Saturday, October 20, 2018

Oct 19 - Jerusalem, obligatory

How can one visit Israel without going to Jerusalem ?  Whether you're Jewish, Christian, Muslim or simply interested in history, Jerusalem has it all.  It also has mega street vendors, hordes of tourists, more hopeful reconstructions than you can possibly imagine until you visit, but, but, we who do believe in God know that history happened in Jerusalem.  Whether it's exactly on the Via Dolorosa that the cross was carried ... whether David was ever in David's tomb, no one is really sure.  Destruction and rebuild, over and over, "best guess" provides location and rebuild provides the vehicle.  Why then, since we know that this was all destroyed and rebuilt over and over, do people line up for hours to go inside an ornate box-like tomb standing in the center of a church as if that was actually the place where Jesus' body lay for three days ? 

History did indeed happen here.  The Western Wall isn't actually the wall of the Temple, but it's as close as you can get, since the Temple was actually destroyed.  The Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa are a good remembrance of the crucifixion but we're not sure about the location.  The ornate tomb ?  This was not the tomb where a rock was rolled in front for three days.  My understanding is that this isn't how people were buried in that time. 

All that said, remember the first statement - one cannot visit Israel without visiting Jerusalem.  We did and wouldn't have missed it.

On the way there, the bus stopped at the Elvis Cafe.  Yes, the Elvis Cafe.  Elvis statues, Elvis mementos.  Coffee served in Elvis Mugs and you get to keep the mug.  I tried to to give away the mug and no one wanted it.  It's here at the apartment and will stay here !

It was a full day with lots of very slow walking.  My right foot, the problem one, hurt like hell by the time we got back.  Standing still is the worst thing.

So ... the 60+km ride this a.m., a preamble to the main event, with a dozen riders, was good.  After being off the bike since Oct 4, it felt good to stretch my legs other than by walking.  The fast pace, however, was hard on my left knee.  It gives me trouble if I push too hard.  I rode to the start of this preamble, just a km or two away (and that's the start location of the ride too) and the group left a little after 8:30 and I was back about 3 hours later. The bike paths were crowded with walkers and cyclists, being the Sabbath.  Traffic is noticeably lighter.  Many stores are closed but most restaurants were hopping last night. 

Today, other than the ride, not much planned.  Tomorrow we hit Masada & the Dead Sea.

Onward ! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Oct 17 - and we’re off ... again

Taxi to Cairo airport, flight to Athens, flight Ti Tel Aviv, dinner (maybe) - that's our day. Right now we are on the first flight leg.

Security in Cairo airport was, if anything, more intense than Tel Aviv. You can't even get into the airport via taxi without being stopped and questioned, a little back sheesh for that guard (a cigarette) then all bags scanned going into the terminal, tickets checked just to get in, flight check in, passports checked over and over, forms filled, passports stamp, stamp, stamp, bags scanned again at the gate, etc etc. wow

As I said to Sandy, I'd bet that some of this predates 9/11. The Middle East has always had strife, people willing to die, firmly believing that will earn heaven.

We'd eaten breakfast promptly at opening, 6am. At 6:15 I was at checkout. By 6:30 they sorted out our bill, manually added the breakfast charge ( you are very honest, my mad said ), and we boarded a taxi. Traffic wasn't busy on the way, half hour transit) but with all the security steps we didn't have much time to wait around.

Aegean didn't object to my carry-in magic carpet; that's my story and I'm sticking to it. We each had our backpacks and one other bag ( plus carpet ). Hopefully Aegean will be as accommodating in Athens airport. We should have had them check us right through but I'm not sure if that's possible since the flights aren't actually connecting.

What an adventure !

Open mouths on both sides of me, some guy on one side, Sandy in the other. Both are fast asleep. Across the Suez, over the Mediterranean, skirting land to Greece. Wait ! You're flying right over my destination ! Oh well.

I get a chuckle out of Aegean. Don't pretend that specs aren't tight for flight attendants. The could be twins, all four of them, well quads. Same age, same shape, fine facial features - and sisters to our outbound flight attendants. Octuplets ?

Their service, overall, is good though.

Onward.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Oct 16 - stairway to heaven

I just thought that heaven was further up. Foolish me.

Oct 14/15 - it grows on you

Sandy has decided that she likes Cairo.  It was the food and the pyramids.  It wasn't the wine.  I had two small glasses of the Egyptian wine before dinner that we bought yesterday and didn't want any more of any kind of wine at dinner.  I've been drinking beer.  Stella (not Artois) seems to be the best Egyptian beer and it outshines their wine :).  Finding beer and wine is not easy, however ! except when you're in the Marriott.

The pyramids were great.  We learned a lot.  For one thing, sphinx's are few and far between, perhaps only two of them ?  Pyramids number over 100 and that's only counting the ones that haven't completely been absorbed by the desert.  Oh yes, and that pyramid in the middle of the desert ... not so much.  You have to take pictures from the desert side and block out the huge city encroaching on the opposite side.  Such is progress; such is civilization.

Dusty.  Noisy.  Drab.  However, once you get used to the different culture, the people are great and the food, as I mentioned before, is very good.  Hummus, kabobs, different spices (but not necessarily hot, per se), chicken, beef, lamb ... hard to find pork.  Lots of eggplant, lots of fruit but I haven't been sampling the fruit so much, and other veggies abound.  The breakfast spread here at the Marriott is amazing. 

