Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year in Review - 2009

As many of you have noticed we don't actually post in real reality our blog remains a few months behind our actual travel schedule.  Hey, it takes time to prep photos and write all that fascinating dialogue!  Well, we're working on getting it caught up before departing the US in 2010 and we expect to be caught up fully in about a month (way to go for us...just in time to get behind again :-))!  We would like to interrupt our regularly scheduled posts with a year in review for 2009:

In 2009, "Our Momentary Lapse of Reason" continued throughout the year and saw us exploring about 30 countries spread out over  6 continents.

We began the year in South America.  Highlights of our neighbors to the south included soaking in a mud volcano in Colombia, visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, sipping wine and eating steak in Argentina, cruising through the fjords of Chile, being entertained by boobies (blue-footed birds that is...get you mind ou of the gutter), marine iguanas and waved albatross birds in the Galapagos Islands.  We swam with sea lions, snorkeled with penguins and dived with hammerhead sharks.  In Antarctica we passed by glaciers and icebergs, spotted a few whale tails and spouts while racing penguins through the icy seas.  

After South America, we caught a ship to Europe.  In Europe, we enjoyed the markets and wine of France, the churches of Malta (probably the second most beautiful after St. Peters in Rome), the incredibly beautiful countryside of Tuscany, sipping on Prosecco and listening to dueling classical bands in St. Mark's Square in venice, drinking great monk brewed beer in Germany (trully the nectar of the Gods indeed), visiting whimsical castles of Bavaria's Mad King Ludwig, strolling across the St. Charles bridge in Prague at night, seeking out "the man in a van" in pursuit of his famous grilled sausages in Krakow, driving over 100 miles per hour down the autobahn and hiking the Cinque Terre.

From Europe we traveled to the Middle East visiting Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Israel.  Our favorite experiences were floating in the aptly named and salty Dead sea, viewing the Treasury at Petra, sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum desert, eating pistachio crusted ice cream in the heat of the day in Syria, staying in a cave hotel in the fairy chimneys of Turkey's Cappadocia, seeing the Egyptian pyramids, sailing on a felucca down the Nile at sunset, contrasting the hustle and bustle of the Holy Sepulchre with the solemnness of Temple Mount during Ramadan and bargaining for water (among many other things) in Egypt.

Out of the heat of the Middle East, we went back to Europe on our way back home.  We have many fond memories of strolling through cute as can be German towns, a day with friends on their boat in Amsterdam's canals, tasting real herring for the first time (better than it looks), getting kicked out of an Irish park for drinking wine, picnics with French wine and Normandy's best stinky cheese and applying mud to our faces while soaking in the geo-thermal waters in Iceland's blue lagoon. 

During our time in the US we spent time with family and managed a few side trips to Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, Tennessee, North Carolina, DC, New York, Niagara Falls and Detroit.  Our favorite experiences were meeting our nephew, Landon, for the first time, visiting family and friends in all of the above locations, celebrating Jason's 30th birthday in Denver, walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, seeing Rockefeller center decked out in all its Christmas glory in NYC, walking through the National Mall in DC, tasting excellent wine in NC's ever growing wine region and viewing wildlife in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. 

Of course, not all goes according to plan.   There were moments where life threw us a curve ball that we can now look back upon and laugh at.  A few of our experiences we would care not to repeat anytime soon include sharing the bottom of a boat with a sea sick passenger while holding on for dear life after our seat broke on the anchor nearly impaling Jason in colombia, catching some weird bug in Cusco (not from eating guinea pig...also a "not to repeat" moment), sitting in a dust and smoke filled one room outpost with a bathroom that the word "disgusting" does not even come close to describing at the Syrian border for 10 hours while waiting for a visa and misreading a train schedule in France that forced us to have tot ake a taxi for about $300 or risk getting left behind for our ship to Ireland. 

All in all we have had the most amazing year and we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate.  We still have some time left in our trip (we're starting to feel like the energizer bunnies)!  In late January/early February we will begin the final leg of our journey.  We plan to spend four months traveling through Myanmar  and India, as well as to an undecided location...perhaps Australia, New Zealand, more of Indonesia, China, Nepal and/or Bhutan.  Who knows where life will take us in 2010!  You'll have to tune in to find out!

