sunny weeks of May 2012. It was lovely just getting out of the small flat  after the long harsh winter, and spending some time outside in the sunshine.

As I walked through the numerous side streets of this district I eventually reached the Moscow River. The whole of Moscow is filled with countless of beautiful old buildings and small churches hidden between them. I don’t know what this church is named , as I couldnt find it on the map, but it was lovely inside and smelled of incense and rose oil. I love that most of the churches are filled with icons and candles, makes it feel very mystical inside.

Close to this little church I came across the Socialist sculpture park. I didn’t realize you had to pay to enter the park so I just walked in and it must have looked as if I belonged because nobody stopped me. It was only on my second visit here that I was stopped and made to pay the entrance fee. Luckily for me I had my head phones in and didn’t say a word as I handed over my money so the lady took me for a Russian and I ended up paying half of what foreigners pay to enter.

The Park was established by the City of Moscow in 1992 and currently displays over 700 sculptures that had been brought here from all over the city when they tried to get rid of all the communist statues.

The Socialist sculpture park.
Almost all the statues are name-less

In October 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, smaller socialist realism statues of Soviet leaders and unidentifiable workers and peasants were removed from their pedestals, hauled to the park and left in their fallen form. The park became a big statue dumping ground.

Most of themse starues were turned upright later, although they were all missing their original pedestals and some were broken beyond repair.

The Socialist sculpture park.
The park is filled with sculptures that have nothing to do with politics

In 1995, Muzeon added a World War II section – these sculptures, of the same socialist realism vintage, were never displayed in open air before then. In 1998 the park acquired 300 sculptures of victims of communist rule made by Evgeny Chubarov, and was installed as a single group.

I think the most stunning of these fallen statues is a bust of Stalin (whose nose has been broken off). There are a couple of statues of Lenin and some Soviet emblems. The saddest part is that they have a whole section that is filled with the heads of statues that were destroyed while being moved here.

The Socialist sculpture park.
Some forgotten revolutionary

I don’t understand how they classify what statues are communist as there are even statues of fairy tales here. I also couldn’t believe it when I found a patch where statues of t animals were displayed, never thought animals were communists.

The Socialist sculpture park.
Huge sculptures found at the exit of the park

This park is right next to the Moscow River and I love just sitting here with a book or just to walk around whenever I have the time.

The Socialist sculpture park.
Make across this sculpture as I was already leaving the park

Christmas night in Bethlehem, Israel!!

 Saturday 24 December 2011

At 3o’clock the afternoon on my first day in Israel I joined the Abraham hostel tour to Bethlehem. Unfortunately the guide was absolutely useless, he didn’t give us any extra information about the area or even tell us where we were going or what we were going to see.

Shepherd’s Field He took us to the Shepherd’s Field first.

Shepherd’s Field“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:8-10)

The fertile fields of Beit Sahour are believed to be where this biblical scene took place, 2 km southeast of Bethlehem. The ruins at Al-Ruwat include a cave used as a church from the 4th century, of which the barrel-vaulted roof (5th century) still survives. It is approached by a flight of 21 steps and has three apses with traces of mosaic and old frescoes.

After this we went into Bethlehem and to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, and thus it is considered sacred by Christians.

Floor mosaics surviving from the original basilica.
Floor mosaics surviving from the original basilica.

It is designed like a typical Roman basilica, with five aisles formed by Corinthian columns. The columns are made of pink, polished limestone, most of them dating from the original 4th-century Constantinian basilica.  There is also a vault in the eastern end, where the sanctuary is. The church features golden mosaics covering the side walls, which are now largely decayed. Trap doors in the present floor reveal sections of floor mosaics surviving from the original basilica. The mosaics feature complex geometric designs with birds, flowers and vine patterns, making a rich and elaborate carpet for Constantine’s church.

We stood in line for 3hours to get into the Grotto.

Lanterns Inside the Church of the Nativity
Lanterns Inside the Church of the Nativity
Church of St. Catherine
Church of St. Catherine

Church of St. CatherineWhile standing in line I wandered away from the group and went into the adjoining Church of St. Catherine, the Roman Catholic Church. It was built in a more modern Gothic revival style. This is the church where the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem celebrates Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Certain customs still observed in this Midnight Mass predate Vatican II, must be maintained because the “status quo” (the customs, rights and duties of the various church authorities that have custody of the Holy Places) was legally fixed in 1852, under the Ottoman Empire.

 

When I wanted to get back to the group the connecting door was locked seeing as they were busy closing and getting ready for midnight mass! Luckily I found a guard who then helped me get back in.

Inside the Church of the Nativity
Inside the Church of the Nativity

We entered through a very low door, called the “Door of Humility.” We then went down a Staircase on the side of the Sanctuary that leads down to the Grotto.

Bethlehem candles

Candles at the entrance to the Grotto
Candles at the entrance to the Grotto

The Grotto of the Nativity is an underground cave located beneath the basilica, it enshrines the site where Jesus is said to have been born. The exact spot is marked beneath an altar by a 14-pointed Silver Star set into the marble floor and surrounded by silver lamps. This altar is denominationally neutral, although it features primarily Armenian Apostolic influences. Another altar in the Grotto, which is maintained by the Roman Catholics, marks the site where traditionally Mary laid the newborn Baby in the manger.

We were unfortunately rushed through a bit, and got held up because a very big lady bent down to kiss the Silver Star and then got stuck under the altar and it took two guards to pull her out of the little grotto again.

Unfortunately it started raining during dinner, it was pouring down and my shoes were not water proof. I bought a small umbrella but had to walk around with wet, cold feet the whole evening, my toes were freezing!

We walked down to see a part of the Israel Palestine wall with its graffiti; we only saw a small part of the wall as we couldn’t actually walk around much in the pouring rain. I got to see and photograph a Banksy original!!

