After saying a fond farewell to our Tel Aviv Airbnb host Val and his K9 co-host Masha, we boarded the train to Jerusalem. I knew it was much slower than the bus, however, when I was rewarded with the stunning scenery I knew it was the right decision.
Next a taxi to the hotel. I left my friend Amy to negotiate with the driver and she swiftly got him down from 150 Shekels to 80. Well, I’ve never seen a grown man flounce so much over an agreed taxi fare. During the thirty minutes it took to drive through the Old City to Ras Al Amud he kept moaning “Why? Why? Why?” And “80 Shekels!! Why?” His exaggerated arm movements and constant thumping of his steering wheel were like that of spoilt child. Huffing and puffing he kept whining “Traffic! Traffic!” He made several calls on his radio to his fellow drivers animatedly telling them about the shocking fare he was to receive for this journey. I felt like slapping him over the head and saying “why on earth did you agree to the fare when evidently it has offended you so much?! Growth up you whimpering imbecile!”
Biting my tongue we made a quick exit from the taxi into our hotel. The Panarama Hotel was in the Palestinian Arab neighbourhood of Ras Al Amud in East Jerusalem and did not disappoint. I realised how just how fitting the hotel name was when we were shown to our room. We had a gigantic bay window with spectacular views of the Old City walls and the Dome of the Rock. Result! It took many selfie shots at the window to produce a semi-decent photo. My selfie taking skills are still ‘work in progress’.
Jerusalem is so diverse. One minute you can hear the call to prayer emanating from the loud speakers attached to the copious amounts of mosques and the next chiming from the bountiful church bells. It was surreal. It was fascinating to see the mix of Jewish, Muslim and Christian residents living together in such a small area. Mosques, synagogues and churches fill the city walls. In fact, Jerusalem has the most number of holy places in one city. It is both amazing and mind boggling at the same time.
I visited many iconic holy sites, however, just wandering and getting lost within the city walls was enchanting. I walked down Via Delarosa, which is the long street which Jesus was said to have carried his cross on his way to his crucifixion. I visited the Holy Sepulchre is where it is believed his crucifixion took place. However, it soon became evident that depending on your faith there are many different versions of history. I found it very complex. It was an assault on my brain cells!
My visit to the City of David did not disappoint. This is the most excavated archaeological site in Israel and dates back to the early Bronze Age. That’s nearly 4000 years ago! Excavations began in 1867 yet despite this only twenty percent has been uncovered to date. It is the only place in the world where you can walk inside a 2,000 year old water drainage system. Now that is what I call extraordinary!
The initial reason however for my visit to Jerusalem was to attend the TBEX conference. This is where travel bloggers from all over the world converge in one place to meet other bloggers. Workshops are organised offering advice from ‘podcasting for travellers’ to ‘the art of the pitch’. I did feel a bit like Forest Gump amongst all the professional bloggers. I had the urge to “Run Forest run!” when things got a bit technical. But seated I remained with what I hoped was my “oh I see what you’re saying” face on.
There was one workshop where I was already knowledgeable and gained praise from the lecturer for my natural skills. Video blogging? Maximising my affiliate strategy? No. It was the hummus workshop. Yes, I can actually make a bloody good hummus. So if all fails with the blogging I can always sell tubs of hummus!
I also picked up another new skill; scavenger hunting!! Another free event generously provided by TBEX through Israel ScaVentures. It was a hoot! They had us searching for lions, constructing windmills from bits of paper and lollipop sticks and making up a rap song about King David!!
Finally, one interesting non-religious fact I learnt from the Mayor of Jerusalem’s speech is that it is one of the top 25 high-tech cities in the world. The sale of the Israeli driverless car company Mobileye was announced whilst I was in Jerusalem. Purchased by Intel for $15 billion! Seems like everything including companies are expensive in Jerusalem. I lived off falafel during my stay as it was the only thing I could afford!
In my eyes Jerusalem is a spellbinding city which I will most certainly revisit. It not just a crazy mix of religions but also a city of old and new. I will be back.
See other travellers’ reviews on the Panorama Hotel here
Find out more here about the Abraham Hostel Hummus Workshop & Dinner here
Explore more of Jerusalem on TripAdvisor
Find a good travel book featuring Jerusalem here