Posts Tagged ‘shop’

pilgrimage day 7 – a change does us good

December 22, 2008

Everyone was really on their toes today almost literally falling over themselves to not upset V or Frank and not lag behind. We were all on the bus before Frank even got there, walking from home since he lives in Jerusalem and had gotten to spend some time at home after being away with us in Nazareth. We started off, as usual, with prayer on the bus while driving to Mount Zion on the outskirts of Jerusalem. We visited St. Peter in Gallicantu which roughly to translates to have something to do with St. Peter and chickens singing. The church commemorates Peter denying Jesus “three times before the cock crowed” and is built over Caiaphas’ house (proven by a rock found with his name on it). This was the first stop for Jesus after being arrested and here he was held in a dungeon and questioned before being handed to Pontius Pilate. We had the very creepy priviledge of walking down into one of the dungeons and reading a passage about what happened there. As we left H, one of the older, slower and most adorable members of the group, fell trying to be the first out. The effects of V’s Faster Faster decree was taking effect already, later he tells me that he got the impression that he one of the laggers in the group and was trying to step faster. We also get to see the steps that Jesus would have walked up from the house – this is one of those sites that has been proven and is not held by tradition only.

the view up from the sacred pit where Jesus was held

the view up from the sacred pit where Jesus was held

After a short break, we are all loaded onto the bus and driven ONE WHOLE meter to the next church and told to get out – this was very weird and confusing. We waited around for a while for a monk to open the doors to a Franciscan church dedicated to the Last Supper. During this time Frank tells us that we will be having the second half to the day free which was a very welcome surprise! At the church we have a Mass during which we remember the Last Supper. After this we, fittingly, visit the traditional site of the Last Supper – The Cenacle or Upper Room, it is also the place where the disciples are believed to have received the Holy Spirit for the first time so it’s kind of big deal place (see a picture of last Pope John Paul in prayer there here). This place was also a mosque at some stage and bears some mosaic evidence of this. Currently it is in the hands of the Jewish since they believe that David’s tomb is somewhere under it, but Christian pilgrims are allowed to visit it and also celebrate Pentecost there (which is awfully nice of them). The ceilings were really high and there was a lot of echo so people didn’t notice when Frank started talking. This led to Frank getting visibly annoyed that people weren’t listening and people prodding each other to get everyone to listen. It was kind of uncomfortable, especially with the Portuguese ladies pretending to listen very attentively to the explanations they couldn’t understand properly.

remembering the Last Supper

remembering the Last Supper

the ceiling from which the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of flame

the ceiling from which the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of flame

The last place on our list to visit for the day (only four sites in a day – woo hoo!) was Dormition Abbey, dedicated to the Assupmtion of Mary alive into the Heaven. As you enter, there is a large grand church, with many huge stained glass windows. Down some stairs there is a cavernous cyprt were you will find a statue of a sleeping Mary in, what looks like, a big well hole. Above the statue is a stunning gold-coloured mosaic  of Jesus surrounded with depictions of women from the Old Testament such as Rachel and Delilah. Another notable piece in the crypt is a big fresco showing Jesus holding Mary as a baby wrapped in white cloths in Heaven. This is the only place in the world where Jesus and Mary are depicted like this. Here we are given a decent amount of time to explore and visit the souvenir shop. Most of us sat around outside resting while Frank had an animated discussion with another guide. At one stage I walked past him right as he was flinging his arms out wildly and he accidentally punched me in the eye (honestly I wasn’t surprised,  this kind thing tends to happen to me). He spun round and grabbed me apologised up a storm, it was amusing.

a shout out to the OT ladies

a shout out to the OT ladies

the only place in the world where Jesus and Mary are portrayed like this

the only place in the world where Jesus and Mary are portrayed like this

After being driven back the hotel, a group of eight of us decided to spend the rest of our free day exploring the Old City together. Walking there we got rained on unexpectedly and we discovered that if Luisa, Isabel and I had just pushed past the construction that blocked our path the day before we would have found our way to the Old City. We walked through a labyrinth of alleys bloated with shops and people. There was touristy clothing, scarves, jewelry (ranging from wooden to pure gold), bags, fruits vegetables, butcheries with whole hanging pigs, colourful spice and incense shops.

spices, colours, freedom!

spices, colours, freedom!