With that we would like to wish all of our friends, family and readers a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Windmills, Wooden Shoes and all things Dutch: The Low Lands of The Netherlands

Destination:   Amsterdam, Netherlands
Number of Days Spent:  4 days
Where we stayed:  We had an amazing time staying with Marije & Fetze in Durgerdam just outside of Amsterdam!  
Best restaurant:   Fetze broke out the grill on our last evening and we feasted on steak, chicken and pork chops.....  all outdoors in their garden!  Stropwaffels take second place (1 Euro/$1.50).  If you happen across one of these delights dive right in...imagine a hot cookie sandwich with what I think was honey and maple syrup in the middle. 
Best of:  Beautiful waterfront villages, windmills & startlingly beautiful scenery...don't miss this part of the Netherlands! 
Worst of:    I can't think of a single "worst of" moment. 
Most Memorable: We happened upon a bunch of ladies dressed all in pink crazy looking outfits.  They were having a picnic bridal shower underneath one of the famous Dutch windmills. 
After a couple of fun filled days in Germany with Leann, we hopped aboard the overnight train to Amsterdam to meet our friends Marije and Fetze.  Thanks to human ingenuity in the form of dikes, about 35% of the country lies below sea level giving it the moniker "Low Lands".  The resulting reclaimed land is rich and fertile and ideal for growing among other things, tulips.  With its windmills, quiant little "sea" side towns, and vast expanses of flat fields used for growing flowers in season the Dutch countryside is a delight for any traveler.  The pace here is a subdued one where amble walks along pedestrian only sidewalks are a common practice and even till this day, a few of the local tenants don the traditional attire.
A short train or bike ride south of Amsterdam lies Durgerdam.  With a population of around 500, a beautiful waterfront view and colorful facades we found ourselves envious of Marije and Fetze's dwellings.  Occasionally in our travels we pause and ask ourselves, "could we live here?".  In most cases the answer to that is no.  We love the United States, but in this stunning setting with its friendly people and liberal society we added this place to our list of cities that would qualify with a definite "yes".  Plus, how cool would it be to don wooden clogs and go work in the garden?!?  Ok, so they are not that comfortable as one could imagine, but who ever said fashion = comfort.          
Kicking off the clogs, Marije took us around to a couple of villages for the morning.  Visible from Dugerdam, but an entirely different town is Ransdorp.  In the middle of Ransdorp sits a tower that for a couple of Euro cent one can climb to the top and see for miles.  The view is stunning.  Lush green fields dotted with little while specks of sheep grazing.  The vast system of canals, lakes and channels can be seen from here glimmering in the mid-day sun.
Across one of the many manmade lakes lies the village of Volendam.  Popular amongst locals and tourists alike, the town sports a picturesque harbor lined with cafes, sailboats and your obligatory windmill.  On the day we were here, a little market was set up - mainly selling clothing flea market style but with one exception - the Stropwaffel stand.  Few tastes can match how delicious a fresh and hot off the grill Stropwaffel is.  The maple syrup and honey mixture is something not to be missed.  After grabbing our treat and strolling along the docks, we picked out a nice little cafe and sat down to have a coffee and people watch while taking in a bit of sun.  Sailboats come in and out, residents walk their dogs and the occasional traditionally attired woman strolls by - complete with the dual pointed bonnets they are known for.     
After our morning out visiting the villages, it was time to hit up the big city - Amsterdam here we come!
To see more photos click on each town:  Volendam, Ransdorp, Durgerdam

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Beer & Brats, part 2 - Munich & Nuremberg, Germany


Destination:  Nuremberg & Munich, Germany

Number of Days Spent:  3 days

Where we stayed:  1 overnight flight from Tel Aviv to Munich & 2 nights at our friend Leann's house

Best restaurant:   Bratwursthausle served up the famed Nuremberg sausages, weisswürste (the little white ones).  Bonus, they have spicy horseradish sauce (our favorite brat topping)!  This place is located on a side street off of the main square and is terrific for people watching.  For those that want to eat on the go (and on the cheap) they offer 2 Euro sandwiches which are available for take away only). 

Best of:  As much as we missed the hustle & bustle of the Middle East we loved getting back into the efficiency of Europe.  We were also impressed with our wander around Nuremberg.  It was a much cooler town than we originally gave it credit for.  

Worst of:    We were so exhausted after our short overnight flight from Tel Aviv to Munich that once we grabbed our bags we decided to catch a few winks of sleep in the airport.  We were so tired  that we both actually slept soundly on a hard bench in the airport for several hours (loudspeakers blaring and all). 

Most Memorable:  There's nothing like a beer & a brat, especially in Germany!