The tour yesterday included lunch and we went to a place that was obviously frequented by other tour guides with a good buffet of local food and some plain.  I had to chuckle at the obviously uncomfortable tourists eating plain spaghetti.  When in Rome/Cairo/anywhere ... eat as if you were back home ... whereas we revel in the different tastes and smells.  My stomach doesn't always want to put up with it but that could be just as much due to the volume as well as the change, or perhaps it's the beer ?

Chatting with our guide, he made an addition to our route to a rug store where we received an education on hand made rug making.  A fellow was working on a design on a big loom and his fingers were flying ... fascinating.  And ... and ... we're now carrying back a new rug for the living room in Florida ... great, I guess.  The price was right and the one in Florida is permanently stained by Cassie.  Now how will we keep her off the new one ?

Today we'll hit the local market, do some more street wandering, eat at a close-by local restaurant again (not here at the Marriott, although we did eat at their Egyptian restaurant last night), and tomorrow we head back to Tel Aviv.  It's an all day trip via Athens, where we spend several hours in that airport.

Onward.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Oct 14 - Cairo

Yes, if it's Sunday, it must be Cairo.

I'd unsuccessfully made it to Mass on Saturday evening in Athens, wandering around following Google Maps and websites posting Mass times.  After a 1/2 hour wandering down blind alleyways and rerouting a few times, the 7 minute walk was fruitless; a church that wasn't open, historical and closed.  There are many many Greek Orthodox and seemingly many many Roman Catholic, but I came up dry.

Getting to Cairo, however, I found a church that was ... yes ... 7 minutes away and had a 6pm Mass.  Not having much hope, I set out, wandered through some interesting neighborhoods and found the church and Mass.  Great !

Earlier in the day we did some major hiking to the Egyptian Museum and worked our way through countless small to large artifacts, many mummy's and sarcophagi  until my feet hurt.  Actually they were hurting through most of that.

Traffic is bizzare.  Multi lane, fast moving, no traffic lights, close your eyes and cross.  That was the in jest advice from one fellow that ended up guiding us to a late lunch spot. You really have to work your way through the lanes of traffic with cars buzzing you on both sides.  No one stops.  Horns are going constantly.  That alone is quite an experience.

Garbage is everywhere.  Dirt.  I can't say that I'm surprise.

More later ... have to leave and see some pyramids !

Onward !

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Oct 12/14 - Athens

An amazing place. Square miles of shopping - flea market to upscale - and restaurants galore. Walk any direction and you'll find good food, which we did. Order something other than the house wine by the glass, however.

4am this morning and the noise outside, through the walls and windows, made me wonder about traffic to the airport, but it wasn't a problem. The partying through the night reminded me of Tariffa, ES, but was mostly foot traffic.

Aegean almost has us to Cairo, now only 6 hours ahead of our home time zone. Their Airbus A321 is newer than the El Al Boeing 737, but of course the real trick with aircraft is maintenance. Most of our flights in the last few years have been long haul.

Desert all around us - sand and more sand - what will today bring ?

Onward !



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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Oct 12/13 - Athens

It was an easy flight to Athens, albeit with an early start (4:30 departure from the hotel).  We weren't pressed for time at the airport but we did use all of it with the check-in and various levels of security and then grabbing a snack for breakfast.  We would have been tight if we had bags to check !

We got to our Athens hotel shortly after 10am and left our bags and wandered.  Being very close to the flea market, we walked and walked and walked, then and later, downscale & upscale, covering a lot of territory.  Sandy says 7 miles and I can believe that.  We took in one historical site and purchased our 30 Euro multi-site ticket which we then used on the 13th at the Roman Agora and the Acropolis.  We skirted some other historical sites and museums as well, maxxing out all I could take.

We then hit the food market, enthralled by the meat and fish, overwhelmed.  Beside that, olives, veggies, nuts and spices, merchants hawking their wares ... a few city blocks of shuffling along with the multitude until we'd had enough.  We're back in our hotel now for a little quiet and will then head out for lunch.  As usual we are eating and drinking well.  My stomach isn't used to all the lamb & eggplant, the change of spices and sauces, but it's hanging in there.  Food is always a highlight for us; the unusual variety.

The city is large and like one big traffic jammed market.  It's quite an experience. 

We leave early tomorrow; 5am taxi pickup to the airport for our 7:20 am flight to Cairo.

Bulgaria, Japan, China, Israel, Greece and soon Egypt - thinking of the different alphabets this year.
Portuguese (Brazil for me, Portugal for Sandy), Bulgarian, Croatian, Italian, Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Australian (ok, so almost like English), soon Arabic ... a plethora of languages indeed !

We will never have another year like this (nor would I want to !).  When we started the year, I wouldn't have anticipated Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Egypt or Japan, for that matter, or Hong Kong (China).  Hamid was making noise about Brazil, I was going to be riding in Wisconsin during August, not Japan.  Australia was a maybe, Israel was also a maybe.  Hong Kong, Greece and Egypt came out of flight routes.  Croatia on the way to Bulgaria and Bulgaria itself came out of interest sparked by a ride description.  The biggest "mixed bag", if you can call it that, was Japan with the rain and the heat in Tokyo, the location that Sandy didn't like, but we sorted all that out. 

It's all very fascinating.  Where to next ?  Sandy has India, Machu Picchu (Peru) on her list.  We are also intrigued by other Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Romania and we are definitely planning on Germany next summer. 

Onward.