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Sailing Conductors in Cartagena

Hit The Sea Jack.

You just arrived in Colombia, in the beautiful old town of Cartagena. You visit a friend here and when you wake up, you are alone. She has left for work. There are two sailing vagabonds coming over to Casa Cultural Colombo Alemana. This is at least what you thought. But those two young sailors where not some vagabonds, playing some music on a guitar. It’s more. Hannes and Ben call themselves the Sailing Conductors. Once they did not know what to do after their studies and so they bought a sailing boat. And since then they were recording music on their trip with people from all over the world. This is about two years ago. That particular day they were in Cartagena. In the Casa Alemana, where your friend was working and you were dropping by. There were still eight more months to go for them. They recorded the whole day, in the heat of the day and the glooming sun of Carribean Cartagena. You were a listener. Both of the music. And their stories. There were a lot to tell. What a good start. Hello Colombia!




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Getting to know Ido’s Home in Galilee

Last Friday, together with Noa, we made our way back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. There Ido was picking us up by car to go to Timrat, a small town in Galilee where his parents live. We enjoyed the ride in the car. The landscape in Israel is pretty green at spring time, which has already started here.

We had a quick stop in a small town to have some hummus and pita. Ido said it was one of the best places to have hummus: the lousier the houses, the better the hummus. True.

Later on we arrived at Ido’s place: a beautiful house in the mountains with a garden full of flowers. On top of the roof there was a guesthouse in which Kati and me could stay for the night. The view from the terrace was wide and beautiful. At night one could watch the stars and the lights of the city from afar. Before dinner Noa, Ido and us were having coffee on the terrace talking about Israeli (David Grossman) and German writers (Bernhard Schlink).

That night we had dinner with Ido’s family: his mother and father, his sister, his brother and his wife, the grandparents and Noa. Idos brother and his wife only eat kosher. We learned that for kosher dinner you have to separate milk and meat and that glass dishes are always kosher. The brother said a prayer before dinner and a glass of wine and some bread with honey was passed round the table. Then we started to eat four courses: soup, artichokes with mayonnaise, zucchini and other veggies with rice and a slice of cake with fruits.

We also learned a lot about Israeli politics and history, cos Ido’s parents would spend some more time with us at the table, telling stories about their country. Ido was showing us all places of interest in Israel in a very old atlas. I especially liked Ido’s dad a lot. He was very welcoming and very much interested. We had a good conversation that night and we were laughing a lot.

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From Crying to Laughing (Yad Vashem)

When you are in Jerusalem there is no way you could not go to Yad Vashem, which is the Center for Holocaust Commemeration here. The museum is located at the edge of the city in the woods and it is surrounded by a park with lots of memorials for the victims of the Holocaust. Entrance is for free.

Even before we were going to Yad Vashem I already felt kind of oppressed: a German going to the Jewish Country to the Holocaust Museum. There was nothing really new to Kati and me. We read about all this before, which actually was a surprise to our Israeli friends. They even admitted that we probably have the bigger knowledge about the whole Holocaust thing.

It was also very interesting to see how people were experiencing Yad Vashem. Some were rushing through it, rather superficially interested. Some took a lot of time, some were crying. I am almost sure that most of the people I saw crying in the museum have been German. I was struggling myself not to fall in tears. I did not succeed. It’s a strange thing when you are in a museum in foreign country which shows the horror that people are able to do and you can read all the samples, because it is in your own language.

The building of the museum is shaped as a triangular tunnel. There are no windows, just above you, the peak of the triangle is made out of glass. In the beginning it’s rather dark and the closer you get to the end of the exhibition, the brighter it gets. When you exit the museum you will find yourself on a platform with a beautiful view over Jerusalem.

Kati and me spend more than four hours in the museum and some more time outside at the memorials. It was an emotionally exhausting day.

In the evening we met Noa, my Israeli friend from Jerusalem and some friends of her in a bar. They said it was the IN place in Jerusalem right now. I can not remember the name, but it was close to Mahane Yehuda and its name translated to English means neighbors.

There we were: Kati and me and a bunch of Israelis together at one table. There is nothing more bizarre than crying in Yad Vashem during the day and having drinks at night with Israeli friends while joking about German, Israeli, Arab and Jewish stereotypes. I feel very lucky about it. Very lucky.