Manger Square
Manger Square

I met 2 lovely Kiwi ladies who teach English in Cairo. I ended up chatting to them and spent the rest of the evening in their company. On our way back from the wall we sat down and had some mulled wine to warm up a bit. Luckily by then the rain had cleared up a bit so we headed down to Manger Square, a large paved courtyard in front of the Church. This is the site where crowds gather on Christmas Eve to sing Christmas carols in anticipation of the midnight services. We could watch the midnight service here on big screens, but unfortunately because of the rain there was no sound, a bit of a disappointment.

Standing right by the Barriers of Manger Square
Standing right by the Barriers of Manger Square

We were lucky enough to be right in the front when they set up the barriers in front of the church before the president arrived. I have never seen so many armed police and army guys standing around with their AK47’s.

When the president finally arrived it looked like chaos with all the police running around, but it was over quickly and the barriers were removed.

After midnight mass we all had some hot chocolate before heading back to the hostel.

This was definitely a very special and spiritual Christmas for me!

Tulips, Pigeon poop, Water and Church Bells.

Kolomenskoye is one of tMoscows most beautiful parks. Especially in spring when it is covered in colourful tulips.

The park is only a short metro ride from the center of the city, but once you are here you forget that you are surrounded by high rise buildings and only a stones throw away from Moscows industrial area. As I walked from the metro station at Kolomenskoye I thought I might have the adress wrong as I was surrounded by drab Soviet tower blocks, that looked as if it would go on forever. Before I reached the park I was confronted by a rather gaudy collection of souvenir booths, filled with the usual tourist memorabilia. But like magic this touristy tackiness disappeared as I stepped through the gate into the tranquil, rugged beauty of the park.

It was a beautiful sunny day but as it was during the week, the park did not feel crowded and there there werent that many people walking around taking photographs. The park is filled with beautiful wooded buildings, the above church being one of the many dotted along the river.  Parts of this park date as far back as the 15th-17th centuries but a lot has only rescently been restored. 

Moscow’s Kolomenskoye Park
One of the gates that lead to the churches in the park
Tulips is spring to me!!!

It was the start of spring the park was covered in colourful tulips and flowers, absolutely stunning. It amazed me that throughout Moscow all the flower beds were filled with brightly coloured tulipsand daffodils. 

Unfortuanetly with Spring comes the pigeons who take the opportunity to take revenge on unsuspecting people. As I bent down to take the picture on the left here one of these pigeons took aim and fired. He actually pooped all over my hand and my camera!!!

As I looked up, im sure I heard the pigeon chukkle just before he flew off, knowing there was nothing I could do. My whole camera was covered in pigeon poop. It even got into the buttons, all over the screen and into the zoom!

On the bright side, he did miss my head. They say its good luck if a pigeon poops on you, I do hope this means my pictures will turn out good!

Moscow’s Kolomenskoye Park
This was my last shot of Tulips before the pigeon pooped on my camera!!
The gate way I walked through to get to the Church of the Ascension of the Lord

I walked with my pigeon poop covered camera to a stream close by and tried my best to clean it all off. As I was bending down, cleaning my camera, my bag slipped off my shoulder and fell into the stream. Great. Now I had a filthy camera and a wet bag, dripping water everywhere.  I sat down on a bench, spreading out the contents of my bag trying to dry it in the sun.

I hoped that this was the end of my mishaps for the day and after drying most of my bags contents and cleaning my camera I felt I definitely deserved an ice cold ice-cream!

I sat down in the cherry orchard with my ice-cream, enjoying the peace and quiet around me and trying to get myself back into a good mood.

Moscow’s Kolomenskoye Park
Church of the Ascension of the Lord

 The Church of the Ascension of the Lord, is right next to the Moscow River and definitely one of the parks more striking buildings.

Moscow’s Kolomenskoye Park
The church is right next to the Moscow River
The church bells started ringing while I was standing next to it

This church was constructed in 1529-1532 to commemorate the birth of Ivan the Terrible. The mystique and stark beauty of this church is only enhanced by its contrast with the modern cityscape that spreads in the distance.

It was while standing here that it felt like my luck for the day had just turned. As I stood admiring this church the church bells started ringing. It was amazing to listen to the church bells as I gazed out over the Moscow River and the city spread out in the distance.

Moscow’s Kolomenskoye Park
Moscow’s Kolomenskoye Park
Moscow’s Kolomenskoye Park
Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan
I just love the blue and gold onion domes of this church

Personally I think that the most beautiful church in this park is the pretty Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan – with its bright azure domes and gold stars. This beautiful church, built in 1644, is a familiar image of Russian religion. Especially the onion shaped domes that can be found decorating churches through out Russia.

Unfortunately, for some eason I could not enter the church, so will have to come back to explore the inside another time.

Moscow’s Kolomenskoye Park
This church was definitely a highlight of the park

Exploring the interior of Hagia Sophia, Turkeys’ Church-turned-Mosque

Hagia Sophia, Turkeys' Church-turned-Mosque
Hagia Sophia, Turkeys’ Church-turned-Mosque

If you ever get to visit Istanbul you have to make a point of exploring Hagia Sofia, the church-turned-mosque. Not only is it unique in this aspect it is also one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture in Turkey. It is one of those places you will have to visit more than once as it is so overwhelming that you cant take everything in during your first visit.

Hagia Sophia, Turkeys' Church-turned-Mosque
Entering Hagia Sophia for the first time!

Although scaffolding cluttered a part of the interior the thrill of  experiencing the extraordinary spaciousness of this famous church-turned-mosque-turned museum is hard to overstate. As I walked in I was greeted by the marble pillars and huge decorated domes.