Eventually we reached the centre of the Old City – the Holy Sepulcher. Of all the places we visited I’m chuffed that we got to see this one twice and explore it at our leisure – it is breathtaking and fascinating. I got to find quiet corners to pray and take photos to my heart’s content. Sepulcher is basically a fancy name for ‘tomb’, so it is believed that this Greek Orthodox church is built over the place where Jesus was crucified and laid to rest. The church is kind of contentius as a number of different Christian churches share it with the Greek Orthodox’s having the lion’s share. It so happened that on this day the Greek Orthodox’ were celebrating their Feast of the Cross and there was a long procession out of the church. Once inside we discovered that there were masses of tourists wondering around, it was a bit sad to see the priests trying to maintain an air of quiet and meditation in the midst of tourists clogging up the place with loud talking and cheesy photo ops (but then we were adding to the distracting mass I guess). As you enter the church there is a large stone slab under an amazing painting of Jesus being taken off the cross and carried to the tomb. This stone is believed to be where Jesus was embalmed and people kneel at it and place objects on it for blessing. Walking further you enter a large space with the biggest dome I had seen yet above a big round structure surrounded with many candles and multiple entrances. Inside this are the rocks believed to be from Jesus’ tomb so this is actually the Sepulcher itself, later in the tour we would have Mass right inside it. Up a flight of stairs is another significant rock – where Jesus’ cross is believed to have stood. Here there is a very intricate altar and a Greek Orthodox priest controls a queue of people who kneel under the altar to touch the rock. It was very crowded up there and, at one stage, the priest got flustered and hushed everyone reminding them that this was a holy place and they should be silent and meditative. But that didn’t help much.The rest of the church was filled with more upstairs parts, downstairs parts and a number of altars, caves and passages.

Feast of the Cross procession at the Holy Sepulchre

Feast of the Cross procession at the Holy Sepulchre

Holy Sepulchre dome

Holy Sepulchre dome

praying around the Holy Sepulchre

praying around the Holy Sepulchre

cavernous

cavernous

inside the Holy Sepulchre

inside the Holy Sepulchre

After leaving the church we explored the markets again in search of food and found to sweet yummy pancakes prepared by these young boys and their father. We also entered an alley that had only butcheries and the smell eek’ed out some people.  Luisa found hand stitched pillow covers she loved; she and I managed to haggle the seller down from $80 for two to $50. Though I must admit I didn’t really realise we were haggling, Luisa is the one with the 1ee7 haggling skillz. We also tracked down a Franciscan bookstore in search of Jerusalem Bibles, but sadly they were out of stock and suggested a different store near the Jaffa Gate. I did manage to find a great book about the Holy Sites and their accompanying Gospels for only $4. We rounded off our exploration in a charming coffee shop were we drank local beers and coffee and chatted to the owner about the hardships of living in multi-religious Jerusalem. The independent exploring was totally fun and soul restoring. Back at the hotel we reunited with Mae and Tia for a fun dinner at which V was mysteriously M.I.A.

sweet pancake stall

sweet pancake stall

coffee is good

coffee is good

Tally for the day: 4 churches, 1 upper room, 1 soul restoring exploration with new friends

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pilgrimage day 3 – the holy triangle

November 18, 2008

After the airport-heavy first two days, people woke up acting and feeling much more civilised on the third day. Breakfast featured lots of hummus which was something we would come to eat in dollops with just about every meal. We were told that there was a lot on the schedule and we should not stop to shop as we would be taken to a nice shop with all the souvenirs we could possibly want at a set time in the day. After that preface, we drove to Ein Kerem, which is where Elizabeth, Mary’s sister, and her husband Zachariah lived. These fine folk were also John the Baptist’s parents. We started by walking up a steep hill (which caused lots of huffing and puffing) to the Church of the Visitation a really beautiful Franciscan church with an awesome view and two towers and some striking artwork fo the visitation between Mary and Elizabeth and of John the Baptist escaping death by Herod’s soldiers (who were killing all the boys in Israel at the time to try and off Jesus). There was even a rock which John the B supposedly hid behind to escape the soldiers (but I was kind of sceptical about that). In the entrance courtyard of the place there are many plaques with the Magnificat (a.k.a. Mary’s Song) prayer in different languages. This prayer is made up of the words of Mary when she visited Elizabeth, then barren and old, and Elizabeth realised that she was pregnant (with ‘ol John the B). This is a pretty important prayer said by priests every single day. We had mass in a very light and airy chapel of the church with amazing artwork and a floor of mosaics of fierce and docile animals. This was supposed to represent the coming together of meekness and power at the visitation and, to boot, there was a bunny mosaic which made my morning 😉 After Mass we walked back down the hill, where Isabel and I grabbed some freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. We walked to a church built over the place where tradition holds that John the B himself was born. The Church was very blue and full of mosaics and remnants of Byzantine and Crusader churches that used to stand at that spot. The church also has some nice traditions around it; apparently it is where pregnant women go with their friends to discuss their coming baby and choose his/her name – kind of a baby shower church if you will!

Church of the Visitation

Church of the Visitation

Mary floats above the music

Mary floats above the music

bunny mosaic!

bunny mosaic!

Next we went to Jerusalem, Frank also tells us that Bethlehem, Ein Kerem and Jerusalem are all 7km’s apart and, therefore, form what’s known as the Holy Triangle. We don’t go into Jerusalem but stop off at the Israel Museum which houses two famous exhibits: the Shrine of the Book which houses the Dead Sea scrolls and a large model of Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple (which was when Jesus was around). That temple was eventually destroyed (by the dastardly Romans) and today that place in occupied by a mosque known as the Dome of the Rock which is the third most holy place in the world for Muslims. All that remains of the Temple is its wall – a.k.a. The Wailing Wall, which is the most holy of all places in the world for Jews. It really was striking to me how all these different religions deem the same place so holy – there’s got to be something to it. Anyway, the model was in this open air amphitheater and it took us about 20 minutes to walk around it while Frank pointed out different significant parts of it. It was incredibly detailed and well made – you can take a virtual tour of this model here. Sadly were was no time to see any other parts of the museum, there was barely time to go to the bathroom and Cynthia got herself in an absolute panic trying to buy a map of the model in the bookstore and get back to the bus on time. I had to help her count out money because it seemed she might faint from the stress of it all.