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The Holy City of Jerusalem

Last night, after a quick stop at Idos and Asafs place, we headed to Jerusalem by bus. We arrived in the late evening at Noas place which is a little offside the city centre.

In the morning we woke up early cos there is a lot to see in the Holy City of Jerusalem. We had breakfast in a café called Kadosh near the city hall, which Noa recommended to us. When you realize you, an atheist and an agnostic, are having a conversation about religion before breakfast, you must be in Jerusalem. We had fresh muesli with fruits and nuts, they also have good pastries there. After the morning refreshment in the sun at Kadosh we first visited the Old City which is divided into a Christian, Armenian, Muslim and Jewish Quarter. We started our tour at Jaffa Gate (like most of the people do) where you have the tower of David and first and foremost a bunch of souvenir shops. We then walked through the different quarters towards the Western Wall which we call in German ‘Klagemauer’.

The Muslim Quarter is the busiest and most colorful one. You have a lot of shops here and there is a lot of Arab stuff to eat. Unexpectedly Noa told us that this is the quarter you have the least to mind about veiling yourself. At the very end of Old City when you come from Jaffa Gate there is the Western Wall – the most important Shrine and place of pilgrimage of the Jews. Women and men are supposed to pray separately. The larger part of the Western Wall is for the male prayer.

What the believers do is, they read in the Torah. They go to the wall, say their prayers sometimes by holding their hands and foreheads against the wall. They rock themselves for- and backwards while they are praying and in the end stick a piece of paper with a prayer into the wall. It is said, that when you put your paper there God is more likely to hear your prayer.

It is a quiet place. I stood in front of the Western Wall, touching its stones with my eyes closed and since I am not religious instead of a prayer I made a wish. This experience was very intense. Especially because the two women left and right next to me were not only mourning, they were actually crying while standing at this wall. I also put a piece of paper in the wall – with a wish for someone else and one for me – then I left the prayer area.

In comparison to Tel Aviv you obviously see a lot of  Jewish people here: men wearing the Kippa, orthodox Jews with black suits, hats and curly at their temples, women covering their heads with scarfs or wigs (yes wigs!).

After our visit of the Western Wall we made a detour to the big Muslim Cemetery right behind the Old City. On our way a taxi driver slowed down next to us, asking if we wanted him to take us to the Mount of Olives. As we refused he cursed us and reminded us to watch our heads, they might be stuck somewhere. Well, I’d rather do not take a taxi in Jerusalem though.

Back from our detour to the cemetery we fell in line for a visit of the Temple Mount. It’s a very spiritual place cos this is where Judaism, Christianity and Islam combine. In the center of the Temple Mount is the Dome of Rocks with its beautifully blue decorated ceramics and the big golden dome. Unfortunately you can only enter the dome if you are Muslim.

So we left that special place and continued our walk to Via Dolorosa where Jesus started his walk with the cross. We walked Jesus’ path and followed the stations he lived through, ending up in the Church of Holy Sepulcher. This is the place where he was nailed to the cross, buried and where he resurrected.

Just right when you enter the church there is a stone in the ground. This is the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. People here kneel to the stone and kiss it.

You will also find a lot of chapels, the Calvary where the believers kneel down to pray as well and the tomb of Jesus in here. Around the tomb people were lining up to enter. There was this couple right next to me. She asked him: You wanna go inside the tomb? He answered: I see this huge queue, I don’t want to go inside, I want a felafel. Well, we needed some refreshment too. For me the Church of Holy Sepulcher was a strange place. I could feel the spiritualness of this place and its meaning. But at the same time it felt like I was carrying the burden of Christianity inside those walls. We relaxed in a café in the Christian Quarter, having an arabic coffee, listening to the muezzins singing.

Our next aim was too explore some of the city center. So we carried on to Zion Square and then to King Georges’ to end at Mahane Yehuda market. Mahane Yehuda is mostly covered and you mostly can buy food. The sellers are offering you sampling of their nuts, sweets and olives. We bought some delicious olives and dried figs here.

In fact we wanted to visit the Israel Museum afterwards, but unfortunately it was already closed. But at least we could get a glimpse of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

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Exploring Haifa

Tuesday morning we got up rather early to catch the train to Haifa, which is a northern harbour city in Israel and only an hour ride away. It was again a very hot and sunny day. Under a clear blue sky we walked from Haifa Merkaz station to the Bahai Gardens with its Temple. Unfortunately the temple was not open, so we could not enter. Nevertheless the garden is worth a visit.