Hagia Sophia, Turkeys' Church-turned-Mosque
Part of the central dome that was without scaffolding

The central dome (which was unfortunately filled with scaffolding) has a diameter of 31 m, which is just slightly smaller than that of the Pantheon in Rome. The dome looks like it is floating upon four great arches which are decorated with seraphim or six-winged angels and other decorative mosaics. 

Interior view of the Hagia Sophia, showing Islamic elements on the top of the main dome.
Interior view of the Hagia Sophia, showing Islamic elements on the top of the main dome.

I read that Hagia Sophia is famous for the light that reflects everywhere in the interior of the nave, as its is very bright inside without the need for electric lights. This effect was achieved by inserting forty windows around the base of the original structure.

Most of the interior surfaces are covered with marble, even the floor that you walk on. It is a lovely contrast against the walls which are green and yellow with gold mosaics. Huge parts of Hagia Sophia is decorated in a purely decorative geometric pattern mosaics.

The huge Islamic calligraphic roundels suspended from the main dome also make for a fascinating religious contrast with the uncovered Christian mosaics on the upper part of Hagia Sophia. These gigantic circular-framed disks or medallions are inscribed with the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed: Hassan and Hussain.

A long ramp from the northern part leads up to the upper gallery.
A long ramp from the northern part leads up to the upper gallery.

As I walked through Hagia Sophia I could see that most of the sights date from the Islamic period. A beautiful marble structure in the apse is the mihrab, a niche found in all mosques that indicates the direction of Mecca

Looking up from this area there is a splendid apse mosaic depicting the Virgin and Child.
Looking up from this area there is a splendid apse mosaic depicting the Virgin and Child.
The mihrab located in the apse where the altar used to stand, pointing towards Mecca
The mihrab located in the apse where the altar used to stand, pointing towards Mecca

I just love these beautiful pendant chandeliers that fill the huge interior. Although they are hardly needed for light during the day as light seeps through the countless windows.

Hagia Sophia, Turkeys' Church-turned-Mosque
The whole place is filled with beautiful chandeliers

The gallery of this magnificent place provides a commanding view of the nave from all sides. It definitely gives the best vantage point from which to view and experience the vastness of this church-mosque.

The Byzantine mosaics are being gradually uncovered, but only those on the higher gallery levels, which can be accessed by stairways. This means that Muslims do not have to confront much Christian imagery in the main chamber of the building, which was a mosque for nearly 500 years and retains all the equipment of a mosque. Unfortunately this part of the gallery was closed due to restoration that day.

Because of its long history as both a church and a mosque, a particular challenge arises in the restoration process. Christian iconographic mosaics can be uncovered, but often at the expense of important and historic Islamic art. Restorers have attempted to maintain a balance between both Christian and Islamic cultures. In particular, much controversy rests upon whether the Islamic calligraphy on the dome of the cathedral should be removed, in order to permit the underlying mosaic of Christ as Master of the World, to be exhibited (assuming the mosaic still exists).

Wordless Wednesday: Sandringham’s little church

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday.

Moscow’s fabulous Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Me an Riena in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

I walked along the river from the Kremlin and was greeted by one of the most imposing and controversial buildings in Russia, the resurrected Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

 

The Cathedral close to sun set

It was originally commissioned after the defeat of Napoleon and construction began in 1839.

Unfortunately it was singled out by the Soviet government for destruction and, in 1931, blown to pieces to make way for a proposed Palace of Soviets, one of the most influential pieces of architecture never to be built.

The project was abandoned, and the site turned over to become an open-air swimming pool, the largest in the world, which was kept at a temperature of 27°C all year round. The result was a thick covering of fog that shrouded a number of gruesome deaths (and murders) among the swimmers.

After the fall of the Soviet Union they decided to resurrect the cathedral in a $360-million reconstruction project.

The entrance to the Cathedral has magnificent doors with bronze angels above it

I had to walk through metal detectors to get inside and they search your bag through as well. Luckily it was cold outside so I already had a hat on as woman have to cover their heads out of respect and you are not allowed in if you are wearing shorts or very short skirts.

The Cathedral from the river

I was still very excited as I walked around inside this magnificent cathedral. It is just breathtakingly beautiful inside and the church choir was standing on the upper level singing and setting the peaceful atmosphere.

There is a set of winding stairs that took me down to the bottom level. Even down here I could still hear the singing of the choir through the metal grating placed everywhere. I sat down and listened for a while before I lit a candle and went into the cathedral museum and icon shop that they have here. There was a small sign saying that all icons and artifacts bought in this little shop have been blessed by the priest. The museum changes its exhibition from time to time, this time it was displaying photos of the destruction and reconstruction of the cathedral.

What a beautiful church to explore. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity. 

Walking the Old City Walls of Chester and searching for the Graves of Witches

Chester
Im on the City wall of Chester

Chester, is a city in Cheshire, England, close to the border with Wales and one of the places I explored with my friend Yvonne while visiting her in Anglesey, Wales.

Autumn mornings are quite chilly and we were quite glad that we remembered to take gloves and warm scarves with us although the wall walk did warm us up. Chester city walls form an almost complete circuit of the city as it was in the medieval era, and measure almost 3.2 km in circumference. The walls comprise the most complete Roman and medieval defensive town wall system in Britain.

We started our circular city wall walk at Kaleyards Gate
We started our circular city wall walk at Kaleyards Gate
Chester City Wall
Chester City Wall

We started our circular city wall walk at Kaleyards Gate. In the 13th century the monks of St Werburgh’s Abbey had developed a vegetable garden (known as the kaleyard) outside the city walls. Access to it was by a devious walk through Eastgate and they wanted to have an easier route. They petitioned Edward I in 1275 to allow them to cut a gate through the wall to provide direct access to the garden. This he allowed under certain conditions, one of which was that it must be locked at nightfall.

