The last couple of days have been hectic! I went from Amman to Aqaba through the Dead Sea, Petra (mon amour) and finally I crossed the border with Israel yesterday morning.
Unfortunately I got my passport stamped, even if I asked for a separate stamp… but the woman at the passport control didn’t like my many Egyptian stamps and asked many, many questions. Each time I replied, she reacted with a grimace of disapproval, and I was being nice and smily and all. Then, after an endless series of questions about my Egyptian experiences, she stamped my passport. I wasn’t smiling anymore. I told her “but I asked for a separate stamp!” – she looked at me with a defiant attitude and shook her head. I have to admit I replied with a bitter “thank you!” and walked away. The next thing I knew was that I was in Israel and the taxi driver was saying “Shalom!” and I thought “Shalom my foot!”, but then I started to relax.
So long story short, after waiting 5 hours in the extreme heat of Eilat and another 5 hours bus ride (with wifi, cool!), I finally arrived to Jerusalem!
While still on the bus, at some point I checked my GPS and realized we were crossing the West Bank, all the way east to west. And I thought “What? Really? The West Bank? Is that so easy? Is that it?” – For some reason I thought it wasn’t possible to cross the area without going through endless security checks, but. So that was the first surprise!
When we arrived to Jerusalem from the eastern side, I saw all these ultra-orthodox Jewish people with their typical dresses and I had the clear feeling of being in a different world. No kidding. And I have to say I loved the feeling! It was a very exciting moment, followed by a less exciting long wait for the tram, but an easy ride to my destination: Ha Davidka tram stop, to check in at the uber-cool Abraham Hostel.
Actually there is a story behind this too: when I got off the tram I realized I didn’t know the exact address of the hostel, so I started walking around “feeling lucky” but of course I ended up in the opposite direction. I then asked to some people in the street, and they very kindly looked for the address on the internet and a girl went the extra mile showing me the way to the hostel. On our way there we started talking and she told me she is from Jerusalem, she just quit her job and she wants to travel the world but she’s scared. I told her there’s nothing to worry about, and to go for it! I didn’t even ask for her name, but I wish her all the best and safe travels to any amazing destination she’s been dreaming of!
I had a very nice and long sleep until this morning, when I started my day with a lovely breakfast at the hostel, and then decided to join the (free!) Jerusalem Old City Tour proposed by the hostel’s staff. Why not? I ended up meeting some fellow travelers and having a good time around the Old City. Here are some photos about the day!
On the way back to the hostel, we stopped on a side road of Jaffa Street for some truly delicious falafel.
Another highlight of the day was the “Hebrew lesson for travelers” I got for free at the hostel once back. That was fun!
Well, what can I say, I am liking this place much more than I thought so far, and I am off to a kibbutz tomorrow. Getting into the mood… :)
Great first day in Jerusalem, Giulia! I’m glad you got to take the free Old City tour. I did that once myself. It’s quite educational and an excellent way to experience the Old City for the first time.
The Palestine poster is quite popular in Jerusalem, I see it many places. I don’t think it’s possible that you could have been in the West Bank at all, though. Since Eilat is on the southWestern side of the country and Jerusalem is roughly in the middle, you wouldn’t have had to pass through the West Bank on the east side of the country at all. Plus I think you’re right that you can’t get to the West Bank without going through checkpoints. I never have. I hope you get there during this trip, though – especially Bethlehem and Nablus.
I’m looking forward to your next update!