Useful Tip:   The Munich airport has free showers that are very clean & offer plenty of hot water.  They were a welcome respite after trekking around Jerusalem all day and taking an overnight flight.  After a nap & a shower we were ready to stash our bags at the train station & wander around Munich for the day before heading to Parsberg. 

With such limited time in Munich (our second time around) we decided to take the free Munich tour ( to get some historical background on the city and perhaps catch a few more tidbits of info that escaped us the first time.

This time around we were able to make it to the Marienplatz (main square of Munich) to watch the famous Glockenspiel (big clock, drunk dancing figurines spinning around, dsmusic, etc.) go off at 11am.   The clock surviving the allied bombings of WWII which destroyed much of downtown Munich and most of the buildings around it has more to do with stategy than historical preservation.  Since GPS had not been invented yet, allied planes left the taller buildings of cities standing as a way of navigation.

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From there we headed over to the Frauenkirche, a pretty church with the two brick towers topped with Ottoman style domes that now dominate the Munich skyline.  Much like the clock tower, the towers were saved from allied bombs, but the church itself received a significant amount of damage.  Aside from the unique towers, the threshold of the church contains a darkened footprint with a curved like tail coming off the heal.  Legend has it that the devil made a deal with the builder that he could only build the church under the stipulation that it contains no windows.  Staring down the church from the door, one cannot see the windows because of the unique positioning of the columns.  Upon realizing that he has been tricked, the devil stomped his foot and left this mark.

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After the church, we headed over to the famed Viktualienmarkt, or just simply the Market.  This particular stall was selling unique decorations using only all natural items like twigs, leaves, etc.  After a visit to the market stalls, we headed down Maximillian Street, home of the chic stores ala Rodeo Drive, we made it to the site of a darker time in human history.

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In 1923, a young Adolf Hitler took to the streets when he tried to shoot his way into power during the Munich Beer Hall Putsch.  Although unsuccessful, the movement set forth a chain of events that would see Hitler and his Nazi party rise to power a few years later.  With a judge sympathetic to the Nazis, Hitler was able to broadcast his message across all of Germany throughout his "trial".  While serving about 8 months, Hitler wrote his book Mein Kampf ( "My Struggle") spelling out how to "fix" Germany.  During the reign of the Third Reich, the Beer Hall Putsch was celebrated with a parade every year and a memorial was set up honoring the 16 men who died in the march.  Anyone who passed the memorial had to give a salute or risk being arrested.  The alley way just before the memorial began to receive a lot more traffic and before soon the SS started arresting people for choosing to avoid saluting the memorial as anti-Nazi with the punishment being concentration camps in many cases.  To commemorate the brave men and women who chose to walk around the block and thus, in many cases, their death, a golden line stretches silently down the alley. 

After such a heavy and depressing subject there is but one thing to do...drink some beer!  The tour guys offer to take you to a place for good sausage and beer.  We took them up on it, but given the distance from the main square and the eh quality of sausage, we would recommend looking for a good beer and brat elsewhere.  This is Bavaria, and having to walk out of the way for beer and brats seems, well, silly.  They are on every street corner after all.     

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With only a couple of days this time around, we also managed to make it up to Nuremberg for a day.  The city is known best for three things - sausage, Nazi trials and Christmas markets.  Despite the city being a modern metropolis with nearly a million people living in and around the city, it's center is a colorful and well designed collection of cobblestone, gingerbread like houses and red roof churches.  

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The city grew in importance due to it's location along major trade routes during the Middle Ages.  A castle was constructed and the city became the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire - a collection of territories that lasted from around 900 AD until Napoleon took over in the early 1800's. 

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The city became the headquarters of the Nazi party due to its location and the amount of support they received here.  With large rallies and tons of propaganda, Nuremberg became the hot target.  When allies reached the city, bombing raids left the city in ruins.  Nearly 90% if the city was destroyed.  It was only fitting that the allies chose here to hold the Nuremberg trails.  The trials were the war crimes tribunal that tried Nazis for marching off and killing millions of innocent lives.

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Of course, it simply would not be right to leave Nuremberg without having one of their famed sausages - and what better place than the afore mentioned "House of Sausage" followed up with a nice beer!

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We could spend weeks exploring all the small towns of Bavaria, drinking beer and eating various forms of pork products but alas, the Euro is strong and thus we move on.  Next stop, visiting friends in Amsterdam!

To see more photos from Munich click here!