The only other city where I have ever been able to walk around the centre all along the walls was York, which was alsoe an amazing place to explore. I think the walls of Chester are beautifully preserved and a lovely way to see the city.

newgate an arch bridge
Yvonne on top of Newgate arch bridge
newgate an arch bridge
Newgate arch bridge

Standing on newgate an arch bridge carrying the walkway of the city walls over Pepper Street. The bridge was built in 1938 to relieve traffic congestion in the city, especially at Chester Cross.

The bridge is constructed in red sandstone. On each side of the bridge is a tower containing mock loops (unglazed slit windows) and surmounted by hipped roofs. Flights of steps on each side lead up to the towers and to the walkway across the top of the bridge.

Morgan's Mount on the north section of the walls
Morgan’s Mount on the north section of the walls

Between 1120 AD and 1350 AD the circuit of walls was completed. Chester’s Norman earls repaired and restored the existing walls and built the southern and eastern sides facing the river. In the Middle Ages, tall projecting towers and impressive gateways were added.

 Barnaby's Tower on the east section of the walls
Barnaby’s Tower on the east section of the walls

In the 18th century the walls became a fashionable promenade. Once the walls had outlived their military usefulness, they were converted to a walkway around the city. The gateways were replaced by elegant arches. Sadly many of the towers were pulled down or altered.

Roman gardens
The Roman gardens
Roman gardens
Roman gardens

We left the wall to explore the Roman gardens situated next to it. These RomanGardens date from the 1950’s when a public park was created to display a collection of finely carved building fragments from the Roman legionary fortress of Deva. They include pieces from some of the most important military buildings, including the main baths and the legionary headquarters.

The City Wall next to the garden is a medieval extension to the Roman defences. Most of the Roman building fragments now housed in the Gardens were found at the end of the nineteenth century during excavations in Chester.

the steepest cobble lane ever
Struggling up the steepest cobble lane ever
St Mary's Church
St Mary’s Church

At the top of a narrow winding lane which leads up from the River Dee, along what is probably the steepest cobble lane ever is St Mary’s Church.  

It is said that in 1656 ‘Three witches were hanged at Michaelmas Assizes, and buried in the corner by the Castle Ditch in the churchyard St. Mary’s Church on the Hill. I had a close look at all the graves found in the small cemetery but unfortunately could find any belonging to the three witches.

St Mary's Church
St Mary’s Church
St Mary's Church
The small graveyard of St Mary’s Church

The Old City of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an amazing city filled with great people and extraordinary places to see. You can pick any street to wonder down and you will be surrounded by the most amazing architecture ever. Millions and millions of feet have walked across these same cobbled streets. Some in search of adventure and others on a pilgrimage through this historical city.

Early in the mornings the streets are quite deserted and you get to feel quite alone as you wonder through the city.  These are photos of some of the alleyways and lanes that I wondered through on my way from New Gate down to Zion’s Gate on the other sde of the Old city. After exciting through Zion’s Gate you nearly walk into  David’s Tomb and the room of the Last Supper.

Entrance to King David's Tomb
Entrance to King David’s Tomb

King David’s Tomb is a site traditionally viewed as the burial place of David the King of Israel. It is located in a ground floor corner of the remains of the former Hagia Zion, a Byzantine church.

Inside he Last Supper Room
Inside he Last Supper Room

The Last Supper Room is arectangular room with gothic style pillars and a vaulted ceiling. This is said to be the room where Jesus and his deciples had their last supper together although it looks more like a small chapel to me.

I ended up in the magnificent Domica Cathedral which is located on Mount Zion, southwest of the Old City and it immortalizes the deep sleep of Mary, mother of Jesus. “Dormitio” in Latin means “to sleep”.

This Cathedral commemorates the memory of Virgin Mary, in the traditional site of her death (the name means “Eternal sleep”).

Heading towards the Domica Cathedral
Heading towards the Domica Cathedral
Walls of the Domica Cathedral
Walls of the Domica Cathedral
Domica Cathedral
Domica Cathedral

The church was first built in the fourth century and called “Hagia Zion” (Holy Zion) but since then it has undergone many periods of destruction and renovation by the various rulers of Jerusalem. The church as it stands today was built in the neo-Romanesque style of the Middle Ages and was inaugurated in 1910.

It is maintained by the German Benedictine Order and is decorated in the style of many churches in the Christian world, with mosaics showing figures from the Old and New Testaments and paintings of a variety of saints.

The beauty and grand design of the church is very impressive as I approached it from the alley that leads from the Zion gate.

Domica Cathedral
Domica Cathedral
Up close to the Domica Cathedral
Up close to the Domica Cathedral
 Entering the Domica Cathedral
Entering the Domica Cathedral
The Domica Cathedral
The Domica Cathedral

Once inside my eyes were drawn to the painted ceiling, decorated walls and even the floor. The floor is decorated with the symbols of the Zodiac, names of Prophets, and a verse from Proverbs (8, 23-25) written on its circumference.

Inside the Domica Cathedral
Inside the Domica Cathedral

Inside the church are two spiral staircases that lead down to the crypt. The crypt is a round pillared room, which is located in a level under the church. In the center of the crypt, surrounded by six pillars, is a sculpture of Mary’s deathbed, made of ivory and cherry wood.  Visitors light up candles before the sculpture. While I was down there a priest conducted a service, it was beautiful to sit and listen to.

On the ceiling of the crypt above Mary are Jesus (in the center) surrounded by famous Biblical women figures: Eve, Esther, Ruth, Yael, Judith and Mary sister of Moses, they are here to honor Mary.

I bought myself a beautiful mother of pearl rosary here as it will have special memories attached with my visit to this extraordinary church.

