I dreamt of Jerusalem many times before my feet found their way to its cobbled pavements. The Old City always appeared to be isolated on a hill with golden light shining from the west. The reality was not so romantic but more thrilling because it was full of breathing, moving people, donkeys and livestock.
The Way of the Cross or Via Dolorosa was a mass of pilgrims, priests and vendors. Honeyed stones were worn smooth by years of feet treading their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As with these things which you read about and think upon, ‘being’ there can be quite a surprise. The church was smaller than I expected and the inside darker and more smoky. The old priest in his cubby hole was not so much heavenly minded as commercially minded as he thrust a piece of holy wood into my hands. The church did not feel very sacred to me so I took myself off the next day to the Garden of the Tomb; an alternative to the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Just outside the old walls this place was more pastoral and the huge rock which dominated the scene certainly looked like a skull. The actual tomb looked like a tomb and the quiet in the air was more pleasing to my kiwi nature.
Returning to Old Jerusalem I decided that a cultural walk around the city to visit each individual quarter might give me a better feel for Jerusalem and some perspective on more recent conflicts. It was quite obvious when one culture changed to another. The Christian/Armenian quarters were clean and swept, the Arab quarter a mass of life and colour and the Jewish quarter a fascinating mix of different forms of Judaism. There is nothing to compare to a visit to the Wailing Wall and its an experience not to be missed.
In mores recent times there is an underground passage which is along the original wall of the Temple. We know this is so, as each stone is belvered with the mark of Solomon. To walk beside these stones and imagine he generations which wanted to be just here, is humbling. It still sends a shiver through me when I realise that building there is thousands of years old, even pre-Roman and I can touch it. King David once lived here and King Solomon had a part in constructing that area of the city.
However my most favourite of places has always been the Garden of Gethsemane. The view across the valley to the Old City is stunning. I am not positive if all the traditional biblical sites are the correct ones and in some cases it doesn’t matter. Just being there and thinking the part they played in history is enough.
Mandy has been a tour leader with Tours Direct for over 15 years. She has a wealth of experience and never gets tired of travelling to old and new destinations.