To see more photos from Nuremberg click here!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

O Little Town of Bethlehem! Bethlehem, Palestine


Destination:  Bethlehem

Number of Days Spent:  1 day

Where we stayed:  Al Kazar Hotel in Jerusalem - around $50 per night with breakfast & wifi

Best restaurant:     Afteem Restaurant - Displaced by Israel in 1948, Afteem, a Christian, lost everything he had in Haifa.  After being relocated here, he opened Bethlehem's first falafel stand and now owns a nice house and is well off by Palestinian standards.  All he was missing from his restaurant was some lemonade!

Best of:  Getting to see a bit of Palestine, far better prices than in Israel, the simplicity of the Church of the Nativity compared to all the elaborate churches in Jerusalem.

Worst of:  Thousands of tourists flock here each year, mostly in giant tour buses.  Watch out as you stroll through the Church of the Nativity, they will run you down.  The ever growing wall between Israel and Palestine.  When complete, it will be 4 times longer and in places twice as high as the Berlin wall.  To make matters worse, the wall is being constructed primarily on Palestinian land, and in some cases, dividing farmers from their fields.

Most Memorable:  The wood carver we talked to and purchased a nativity set from offered us suggestions on where to eat.  He led us to the family restaurant above!  When Tracy asked if she could take a picture they offered to let her try her hand at making falafel!  Perhaps a new career is on the horizon...

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Useful Tip:  Take the public bus for a more eventful trip.  Sure taxis are pretty cheap but the bus was an experience.  We were dropped at the Jerusalem side of the wall where we had to walk through security and catch a taxi on the other side when we arrived.  Leaving, we caught a different bus that took us though the highway where we had to get out at a checkpoint to have the bus searched.  It was sort of like an expedited entry and exit of one country to the other.

I used to hear the name Bethlehem and a vision of a quaint and quiet little village came to mind.  That was until we went there.  Sprawling and bustling with thousands of Palestinians, modern day Bethlehem is nothing like that small outpost where the inns were full one winter's night.  That's not to day that its not a nice place to visit, on the contrary.  Next to stodgy and tension filled Jerusalem just a few miles away to the north, Bethlehem seems more down to Earth, real...well aside from the small tourist area. 

The star of the town, what 99% of visitors come to see, is the Birthplace of Jesus located inside the aptly named Church of the Nativity, across from Manger Square no less.  Expecting more of the elaborate, over the top displays that are found in the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem, we squeezed through the tiny entrance, known as the door of humility, to find something completely different.  The entire nave of the church is rather barren.  It is not until you reach the entrance of the cave that the ornate decor Orthodox Christians are known for appears.  While some of the interior appearance can be chalked up to personal interior decorating tastes, a good portion is due to the lack of repairs.  The church is shared by three sects of Christianity - the Catholics, Greek Orthodox and the Armenians.  Sadly, they cannot agree upon who has to do what when it comes to repairs so at the moment they all let the church fall further into disrepair.  Of course, one can interpret this as fitting...after all it was a manger in a stable we are talking about.       

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From time to time, we run across places that seem just a little over the top for what they are.  One such place is known as the MIlke Grotto.  Legend has it that a drop of Mary's milk landed on a stone here and stained it a bright shade of white.  When such miracles occur the locals have no choice but to enshrine said stone and worship the spot where it occurred.  It is a nice church however, and they don't charge admission, so it proved to be a nice enough detour.  On the same street is the wood carving man and his little factory mentioned earlier.

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After visiting the "must sees" and getting our fill of falafel, we strolled through the market on our way to the bus stop.  If you ever get the chance to come to a Muslim country during Ramadan, please do so at least for a couple of days.  Just the thought of having no food or water during the daylight hours for one day is enough to make me feel ill and yet they do it every year for a month.  It is an unbelievable test of faith and the feeling in the air during the late afternoons before the breaking of the fast is indescribable.  During those last couple of hours before sunset the few that are unfortunate enough to have to still be working look like they are about to fall over.  People buzz about collecting all manner of food from bread, grilled meats & sweets.  Our hearts go out to those people still working while this all goes on.  Imagine the torture of being unable to eat or drink during the day and yet having to work smell and work with food all day.  It's unimaginable to us yet it's such an important part of their culture. 

After our day in Bethlehem we hopped on board the local bus and headed back to Jerusalem.  That night we caught the bus to the airport and flew back to Europe on a much too short night flight.  We arrived in Munich in the wee hours of the morning...the only thing we could do upon arrival was grab our bags and stretch out onto a bench for a little nap!  More on our European adventures on the next blog! 