The Bell Tower of the Domica Cathedral
The Bell Tower of the Domica Cathedral

The Bell tower of this church is crowned with a sign of the cock, similar to the Gallicantu church. The Biblical text (Mark 14: 26-72) describes the story of Peters’ triple denial of Christ and the cock crowing twice, which happened on Mount Zion.

  The story is as follows: Jesus was sitting with his disciples before his arrest, and doubted their loyalty.  Peter declared that he will not be among them, but Jesus predicted that within that night, even before the 2nd crow of the cock, Peter will deny him 3 times. This is exactly what has happened, as Peter found out himself.

This beautiful gate is just opposite the Domica Cathedral
This beautiful gate is just opposite the Domica Cathedral

Parades, Cathedrals and “Coffee with Legs” in Santiago

Navy Day parade!
Navy Day parade!
Navy Day parade!
Navy Day parade!

Public holidays are synonymous with parades in most countries. The 21st of May was a public holiday in Chile, Navy Day to Commemorates the Battle of Iquique.

The Battle of Iquique was a confrontation that occurred on May 21, 1879, during the naval stage of the War of the Pacific, a conflict between Chile and Peru and Bolivia. The battle took place off the then-Peruvian port of Iquique. The Peruvian ironclad ship named Huáscar sank the Esmeralda, a Chilean wooden corvette after four hours of combat.

A lieutenant named Ignacio Serrano boarded the Huáscar on his horse and with eleven men from the Esmeralda but unfortunately Serrano was the only survivor and had received several shot wounds in the groin. This is such a weird battle to commemorate, especially since they actually lost the battle. 

Navy Day parade!
Navy Day parade!

In Park Forestal not very far from Plaza de Armas there was a military and Navy parade to commemorate this famous battle.  We stood around for a while and listened to the band play but left as soon as all the speeches started. It was quite crowded and difficult to worm my way to the front to take photos. I tried taking photos with my arms stretched over the crowd but this proved to be more difficult than expected, most obvious reason probable being because I’m quite short and cant reach that high.

Plaza de armas was filled with people and entertainers but what caught my attention were the really awful looking fake horses. They were really strange looking and stood all over the plaza. I figured that they were props for  photos, although I didn’t actually see anybody sit on one of these little horses for a photo. I wouldn’t want a photo with one of these fake horses, they look a bit creepy to me.

The outside area of "Coffee with legs"
The outside area of “Coffee with legs”

The streets Paseo Ahumada and Huerfanos were pedestrianized in 1077 by closing 12 blocks off to motor vehicles. These two walkways are flanked by numerous shops, restaurants and commercial businesses. It has a very lively ambiance with people walking to and fro all day.

It is here that I found a “coffee with legs” café. Coffee with legs, or Café con piernas in Spanish, really refers to coffee shops in Chile where the waitresses wear short skirts to serve customers their coffee.  There are no tables here, instead people sip coffee standing around the counters surrounding the Italian-style coffee makers and old-fashioned soda fountains. The servers are all wearing very, very short dresses to show off their legs and I am sure all the men are just waiting and hoping for one of them to pick something up from the floor. The high walls are actually covered completely in mirrors, so that everybody can see the leggy waitresses no matter which side of the coffee shop they are facing. This is the first time during my travels that I have ever come across something like this. It was quite interesting and definitely not what I have come to expect from a very conservative Chile.

My first glimpse of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament
My first glimpse of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament

Plaza Bulnes a tree lined walkway down the city center
Plaza Bulnes a tree lined walkway down the city center

My Navy day stroll took me through Plaza Bulnes a tree lined walkway down the city center, all the way to the beautiful Basilica de los Sacramentinos. Better known as the Church of the Blessed Sacrament which was built between 1912 and 1931. For a church that took nearly 20 years to be built I expect that the inside should be quite spectacular. 

The beautiful Church of the Blessed Sacrament
The beautiful Church of the Blessed Sacrament

Barbed wire surround the church
Barbed wire surround the church

I would have loved to explore this striking Cathedral but unfortunately it was locked on this public holiday. I love the  Byzantine style of this church although the fact that it is fenced in with barbed wire was a bit disconcerting.  Another disturbing thing for me was that there was actually graffiti on the church and the church steps. Who would graffiti on such a beautiful church?

Church of the Blessed Sacrament
Church of the Blessed Sacrament

Exploring the Beautiful old Churches of Santiago

Basilica de la Merced
The beautiful Basilica de la Merced
The main entrance to the Cathedral
The main entrance to the Cathedral

The city of Santiago has a couple of very old churches that are absolutely lovely to explore. Walking down Merced Street I stopped at the Basilica of Mercy a Catholic church located just before I reached Plaza de Armas. This Basilica was built in 1566 and established by the Order of the Blessed Mary of Mercy, who arrived with the first expedition to Chile.

During its early years it was one of the most important churches at the time, so a lot of wealthy families chose to be buried in it. The tombs of Rodrigo de Quiroga and his wife Ines Suarez  the first Spanish woman in Chile is among these.

The two towers were only added later
The two towers were only added later
Entering the Basilica of Mercy
Entering the Basilica of Mercy

In 1859 the first tower was built and in 1885 and second, the lower part is built with brick and the upper in timber. I love that the exterior of the Cathedral is painted a bright red and the inside a soft yellow.

I found out that most Cathedrals lock their doors after 3pm on weekdays so made sure that I started my church exploration early that Friday. The Cathedral has a little hidden side entrance through which I entered it. The Baroque interior features a hand carved pulpit and a Virgin la Merced from 1548. This Virgin is silver with blue drapes behind it and lit up so was definitely one of the first things I noticed when entering the Cathedral.