 

Israel Museum

Israel Museum

Next we drove back to Bethlehem, back through the Palestinian checkpoint and through town to a place called the Shepherd’s Fields. This involved another short uphill walk to a small, beautiful church. The church was built by an Italian master architect who designed a number of important churches in the Holy Land (I can’t remember his name tho!). The Shepherd’s Field church has a tent shape since the shepherds stayed in tents while tending flocks at night. It was one of my favourite churches of the trip, full of blue light and beautiful paintings showing the angels appearing to the shepherds to announced Jesus’ birth and the shepherd’s fear and. later, happiness at the event. We didn’t hang around for very long before going to a nearby cave which seemed to have little significance besides having a genuine Byzantine era mosaic on its floor. At this stage I started wonder what all the Byzantine stuff was about since we kept hearing about it (yep colour me a dumb pilgrim). Basically, the way I understand it, the Byzantine Era refers to the time when the Emperor Constantine started to promote the worship of a Christian monotheistic God and there were Crusades and lots of building of churches, particularly on sites believed to be holy or related to Jesus. Even though many Byzantine churches were destroyed there are still lots of remains of them visible even in places were other churches were built over them. After the Shepherd’s field area we were taken to a mom ‘n pop joint for falafels which were delicious. These were followed by tiny cups of Turkish coffee which we all found to be utterly vile.

Oh Holy Night

Oh Holy Night

Next we drove to a place close to Bethlehem whose name I can’t remember but I think it was pronounced something like Beth-she-ahn. There was no holy site here but we went to a Salesian monastery where a very charming man, who looked like Geri from Pixar’s short film Geri’s Game, told us about the beginnings of the Salesian order and their missions throughout world and, especially, Africa (which Tia found very interesting since she is always keeping her ears open for more funding for her school in Nampula, MZ). The monastery we were visiting has taken to producing wine as a way of sustaining themselves. We a wine tasting (the port was really good) and some people bought stuff. Then off we went to…. mmm hard to remember… ah yes back to Bethlehem. When we thought we couldn’t go to anymore places we were driven back to the centre of town and walked some more, past the Church of the Nativity that we had already visited the milk grotto which was a visual treat of beige stone and red. This place were apparently where Mary had the idea to flee to Egypt with Jesus and Joseph and also… well this bit I don’t know about, but apparently Mary was breastfeeding Jesus there and a drop of her breast milk fell to the ground and turned the while grotto white. I don’t know about that – there is nothing in the Bible remotely mentioning it and that rock looked pretty much just like all the other light coloured rock in Bethlehem.

Milk Grotto

Milk Grotto

We felt finished after this but the last stop was one that lots of people had been looking forward – the big souvenir shop! All day people had been resisting the many peddlers selling rosaries, singing camel teddies, shepherd flutes and embroidered bags. As we drove, Frank told up there Christians are in an extreme minority in Israel (in Jerusalem there are something like 1.8% Christians) and its tough going if you’re Christian. He also told us that the shop we were going to visit supports 16 Christian families and that he feels that if you are going to buy stuff in Israel you should try and buy from Christians. So we arrive at the shop and really, it was hardly the last Christian outpost that Frank had described. It was more like a Christian knick-knack emporium and wow were the shopkeepers slick. We first were herded around a main counter with about 4 shopkeepers behind it, one of whom introduced himself and showed us some of the things the shop had on offer. He pointed out the quality difference between machine-made and hand-carved statues, showed us the three different types of rosaries varying in quality and laid out an astounding variety of religious bling. At one stage he showed us a necklace with a very sparkly diamond Jerusalem cross which is swooshed into the air in one swift motion to reveal that the cross could be unfolded to look a bit like a triangular skyline. People milled around for a long time and they spent a lot of money under the assumption that this was the only tour-approved shop we would be taken to. I bought some wooden jewelery and rosaries. But Cynthia, she went large, she kind of accidentally bought that slick Jerusalem cross/skyline necklace not realising that the price was in dollars and not Rands making for an impulse splurge of over R10 000! This was *the* tragic event of the trip – she only realised what she had done when the credit card had been swiped and she was too shy to go back and undo the transaction even though we urged her to. Finally we went back the hotel where we were told that we would be leaving Bethlehem the next day for Nazareth and would have to get up extra early. Also we would not be staying for breakfast but would have breakfast on the road packed into boxes. Amazingly this caused a fair amount of dissent among some folks, which I thought was just silly. Later I managed to find some Internet and chat to Dave, which was very exciting because I had no idea if he and the bunnies had arrived so I slept very happy.

Tally for the day: 3 churches, 1 museum, 1 monastery, 2 cave/grottos, and 1 tourist trap