Schlagwort-Archiv: travel

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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Jericho – First Glimpse Of Palestine

The last part of the trip brought us to the West Bank, the Palestine Territories. We first went to Jericho. You pass a military checkpoint there. The check ups here are not that strict, you can see a lot of cars with yellow car plates here, which belong to Israeli cars. Usually in most parts of the West Banks Israelis are not allowed. Entering Jericho was like entering a different world. I was sure that the Palestine Territories would be different, but I wasn’t expecting such a big difference. The Israeli cities are somewhat western and in good condition. Here lots of houses are in a bad state, there is a lot of waste in the streets. The roads are covered with potholes and cracks, they look sleazy.  Horse carriages are a common means of transportation and goat herds are driven through the streets. Obviously most of the people in Jericho are poor, but they are very friendly. It seems like people want to call attention to their situation. When we were asking for the way or an ATM random people or the police would guide our way.

We wanted to see the old center of Jericho. As we got there we took the cable car to get up to the Mount of temptation. From the cable car itself you have a great view over the city of Jericho and its urban hinterland. After getting off we went up hill to the Monastery of Temptation. On our way there we met a street seller for bracelets and necklaces. He stopped us, introduced himself (Said) and had some little conversation with us, asking us to stop by again after our visit at the monastery.

We arrived at the monastery, which is built into the rocks of the mount. A monk opened the gate und let us in. There is a chapel carved into the stone, in this kind of grotto believers were putting there prayers written on pieces of paper, like at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In the little church in the monastery you will also find another chapel, which supposedly is the place where Jesus spend fourty days and fourty nights fasting and meditating during the temptation of satan. Again people where kneeling down at the shrine to pray and kiss.

On our way back to the cable car we passed the jewelry seller Said. He again stopped us and asked us if we could take a picture with him. And so we did. He was so happy that he gave us two bracelets made of blue gemstones and gave us a kiss on the hand for goodbye. Something similar happened again when we arrived at the cable car station down in Jericho. When you want to go back on the street, you have to cross a big souvenir store with a cashier almost at the exit. There the two male sellers were asking where we were from. As they heard that we are from Germany they invited us to have a little conversation with them ‘Only five minutes, just talking!’. We sat down at the cashier. The sellers gave us two small pins of the Palestinian flag and two key chains of the cable car. They told us about all the sights in Jericho and around. The two sellers were hilarious, joking around all the time. They actually seemed a little sad when we left.

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Dead Sea - View to Jordan

The Dead Sea

Before rewarding ourselves with a floating bath in the Dead Sea, Kati and me decided to go for another hike around the area of Ein Gedi. The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve suggests itself since its just a stone throw away. There are a lot of tourists hiking here, which caused us to think we would not enjoy the hike. But nevertheless it some beautiful piece of nature you should not miss. You have the mountains here, caves, waterfalls, beautiful views and lots of springs for refreshment.

After our visit in the nature reserve we made our way to the Ein Gedi Beach, the only public beach in the area. You change your clothes and walk down the steep and rocky shore. The rocks in the water itself are covered in salt. And then – lay down and float! It’s a strange feeling to lie in the water. But it’s even more strange when you try to swim cos you legs are swinging up and it’s hard to actually have them in the water to swim. Luckily it was a very hot day (28°C) and the water was not too cold. When we went out of the water to dry ourselves in the sun a white encrustation was evolving on our skin.


After a quick shower we jumped in the car again and drove on to Jericho, which belongs to the West Bank (Palestine Territory).

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Salt Rocks

On the Road to the Dead Sea

After leaving Mitspe Ramon we were heading on by car to the Dead Sea. I can highly recommend this route, it was the most beautiful we were riding these days.

Going through the mountains there was still incredible. The nature is rough and lonely here. Unlike around Mitspe Ramon you won’t find tourist busses here when you take the trails to the lookouts. Every now and then we stopped, almost overwhelmed by the harsh beauty of the mountains.