To see more photos of Bethlehem click here!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From the Beginnings of Life to the End of Days - Jerusalem, Israel


Destination:  Jerusalem, Israel

Number of Days Spent:  3 days (not nearly long enough)

Where we stayed:  Al Kazar Hotel - around $50 per night with breakfast & wifi - The staff was super friendly though we found one member to be a bit overly touchy feely for BOTH of our comfort levels.   We're pretty sure he was just a few bricks shy of a full load.  The rooms were clean, offered 24 hour mint tea (love it), breakfast terrific, view from the roof nice as well but it was a bit of a hike to get back to the hotel at night.  Despite this the value was good (by Jerusalem prices) and we would recommend this hotel. 

Best restaurant:   Abu Shukri Restaurant had a great lunch with falafel, hummous, salad & pita for around $7-$8.  It was pricey compared to the meals we had in Egypt but Israel is expensive in general and this place offered good value, especially considering that it's located in the old town.   As a bonus they let us make a sandwich each to go so we had a ready made dinner! 

Best of:   The place of so many important moments in Monotheistic history - Via Dolorosa (Way of sorrows), Golgotha, Wailing wall, Temple Mount, Mount of Olives and site of the Last Supper to name just a few.  The site of the beginning and the impending end of Christianity and Judaism.  

Worst of:   We both wish that non-Muslims were able to get inside the Temple Mount, Islam's third most holy site.

Most Memorable:  Witnessing the constant processions that occur at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.    

Useful Tip:  We took the free city tour of Jerusalem and found the orientation to be very useful.  The guides work for tips and do a great job!   We liked the guide so much that we returned the next day and purchased their tour of the most important religious sites in the old city (it was also very good).  Also, the Lutheran Church has just opened up their bell tower.  Climb to the top ($1) for beautiful views of the city, Holy Sepulchre & the Dome of the Rock.   

Move over Rome and the Vatican.  You may have one of the holiest spots on earth, but nothing can replace Jerusalem.  This is ground zero for Christianity and Judaism as both religions track their origins to this town.  Muslims call this the third holiest site behind Mecca and Medina.  No where else do Jews, Christians and Muslims all live and work within such small confines.  I could spend months just watching the dynamic that this creates.  For about 95% of the population, they all seem to coincide without problems, rabbi's passing burqa clad women, jean clad Christians shopping in the souq, etc.  Sadly however, we all know too well this delicate balance fails from time to time.  The threat of a bombs and violence is all too real.  Fanaticism represents such a small part of the total population, but their voices and actions are heard and felt every single day.  Literal translations of thousand's of years old text fuel fires of hatred that have been burning for centuries.  Not to be outdone, politicians use these ideologies to push policies that anger and upset the balance of peace.  It's a situation that may never be solved, but all we can do is hope that one day we can all live in harmony and learn to be more accepting of one another.

The city itself is divided into four quarters.  Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian.  In the space of about four square miles, these walls house the holiest spot in Judaism known as the Western Wall (or more importantly, the foundation of the holy temple), the holiest spot of Christianity in the form of the Church of the Holy Sepulture and the third holiest spot in Islam, The Dome of the Rock.  Overlooking the city is the Mount of Olives, a site where all three claim it to be ground zero for the end of the world, albeit, different supreme beings and methods of destruction. 

The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is all that remains of the foundations that the second temple sat upon.  Since the actual location of the Ark of the Covenant (Original 10 Commandments) still remains a mystery the temple mount itself is off limits to Orthodox Jews for fear of accidentally desecrating holy grounds.  With the top of the mount off limits, the wall and a couple of tunnels that run underneath have been used for worship in modern times.  No matter what time of day or year you visit, the wall is always a buzz blending tourists with worshipers mixing regular people with those donning more traditional garb.  We were fortunate enough to be here on a Monday when bar & bat Mitzvah's are regularly carried out.  Since the site is an open air synagogue, there is a divider that runs length of the plaza separating men from women.  The men's side, despite it being three times as large as the women's, was packed with young men "coming of age" while proud mothers hung over the barrier snapping photos of all the action.  

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From Judaism sprung Christianity and it is here in Jerusalem that so many important events occurred, mostly surrounding the final days of Jesus's life.  From the Last Supper to the Via Delorosa (Way of Sorrows) the cross on Golgotha, it all happened here.  The Via Delorosa is marked by stations, or biblical reference points, that start near the temple mount (where the court was during Jesus's time) and winds its way through town with the final stations being on the hill known as Golgotha and in the present day Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The church was built around 350 AD and literally covers the entire hill.  To actual crucifixion place is located inside on the second floor.  The various significant points are all marked by paintings, murals or elaborate mosaics.  Today the hill itself can only be touched in one place as early pilgrims would take a little piece back home with them. 

