Before the whole story, let me say just that I am consciously not bringing the politics into this post and this is not the space to discuss any of it.
Table of Contents
Best time to visit Jerusalem
This can actually depends very much on whether you like heat or cold more. The altitude of Jerusalem combined with its continental climate ensures rather cold winters and dry hot summers. To make your stay more comfortable in summer, do look for accommodation with proper air conditioning. As for the winter, make sure that the place you are staying in is well-insulated and the heating is included in the price. Although the country is in the south, winter nights can get rather cold, so you will want to stay warm inside.
For me the best months to visit would be either March and April or October to November. The average temperature in Jerusalem during those months would be around 15-19, which is probably the most comfortable temperature I can think of for walking a lot around the city – and in Jerusalem you will really need to walk a low.
Getting to Jerusalem
The flight from Vilnius is a bit over 3 hours (though stated 4, it was faster), which is good – I expected much longer. Mark did his usual stuff: played, eaten, slept, charmed and annoyed us and people around – in no particular order. But 3 hours is an ok time, you can survive it on a plane with a toddler. And so can the people next to you.
When we got to the famous security check at the airport, it proved to be not too scary. The lady looked strict and she asked question in a strict tone:
– What is the purpose of your visit?
– How long are you staying and where?
– Are your friends picking you up at the airport?
– How did the little one take the flight? Was he ok? Did the ears hurt?
– Welcome to Israel.
So that was it, no vagina check up. However, as we found out later, if you happen to have a black beard and not reply to the questions seriously, you are taken in for questioning, and it is a much less of a smooth start.
So, what to do in Jerusalem?
Ben Yehuda street Jerusalem
Ben Yehuda is busy street full of restaurants, coffee, kippa and other shops. And people, except for the evening of Sabbath – then it’s completely deserted.
We were told it has beautiful churches and ceramic shops. But at the time we were there (Saturday evening), it was cold and windy and dark, and we only saw the walls. So please don’t repeat our mistake.
Looked like a very big market. The small streets are within the city walls, they are mostly covered and there are shops of all possible things: clothes, jewellery, souvenirs – and the closer you come to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the more religious souvenirs you can buy, like candles, crosses and icons. It was rather loud and overwhelming, but we did visit the Church and were even more overwhelmed inside by crowds of people. You can call it anything but serene.
But the stairs outside were very smooth and warm from the sun, so this felt in a way stronger than inside the church.
We enjoyed it the most, partly because of the weather and timing, but also because it seemed most spacious and atmospheric. Also it had a great playground, where Mark spent at least a couple of hours in total (we ended up coming there several times). And we were also there when the Sabbath was about to begin, so it was filled with people preparing, bringing the food and extra chairs out and had an atmosphere of anticipation of a really nice evening. Well, maybe because we were also anticipating a nice evening – visiting our friends and their gang (a cat, a dog and two rats) and later going for a dinner with an amazing loud and loving family, who almost adopted Mark, and us together with him.
Just to finish the Quarters
There is also a Muslim quarter, which we didn’t see. The streets were getting narrower, and more stairs were coming, so it was difficult to continue with the stroller, Mark was falling asleep, and there were many loud teenage boys sitting on the stairs. So we decided not to venture in and leave it til the next time.
In Russian the name of the wall can be translated “the wall of crying,” so this is what I was actually expecting. You can have an outlook at the wall from the square (where this picture was actually taken), but as it was Sabbath, you are not allowed to use camera near the actual wall. You are also supposed to go through a check point, similar to the ones in the airport: the scanner for yourself, and a separate one for your bags. Again, as it was Sabbath, the (electric) scanners were switched off, and the guards just looked into the bags.
And last but not least a confession. I am much more a modern city person rather than an ancient city person. To illustrate this, two examples:
– I was meeting a couple of Italian friends in Rome, who took me to see the Colloseum for the first time. They were anticipating my excitement and amazement when I see it, and when I did see it I hard to actually fake some of this excitement. The truth is I didn’t feel much of it, as much as I wanted to.
– We were on a work trip to Oslo with my boss, and had a free couple of hours for sightseeing. When we reached the Opera building, I spent good 40 minutes walking around it, touching it and took at least 100 pictures of it from all possible angles. And then sat down on the terrace, kept staring at it and felt like giggling and crying at the same time (I did nothing of that, but you get the point of a violent love reaction) until my boss really really demanded to continue sightseeing.
Coming back to Jerusalem, I was expecting to enjoy it, but not to love it. But look, it does have something specially designed for me as well!
This beauty has several names (or probably several translation from Hebrew versions): The Chords Bridge or the Bridge of Strings or Jerusalem Light Rail Bridge.
And we crossed it every day twice a day!
All in all
So yes, the city is definitely a mix of ancient, relatively old and very modern. It was also some time ago that I had a wish to come back to a place right after coming home, and started checking the flights back here straight after landing in Vilnius. So stay tuned, at some point more Jerusalem will be coming here. And for now in a couple of days: the food and the zoo.
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