February 18, 2015

Jerusalem, Israel

Sadly, I slept in, yet again, and did not wake until 08:30 – too late to catch a 09:00 bus that would’ve resulted in me being in Jerusalem at noon. So, I did some research and ultimately decided to take it easy this morning and take a 12:15 bus to Alonim, then catch another bus to Jerusalem, and then one last one to the Western Wall (the hostel I was planning on staying at is supposedly right next to the wall), arriving at 15:30. With this plan in mind, I showered, dressed, packed my bags, took it easy, had a beer, talked with the new guy who arrived yesterday to help out at the hostel, and then (at 11:50), I said goodbye, walked down to the bus stop, and waited for the bus to come. The bus arrived at 12:05, I got in (after putting my large bag in the cargo space below), and paid the fare. The bus departed at 12:15 and all looked as though it was going to plan. On the journey to Alonim, I noticed we were going awfully sluggish at times and I began to worry that I’d miss my connecting bus. Sure enough, when we reached Alonim, the bus I needed to catch was in front of us; I quickly got off the bus, but as I was grabbing my bag from below, the connecting bus I needed to take drove off. I then asked an Israeli female soldier at the bus stop if she knew when another one would come; she was kind enough to look up the bus schedule on her cellphone and told me that another bus would leave at 14:06; since it was now 12:50, I decided to walk to the McDonalds nearby and have lunch (I also really needed to take a piss, making me think that missing the bus was a Godsend, otherwise I would’ve had to hold it for two hours more). Lunch turned out to be a “Big America Mega” burger (I don’t want to know how many calories and how much fat is in each one of these behemoths), French fries, and a coke. After that meal, I walked back to the bus stop and waited for about fifty minutes for the bus to come. It finally did at 14:20 (it was late) and I got on; I found a seat next to a considerate American (we are actually a very nice and considerate people) and dozed off for a while. When I woke up from my nap, we were about forty minutes away from Jerusalem and the rest of the drive there I was amazed at how green the landscape was and how many trees there were; the parts I’ve seen of Israel look nothing like the desert settings of Biblical films (heck, even ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ – one of the few films about Jesus Christ that was actually filmed in Israel – had mostly desert settings (if I remember correctly), which means they must’ve filmed only in East/South Israel, near the Dead Sea and the Jordanian and Egyptian borders, where it is actually desert). We then reached the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem (at 16:00) and I walked through a shopping complex to reach Jaffa Road and then I took a bus to the Western Wall. This bus quickly filled up with many people (a number of them were rabbis) and a lot of them were also heading to the Western Wall to pray. It was slow going in Jerusalem traffic and it took a long time to reach the Western Wall; the bus also drove clockwise around the Old City, circling most of it before coming to the southern bus stop by the Wall (I was glad to see the Dome of the Rock, it being such an iconic site). When the bus stopped, I got off with many others and began walking toward the hostel I had planned on staying at. I walked through the old city streets and in no time at all, I found the place where the hostel was supposed to be (correct street, correct numbers), but I couldn’t locate the hostel anywhere. I then walked to a security checkpoint near the Wall and asked a guard if she knew where it was; she then looked up the address on her cellphone and it showed up as being in Japan; I then thanked her and walked away thinking it may be a scam-hostel, not real. So, I implemented “Plan B” (luckily I had a “Plan B”). I then walked through the Old City of Jerusalem and out the New Gate; I then followed the tram tracks on Jaffa Road and after a while of walking, I reached the other hostel I had researched, located in a chic part of the new city with cafes, bars, restaurants, etc. Actually, I think I’m quite lucky for ending up with “Plan B” since it is heated, it is a large place with friendly staff, and it is located in a part of town that doesn’t go to sleep too early (like Nazareth or what I had read about the Old City in Jerusalem) – I guess the two strokes of bad luck I received today (missing the second bus and not finding this hostel in the Old City) turned in to unexpected good fortune (not bad). After checking in to the hostel and unloading my baggage, I booked a tour through the reception desk and I researched some Jordanian tour options. I then sought out food and ended up at a decent place where I had a lemonade and an onion bagel with chicken salad, cheese, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, and sauces stuffed in between its slices. Then I walked to a local market and bought some beer, chips, and a spicy dip to keep me going tonight. Next, I walked back to the hostel, grabbed my laptop, went in to the kitchen/dining area, and started munching away and typing out journal entries. Eventually, rather late, I went to sleep.

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An open journal or an exercise in narcissism.