The Arab quarter “Wadi Nisnas” of Haifa is just a stone throw away from Bahai. There is not much to say except for that it is a very nice neighborhood with very friendly people. You can get lost in the tiny lanes and enjoy the felafels here.

After some refreshment by a felafel and some lemonade we walked through the city until we reached the subway. According to our friend Asaf, who is originally from Haifa, this subway is the shortest in the world (there are only six stations) and the only one in whole Israel.  It’s a cute little train that goes up the mountain at the outer edge of Haifa. We only travelled three stations and got off at Masada. If you buy into Asaf it’s the only “cool” street in Haifa, where the young people go to hang around. The Masada street is very short, but Asaf was right: its cool.

We spend some time in Masada sitting in Zebra Café, which is a small, hippiesque coffee shop with homemade cakes and pastries and read some book and took it the easy way. Afterwards we threw ourselves again in the little train and went up on top of the mountain, where you have a beautiful view over the city, can visit the Zoo and a (not too fancy) garden.

Haifa View

From the top of the hill we went down a narrow stairway to the city. Somewhere on the way we got lost and found ourselves somewhere in an industrial area. In the end we succeeded in finding the way back to the Merkaz Train Station.

Next stop: Jerusalem. Noas Place.

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Another day in Tel Aviv

It’s Monday, another day in Tel Aviv.

We had not set an alarm so that we slept late and had breakfast in the Roladin Café, which actually was not a breakfast anymore. After Israeli sandwiches and salad we threw ourselves on the green city bikes to take a look at the city again. After a small detour to a Square (which is btw awesomely ugly and boring) where they have all those posh designer shops we cycled to the beaches in the North of the city. Tel Aviv is a good city to hang out. You will feel relaxed the moment you make your first step into this city. And so we sat again on one of those beaches and watched the children play for some time.


Back on the bikes we cycled along the beach promenade and then into the small lanes of Tel Aviv, where they have beautiful houses, sometimes with colorful decorations.

Our destination was the quarter of Florentin, which is supposedly the “Kreuzberg of Tel Aviv”. Since Tel Aviv is not too big and easy to orient, you can find your way through the alleys, without looking too often at a map. Sometimes this might cause you a little detour. But it’s the detours that make your trips more exciting. Florentin has beautiful coffee places, lots of shops for hipster clothes. Somewhat more distant from the hip cafés you will find some more alternative shops, felafel stores and fruit stalls. It’s a good area just to walk around, feel the spirit of the city and have a coffee to watch the people come and go (like we did).

From there we continued our way by feet. We wanted to go to Old Jaffa again, cos we heard it must really beautiful at night. And it is. But I would nor recommend to have dinner in the harbor. The food is good but the waiters are annoying. Nevertheless you should come and the the old houses Jaffa in the dark.

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They have sun in Tel Aviv

When you have a look at the map of Tel Aviv you think it is huge. But Tel Aviv is actually a rather small city where you can reach almost everything by feet. So we started our city exploration after breakfast by feet. First destination: The beach.

Although it was a hot and sunny day, there were not a lot of people on the beach. We wandered in the sand and took a rest in the sun. We realized just a few meters behind us there was a couple (?) dressed in their Purim costumes having sex. And I can tell they were not shy in letting everybody else knowing, what they were doing.

We did not watch the show until the end and continued our way along the beach and Shlomo Lahat Promenade to eventually turn left for HaCarmel Market. The hidden streets on the way to this everyday open market were tiny and quiet. HaCarmel market itself is a busy and crowded place. The market where you can get everything from fruits to gadgets is weaving along one narrow lane with some bolters into even smaller alleys. In those alleys one can find for example the meat bothes. The sellers are lingering in their shops between the red flesh, having a cigarette.

Just a stone throw away from HaCarmel is the Yemenite quarter with its old traditional houses, its beautiful tiny shops, lots of haberdashers and cafés. It’s an area where you sit down on one of the numerous wooden benches, have a coffee and watch people come and go. And so did we.

From Yemenite Quarter you can easily get back to the seaside. Along the shore we walked down until we reached Old Jaffa, which supposedly has the oldest harbour in the world and a very nice historic center. There are a lot of small shops selling antique staff, second hand furniture and clothes. You can also find a messy flea market and heaps of nice restaurants in Old Jaffa. We had some spritzer, olives and bread with dips in the sunny afternoon.