We were still driving through rough desert area, crossing Dimona and Yeruham onwards to the Dead Sea Area where you arrive at some huge salt pools before going up north to the Dead Sea itself. Shortly before you arrive at the salt pools you can enjoy a great view from the mountains. Over the huge white salt rocks and the pools you can look as far as to the reddish mountains on the Jordanian border. It’s feels like your looking over a moonlike landscape. I guess so far this was the most beautiful place I have ever been to. It was breathtaking. Kati and me even stopped talking, just staring over the white rocks sparkling in the sun.

We then continued our way down the mountains and took the road along the salt pools, stopping at Mount Sodom for a quick hike to enjoy the view over to the mountains of Jordan. Riding into the sunset we were relishing the contrast of the very blue Dead Sea and the red illuminated mountains (I picture myself the Mars must look like this). When it was almost dark we arrived at the youth hostel in Ein Gedi.

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Teresa watching Negev

Negev – Endless Desert

After a long breakfast in Tel Aviv last Sunday we decided to rent a car to visit the Negev, the big desert area of Israel. After approximately one and a half hour of driving in the green the landscape changed into yellow dunes and harsh rocks at the area around Be’er Sheva. We stopped there just to feel the sand between our fingers, then we kept on driving further south. Our final aim was to reach the small town of Mitspe Ramon right in the middle of Makhtesh Nature Reserve. It’s a good starting point for hiking in the desert and you have a breathtaking view over the whole crater of Makhtesh.

We checked into an EcoCamp called Desert Shade with a beautiful view over the Makhtesh and small mud huts to sleep in. One of the guys working there was Adam, a young and very welcoming Israeli who originally came from the North of Israel and had dark and wild curly hair. There were also prisoners doing some kind of community service and a group of difficult teenagers. That night we talked to Adam about the military service in Israel and to another Israeli guy who comes over to the desert every once in a while to work with the kids.

The next morning we went for a hike in the Makhtesh. By car we went to Saharonim. From there we started to hike for a few hours in the desert. Unfortunately there were some school excursions to that hiking trek as well so that we were not the only ones on the trail. But nevertheless although hiking in the sun of the desert can be exhausting, it’s worth it in any case.

The next day we made our way to the Cisterns of Lotz. Although this area still belongs to the desert you will find (cos of the cisterns) a lot of spring flowers here. It’s a peaceful place and not a lot of people are around. It was easy to hike here – no big mountains, just hilly steppe.

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From Galilee to Golan

On Saturday we had a quick breakfast at Ido’s place. His dad was making some Arab coffee for us. Then Ido, Noa, Kati and me left by car for the Sea of Galilei where Jesus walked on water and the miracle of loaves and fishes happened. You will see a lot of pilgrims here. But there are also quiet places and the Sea of Galilee is a beautiful place anyway.

After that we made our way through Galilee up North to the Golan Heights close to the border of Syria. We came here in the best time of the year. Spring is immersing the hills with light green spots and lots of flours. You can see carpets of purple and yellow flowers, every now and then lanced be red poppy seeds and grazing cows. In general the Golan Heights are worth a visit – it’s nature is vast, rough and graceful all at once. It’s a pity you can not hike here since the land is full of mines. We stopped at Mount Bental. From there you can have a wide look over Israel but also to Syria. In the middle of this vast nature you are standing in this sun, it’s chilly and you can see the snowcapped Mount Hermon which partly belongs to Syria, partly to Israel. It’s an area of conflict, which Ido again explained to us. We sat down for a rest and Ido made some coffee for us on a gas cooker. Even nowadays this is not a carefree place – that day bombs were dropped in the border area right after we left.

Not knowing about the bombing we went unharmed on through Golan to Gamla – a nature reserve (with eagles) and an ancient Jewish settlement. We hiked around the area, visiting the Jewish settlement. Ido was very ambitious in being a good guide – he told us all the stories about Gamla. We hiked the hill on which the settlement was built and which looks like the back of a camel. I really liked the view on top of that hill. One had a view over the mountains until the Sea of Galilee.

After our hike we had some hearty food in the Israeli Brewery of Golan in Katsrin. Right after this refreshment we got back on the car to go back to Ido’s place in Tel Aviv.

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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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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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