One interesting tidbit of information came about by the Turks.  Prior to WWI, the Ottoman empire ruled Jerusalem.  When the various sects of Christianity began to draw bloodshed over who had the rites to the church, the Sultan decreed that whatever was going on that day would remain the same from that day forward.  So if the Catholics had the tomb from 11:00-11:15 and the Greek Orthodox had the opposite corner of the church, while the Coptic Christians where cleaning the windows, then that's the way it is today.  It may seem a little silly, but it seems to be working.  With so many sects worshiping in different ways, the site is constantly alive.  Smoking urns pass by, ushers herd tourists and worshipers around to make way for processions; the whole place is a lively jumble of faith and tradition.  We ended up coming here three times, watching for quite some time and still to this day never full understood what was really going on.  On one of those three ocassions, we were trying to stay out of the smoking urn man's way when he came up and without notice or word spoke - pushed a fellow tourist out of his way just so he could swing his silly urn at a statue.  Apparently he must have missed the Sunday sermon about fellowship and love.

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Of course the most iconic symbol of Jerusalem is neither Christian or Jewish, but Muslim.  Glimmering in the Middle Eastern Sun, high atop the Temple Mount, stands the Dome of the Rock.  Covered in gold, the dome houses one of the most sacred spots in Muslim, the site of Mohammad's ascension into heaven on his Mi'Raj, or night journey.  Mohammed is believed to have traveled to Jerusalem from Mecca with Gabriel and ascended to heaven to meet with God from the rock leaving his footprint behind.  God tells Mohammad that he must pray 50 times a day and although this seems like a lot, he turns to leave in acceptance.  On his way out, he stops by Moses who advises Mohammed to go back to up there and negotiate a bit...50 times is way to much to ask.   Adding negotiating to his ever growing list of skills (along with traveling long distances in one night) Mohammed successfully barters it down to 5 times a day and thus, one of the pillars of Islamic faith was born.

Jews also hold that the rock is the birthplace of life on earth, and that the dust that God took to create Adam came from that very same rock.  Sadly, only Muslims are allowed into the dome so we were unable to see the actual rock.  The Temple Mount itself is a relatively peaceful place.  Muslims go about praying while Israeli guards keep a distant watch.  Perhaps it was just the time of year or day we visited (during Ramadan), but there were very few tourists as well adding to the solemn atmosphere.  

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Armenians are actually a sect of Christianity.  During the founding of modern day Jerusalem they were a wealthy nation and had the power and money to carve out their own quarter.  Today there are less than 500 Armenians living in the quarter making it the lest populated quarter.  It does however provide a quite corner of an otherwise chaotic city and the gateway out to the home of the Last Supper, which oddly, is located outside the current city walls.  When Sulieman the Magnificent (The Ottoman ruler during the mid 16th Century) heard that the architects had built the entire city walls and excluded the important site, he had the two beheaded.  How's that punishment for insubordination?  

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There are many other special places outside the walls of Jerusalem.  The Mount of Olives lies just up the hill from the temple mount.  With over 150,000 Jewish burial sites, the hill looks more like a huge cemetery.  The hill is claimed by all three Abrahamic faiths as the site of the End of Days.  Christians believe this to be the site of Jesus's return and from where he will cast his judgement.  Muslims share a similar belief in that Jesus will return here and meet with the Antichrist joining forces of good and evil and then all hell will break loose.  Jews are still waiting for the Messiah to appear, but when he does, many want a front row seat - hence the hill being covered in graves.   

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Of all the churches in the Old city only one Protestant Church stands - the Lutheran Church.  Two reasons for this.  The first and somewhat obvious reason is that the Protestant's are about a 1000 years late to the game of staking land out in the city.  To their fortunes, however, the Greek Orthodox guys, who once owned most of the Christian Quarter, were running a little short on funds and had to sell a chunk of land off.  The best part of the Lutheran Church is the fact that it sits a short distance from the Holy Sepulchre and offers stunning views from its tower (definitely worth a climb, see the photos below).

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Despite all the centuries of fighting, the city still remains relatively intact.   Many buildings have withstood the test of time and war much to the traveler's delight.  While we only spent three days here, we wish we could have spent weeks.  Even then we would only have a fraction of understanding of all the complexities that make up this thriving and very diverse city.    

To see more photos from Jerusalem click here!