After that we visited HaPisga Garden, which is a nice place for walking around and feeling throw back centuries ago. Cos Old Jaffa is located relatively high you also have a great view over the city of Tel Aviv. At last we did a flying visit to the old harbour and made our way home back to Ido’s place by one of the free city bikes.

Back in the city centre we met Asaf and Ido again for dinner in an Arab restaurant. They invited us for arak, which is anise liquor (and I do not like anise). But the arak served in this restaurant was mixed with fresh ice and grapefruit juice that made it a tasteful pleasure.  Before we left the waiter came over to me with the words: Give me your hand! Give me your finger! I was so surprised that I just stretched my arm into his direction. The moment after I had a plastic ring on my finger flashing in rainbow colors. Kati got one as well.

Because I am afraid of getting an epileptic seizure I am not wearing the ring, but it will accompany me back home as a souvenir of Tel Aviv.

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big oak tree at Habima

Arriving in Tel Aviv

After our flight had a three hours delay Kati and me finally arrived in Tel Aviv. The plane was flying over the Mediterranean Sea and made a long u-turn around Tel Aviv before it landed, so we could have a look at the landscape: It looks so beautiful and much more green than I thought.

Right at the airport we saw a lot of people in costumes. It’s Purim – the jewish carnival, or what the call it: The Jewish halloween. In Tel Aviv itself the streets were crowded with people in fancy dresses. There are lots of people in the street and you can see the different cultural and ethnic influences from the Arab Countries, Europe and the Jews. Some people wear traditional clothes, some are very modern, some girls are wearing short skirts and heels.

In the evening, after checking in to some hostel in the centre, we met my two Israeli friends at Habima Theatre Square, which is a very nice and modern place. “Right at the big oak tree” we were supposed to meet.

big oak tree at Habima

But actually there were two big oaks trees, but we finally were able to find each other. My Israeli friends Noa and Ido brought along their friend Asaf. We made our way from Habima Square along the very busy Rothschild street, which hosts a lot of restaurants and cafés. We had dinner in a small place called Benedict, where you can get breakfast all day. Together we decided on a travel plan: Tel Aviv. Jerusalem. Dead Sea. Then we will go on a trip to Ido’s parents in Galilei and see the spring flowers in the mountains. Then Kati and me will travel into the desert and Mitzpe Ramon.

After dinner it was time to sleep. The next morning we moved into Ido’s apartment, which is very pretty and has colorful flowers in front of the big windows. Right now we are having an Israeli Breakfast. And then we will explore the city by day.

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Wir werden reisen

Ich kann mich noch gut erinnern, wie ich sie das erste Mal traf. Es war auf den Philippinen und es ist fast dreieinhalb Jahre her. Ich stand mit einer deutschen Freundin im Supermarkt Rustan’s in der Katipunan Avenue. Ich kann nicht mehr genau sagen ob wir über Mangos oder Müsli sprachen, aber wir unterhielten uns auf Deutsch. Sie hörte wie wir Deutsch miteinander redeten und sprach uns an. Sie kam aus München und hatte genauso wie wir vor wenigen Tagen ihre Koffer gepackt um ein halbes Jahr auf den Philippinen zu verbringen. Wir trafen uns am Abend zum Sushi. Ich fand sie sehr laut, aber auch sehr nett. In den folgenden Monaten habe ich mit keinem Menschen öfter zu Abend gegessen. Mit keinem anderen Menschen bin ich so viel gereist. Als das halbjährige Südostasienabenteuer im April 2010 zu Ende war, versprachen wir uns, dass wir uns in Deutschland sehen würden. Obwohl das ja so eine Sache mit den Versprechen ist, haben wir es gehalten. Wir sahen uns in bei ihr in München. Und bei mir in Berlin. Bei Freunden in Frankreich. Und bei Freunden in Österreich. Nach fast drei Jahren werden wir das erste Mal wieder richtig zusammen reisen. Es soll nach Israel gehen. Ohne uns abzusprechen hatten wir den gemeinsamen Plan für die Reise: keinen Plan zu haben. Außer die ersten drei Tage in der Sonne Tel Avivs zu verbringen, den Reiseführer zu studieren und mittags die erste Weinschorle zu trinken. Weil man das sonst nicht macht. Aber weil es gut ist. Samstagmorgen startet der Flieger.

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