The nave has a vaulted ceiling with no natural light and is adorned with some beautiful chandeliers. Although they weren’t all lit up there were bright lights all along the side of the Cathedral. This put the yellow Cathedral in a very soft and peaceful light.

I love browsing through all the artifacts sold at churches
I love browsing through all the artifacts sold at churches
You can even buy some flowers to lay down in the small chapel inside the Cathedral
You can even buy some flowers to lay down in the small chapel inside the Cathedral

Exiting the Cathedral by the main doors I was greeted by a couple of religious artifact sellers. They are set up on the steps of the Cathedral and sell anything from votive candles to rosary beads.

Plaza de Armas which is the heart and soul of Santiago de Chile
Plaza de Armas which is the heart and soul of Santiago de Chile

Continuing down the street and onto Plaza de Armas which is the heart and soul of Santiago de Chile. It is the centerpiece of the initial layout of Santiago, which has a square grid pattern. The Cathedral contrasts with the modern high-rise buildings right next to it in a very special harmony.

The Northern side of Plaza de Armas
The Northern side of Plaza de Armas

The post office and Museum at the Plaza
The Central Post office and Museum at the Plaza

Surrounding the square are some historical buildings including the Central Post Office Building. This building was initially the residence of the city’s founding father, Pedro de Valdivia. In 1908 they decided to beautify the building they renovated the façade in Renaissance style and added a third floor and a glass cupola. . It’s worth popping in for a look at the beautiful lobby with its checkered floor.

Today the Central post office has a small postal museum to memorialize the history of Correos de Chille. If you like old technology or antique machines there are some nice examples you shouldn’t miss.

The interior of the Post Office is quire beautiful
The interior of the Post Office is quire beautiful
Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
The striking Metropolitan Cathedral sits on the western corner of Plaza de Armas
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
The Bell tower of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago is located on the corner opposite the Central post office and has been a monument since 1951. It is one of the historical sites of Santiago I would definitely recommend for a visit.  This Cathedral was inaugurated in 1775 and is actually the 5th church built on this site since previous structures were destroyed in earthquakes.

Entering through the very imposing, hand carved cedar doors I left the hustle and bustle of the plaza behind and entered the quiet and peaceful interior. I love that people naturally fall silent as soon as they enter churches or Cathedrals. 

This Cathedral has beautiful hand carved cedar doors at the entrance
This Cathedral has beautiful hand carved cedar doors at the entrance
I sat down admiring the stunning painted ceiling of this Cathedral
I sat down admiring the stunning painted ceiling of this Cathedral

I found the patterned floor quite lovely
I found the patterned floor quite lovely

Admission is free and it is well worth going inside to take a look at the lavishly decorated nave and altar. It has a beautiful ornate baroque interior, great frescoes and paintings and is full of decorations all over. The central nave with its painted ceiling and rows of hand carved pews was a stunning sight indeed.

The Cathedral has a wonderful mixture of marble, lapis lazuli and bronze with beautiful chandeliers providing soft lighting.

To the left of the main entrance I stepped into the Cathedral’s Capilla del Centesimo Sacramento (the Hundredth Sacrament Chapel). It is a small side chapel covered in beautiful silver work crafted by Jesuits.

Cathedral’s Capilla del Centesimo Sacramento
Cathedral’s Capilla del Centesimo Sacramento
Iglesia de Santo Domingo,
Iglesia de Santo Domingo,

Not having got my fill of Cathedrals for this lovely peaceful day my next stop was the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, the Santo Domingo Church. It lies in the street just behind the Plaza de Armas.  It is a Dominican church built in ashlar masonry. The present day church is the 4th one built on this site and constructed in 1747. The Bavarian Baroque bell towers are constructed of clay brick masonry covered with stucco.

 Today, worshippers pray to the Virgin of Pompeii, whose illuminated statue occupies the central altar.

The church had a couple of religious artifact sellers at the entrance but was quite deserted and peaceful once inside. I enjoy the quiet that churches offer, they are definitely the best places to retreat to when you are in need of a break or need to think some things through.

Sitting down in the columned nave of this church to rest my tired feet was definitely the perfect way to end a day of church exploring.

Locked Cathedrals and huge shopping centers in Santiago

Strolling down Providencia street and entering the more "modern" part of the city
Strolling down Providencia street and entering the more “modern” part of the city

Winter is fast approaching Santiago and making its presence felt with chilly and mostly cloudy days. Everywhere people wrapped up in scarves and coats are enjoying the last autumn days by strolling along the tree lined streets of Santiago. Strolling down Providencia street filled with little café’s and restaurants the contrast between old and new architecture becomes quite striking.

Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
The locked Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Here Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel sits on the corner of a busy intersection surrounded by modern buildings. Maybe because there are high-rises surrounding this cathedral it stands out and is hard to miss.

Here you can see the "modern" looming over the "old"
Here you can see the “modern” looming over the “old”

This Cathedral is the Episcopal seat of the Military Bishopric of Chile but open to the community. I have seen the inside on pictures and really wanted to see it for myself. Walking around the Cathedral I tried all the doors and found them all locked. I found it quite weird that a Cathedral in the city center would be locked this early in the afternoon.

I didn’t have any better luck with the next church of St Raymond Parish which I found down a small street just pass the Cathedral.

Inside the huge shopping mall it is clearly marked what is sold on which floor.
Inside the huge shopping mall it is clearly marked what is sold on which floor.

Walking towards the metro I came across the Costanera Center, the largest mall in South America.  It is only steps away from the Tobalaba metro station and at the foot of the highest building in the country. It has six floors with two hypermarkets and more than 100 shops, a gym in the six floor, a cinema, and the first Hard Rock Cafe in the country. The best part is that each floor has a separate theme and clearly signposted with what you can expect to find on that floor. So I didn’t need to spend hours running around trying to find the items I needed. 

Santiago, deserted and closed on Labour Day and eating weird burgers

Basilica de la Merced
Basilica de la Merced

I arrived in Santiago, Chile 2 days before the Labour Day holiday. I haven’t had a chance to explore the city before then and what I found scared me a bit. As I walked through the deserted streets it felt like I was walking through a ghost town! All the shops were closed and there were nearly no people out on the streets. The first thought that popped into my head was, “Where the hell did I just move to?!?”

There wasn’t even a small café open where I could sit down for a morning coffee.

I really wanted to visit the Basilica de la Merced, but unfortunately it was closed on this public holiday.

This church was founded by the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy and constructed in 1795. It is a Chilean National Monument. It is Neo-Renaissance in architecture and I heard it has a lovely little museum with religious objects and art, including a collection of pieces from Easter Island.

An empty Plaza de Armas
An empty Plaza de Armas
Love knowing that I am standing in the heart of Santiago!!
Love knowing that I am standing in the heart of Santiago!!

Plaza de Armas which is the heart and soul of Santiago
Plaza de Armas which is the heart and soul of Santiago

I thought that there would at least be some activity on the Plaza de Armas which is the heart and soul of Santiago.  It is the centerpiece of the initial layout of Santiago, which has a square grid pattern. But to my surprise there were only a couple of people around, although it was nearly 11am. At least it looked like there were a bit more people were appearing on the streets now that the sun was out.

Surrounding the square are some beautiful historical buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, Parroquia El Sagrario. La Parroquia El Sagrario is a beautiful Catholic church that was declared a national monument as it is one of the oldest historical and architectural landmarks Santiago. Personally I think it is one of the most beautiful buildings surrounding this plaza. 

Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago

The Former National Congress Building is the former home of the Chilean Congress
The Former National Congress Building is the former home of the Chilean Congress

The Former National Congress Building is the former home of the Chilean Congress. Congress met in this building in central Santiago until Salvador Allende‘s socialist government was overthrown by Augusto Pinochet‘s military coup d’état on September 11, 1973.

During the Pinochet dictatorship, Congress was moved to new premises in Valparaíso. The old building was declared a national monument in 1976 and between 1990 and 2006 housed the ministry of foreign affairs. The Senate moved its offices in Santiago to this building in December 2000. On January 26, 2006 the Chamber of Deputies recovered its old offices.

You can not miss this building while walking down the street
You can not miss this building while walking down the street

For lunch I sat down at a small café and tried out my 5 Spanish words that I have learnt up till now. After struggling to order coffee with my small Spanish vocabulary the waiter was very happy to offer me an English menu. I ordered a hamburger with tomato and greens, thinking again that I was being quite safe with my order. When my burger came I was quite surprised to find out that the greens are not lettuce as I thought but actually green beans. Yes, they put green beans and tomato on my chicken burger and covered this with ketchup and mustard. This was definitely the weirdest burger that I have ever eaten!!

The guards in front of the Palacio de La Moneda
The guards in front of the Palacio de La Moneda
The wide expanse of the Palace!
The wide expanse of the Palace!

This Palace actually occupies a whole block!! its huge!
This Palace actually occupies a whole block!! its huge!

Palacio de La Moneda, or simply La Moneda, is the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile. It occupies an entire block in downtown Santiago, in the area known as Civic District. The building’s wide, horizontal shape and rectangular composition conveys strength and stability, according to the palace’s listing on the UNESCO website. Here I got some beautiful photos of the wide empty streets and of the guards on their horses in front of the palace.

It is really surprising that the city shuts down on a public holiday, hopefully it will be more livelier this weekend when I go exploring again.

A last glance at the empty city before I head back to the hostel!!
A last glance at the empty city before I head back to the hostel!!
Not a car in sight on the streets!!
Not a car in sight on the streets!!
I never thought a city could be "closed" for a public holiday!
I never thought a city could be “closed” for a public holiday!

Road trip in the Gholan Heights of Israel part 1

In Nazareth I stayed at Fauzi Azar Inn and there I met Pia a German girl looking for someone to rent a car with and drive up north in to the Golan Heights. I haven’t actually made any solid plans on what I wanted to do yet and a road trip in Israel sounded like loads of fun. We also met a polish guy at reception who wanted to join us so we decided it was a go!

It was Saturday 31 December, Day 8 of my Israel adventure

I woke up early and as I got out of the shower it was raining quite hard outside. I met up with the 2 people I met last nights and thought that maybe a road trip in the rain would be a bad idea. Luckily it stopped raining just before 9am and we headed out to the car rental place.

Pia and the Polish dude I road tripped with
Pia and the Polish dude I road tripped with

Pia was the designated driver and I sat in the front with the job as map reader in our little yellow rented car.

Getting to see the countryside covered in mist while driving along the windy roads was absolutely amazing. It was chilly at 16 degrees and very foggy so you couldn’t see too far ahead, it actually gave the area an eerie fairy-tale feeling, that you were entering the unknown and don’t know what’s waiting around the next bend.

Sitting on the shore of the sea of Galilee
Sitting on the shore of the sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee with a layer of mist covering it
The Sea of Galilee with a layer of mist covering it
It was amazing walking next to the Sea of Galilee with all those boble stories in the back of my mind
It was amazing walking next to the Sea of Galilee with all those boble stories in the back of my mind

 We headed towards Tiberias and from there up north all along the coast of the sea of Galilee to Nimrod Castle. Back down again and around the other side of the sea of Galilee.

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
This pond was right at the entrance!
This pond was right at the entrance!
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.

Our first stop was on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee in Tabgha at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.  A sweet little church, although its modern it stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches, right on the shore of the sea of Galilee. Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic of the loaves and fishes as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was laid.

Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic
Inside it preserves a splendid early Christian mosaic
 Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
The entrance of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
The entrance of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
Beautiful stain-glass window of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
Beautiful stain-glass window of the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter was our next stop. This church is right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  According to tradition this is the spot where Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the Apostles, and told Peter to “Feed my sheep” after the miraculous catch, the third time he appeared to them after his resurrection. 

The Church of the Beatitudes
The Church of the Beatitudes

The Church of the Beatitudes, a Roman Catholic Church was our last stop. It is located on a small hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and actually overlooks the small loaves and fishes church.  It was built on the traditional site of Jesus’ delivery of the Sermon on the Mountpilgrims are known to have commemorated this site since at least the 4th century.

Looking out over the Sea of Galilee from the Church of the Beatitudes
Looking out over the Sea of Galilee from the Church of the Beatitudes

Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside but walked around the church an got to look out over the valley and the sea down below.

Last look at the mist covered Sea of Galilee before we head North
Last look at the mist covered Sea of Galilee before we head North

The polish guy that was traveling with us lives in Ireland at the moment. (Jaric) He has lived there for 9 years but his English is really not that good and he doesn’t always understand our questions or give us straight answers. Whenever someone asks him where he’s from he says Ireland, you can see how confused the people seem as he doesn’t look or sound Irish at all. I could never remember his name so ended up calling him Polish Dude the whole time.

A glimpse of Nazareth during my Israel adventure

It was 29 December, day 6 of my Israel adventure as I headed towards a rainy 15 degree Nazareth.

I had a lazy morning before heading to the central bus station to catch a bus from Jerusalem to Nazareth. I couldn’t believe how much security I had to go through just to get inside the bus station. Think my backpack and I were searched twice!!

Walked through small alleyways to get to the hostel
Walked through small alleyways to get to the hostel

I got to Fauzi Azar Inn late that afternoon. The hostel had coffee, tea and fresh cake out the whole time, and it was for free!! The staff was really friendly and it was in a great location and stunning old building!

Entering Fauzi Azar Inn
Entering Fauzi Azar Inn
My view when sitting outside drinking a coffee at Fauzi Azar Inn
My view when sitting outside drinking a coffee at Fauzi Azar Inn

I checked in and went for a walk through the market to the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Basilica of the Annunciation
Basilica of the Annunciation
One of the doors of the Basilica of the Annunciation
One of the doors of the Basilica of the Annunciation

The Basilica of the Annunciation
The Basilica of the Annunciation

The church was established at the site where, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the Annunciation took place. Greek Orthodox tradition holds that this event occurred while Mary was drawing water from a local spring in Nazareth.  Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary.

Looking out over the city while standing inside the church complex
Looking out over the city while standing inside the church complex
In front of the Basilica of the Annunciation
In front of the Basilica of the Annunciation
The Bell tower
The Bell tower

It was a beautiful church!

Entrance of the church
Entrance of the church
Inside Basilica of the Annunciation
Inside Basilica of the Annunciation
Some stunning windows!
Some stunning windows!
The lights inside the Church
The lights inside the Church
Inside the church
Inside the church

I absolutely loved the cobble stone streets, although there were loads of steps as the whole place is built on hills. I sat in a small café opposite the Basilica and had a red wine and falafel for dinner while listening to the church bells ring.

Sunset in Nazareth
Sunset in Nazareth

Oskar Schindler, Mary Magdalene and hot Sahlab in Jerusalem

The entrance to the small graveyard where Oskar Schindler  lies buried
The entrance to the small graveyard where Oskar Schindler lies buried
Tombs inside the small graveyard
Tombs inside the small graveyard

After lunch on Tuesday 27 December, I walked down to a small cemetery just outside the Old City. It was one of the most peaceful cemeteries that I have ever been in, it overlooks a valley and is filled with shady trees.  There after walking around a bit I found Oskar Schindler’s Tomb. It was totally covered in stones as the Jews don’t put leave flowers at a grave; they put a small stone on top of it. It was a beautiful graveyard and very peaceful.

The small graveyard overlooking the valley
The small graveyard overlooking the valley
Schindler's grave
Schindler’s grave

Steven Spielberg ionized Oskar Schindler in “Schindler’s List”. After the war, Oskar Schindler moved to Argentina with his wife and tried his hand at farming. Having failed, he returned to Germany on his own and lived out his life alone and in poverty punctuated by annual visits to Israel, where he was treated like royalty.

Schindler's grave
Schindler’s grave
I love the fact that the grave is practically covered in small stones
I love the fact that the grave is practically covered in small stones

I had a lovely Arabic coffee just outside the Church of the Redeemer, which was unfortunately closed for the week so couldn’t go up the bell tower. I walked down Via Delarosa towards Lions Gate. While walking I passed most of the Stations of the Cross, the places where Jesus stopped with his cross on his way to be crucified.

 

I went into the Church of the Flagellation, the first station where he was whipped and also found the place he was locked up. According to tradition the church enshrines the spot where Jesus Christ was flogged by Roman soldiers before his journey down the Via Dolorosa to Calvary.

 

Church of the Flagellation, the first station where he was whipped and also found the place he was locked up.
Church of the Flagellation, the first station where he was whipped and also found the place he was locked up.
Church of the Flagellation prison, the first station where he was  locked up.
Church of the Flagellation prison, the first station where he was locked up.

 

The birth place of the Virgin Mary
The birth place of the Virgin Mary

The next little gem that I stumbled upon was the house of Mary’s parents, where I went in for a look and I descended down a very narrow staircase. The ceiling is very low and you stand bent and cramped inside this small house. Was very interesting to see where and how they lived.

Church of the Flagellation
Church of the Flagellation
Church of the Flagellation while walking to the city gates
Church of the Flagellation while walking to the city gates