A Travellerspoint blog

October 2019

Around the World in 20 days - second stop Israel

A journey around Jerusalem

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We landed in Tel Aviv late afternoon, checked into the lovely David Citadel Hotel and had a quick meal before heading off to meet up with old neighbours that are currently living in Doha and happened to be in Jerusalem at the same time as us! Their hotel was just a 5 minute walk from ours so we couldn't pass up the opportunity for a catch up over drinks.
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The next morning we had a walking tour of Jerusalem with our guide Jo Lane (jolanetours.com).
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She was a fantastic guide and really brought the history of Jerusalem alive with her passion and clear explanations. We visited the Western Wall and witnessed the Jewish people praying and placing prayers into the wall.
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We explored the tunnels beneath the Western Wall which brought us out near the Bethesda Pools.
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We followed Via Dolorosa passing by some of the locations of the Stations of the Cross which included the spot where Jesus fell and placed his hand on the wall to steady himself.
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Via Dolorosa led us to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is built on the site where Jesus was crucified. The interior was beautiful - full of huge mosaics depicting the story of the crucifixion, painted ceilings and ornate statues. It also has the stone that Jesus was laid upon as his body was prepared for burial.
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We also walked through the Shuk (muslim market) which was colourful and bustling.
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After a traditional lunch we walked to Gethsemane and walked through the Old City, including the main street which dates back to Roman times and archaeologists are almost certain that Jesus would have walked that very street.
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That night we were all invited into a family home to experience a Shabbat dinner. We were hosted by a very charismatic American man, and his wife, who left America to live in Jerusalem to explore their Jewish faith further. Over 20 years later he is now a Rabbi and an instrumental part in shabbatofalifetime.com which enables visitors like us to learn about Shabbat whilst sharing a delicious five course meal. As Shabbat requires Jews to refrain from using technology we were asked not to bring our phones and cameras so this part of the trip is not documented in pictures!

The next day we had opted to do a day trip to Masada, travelling along the shoreline of the Dead Sea. It was pretty cool to be at the lowest place on Earth after starting this year at Everest Base Camp, the highest we had ever been!
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Along the way we stopped at Qumran where scrolls were discovered in caves in 1947. The collection is considered to be the oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible dating to at around the 4th century.
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Masada rises high up above the Dead Sea but thankfully there was a cable car to take us to the top.
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King Herod had a fortress palace constructed and we got to explore the store rooms, cisterns, stone houses and bath houses which even came with heated floors!
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We were supposed to see a sound and light show displayed on the city walls at the Tower of David but sadly for us it rained for the first time in eight months (the locals were very happy!) so it was cancelled and instead we went for an earlier than planned dinner in a lovely building overlooking the city.
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That was the end of our Jerusalem adventure, we headed to bed ready for our flight the next day and this is what greeted us as we went to get on the plane....a giant baby Jesus!
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Next stop, Malta....

Posted by bumblebum 23:24 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Around the World in 20 days - first stop South Korea

Exploring Seoul

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After reading an article on the Constellation Journeys' inaugural 'Around the World' trip I decided to google the company and discovered that a second trip had just been announced. By the end of that week we had booked our places and begun saving for yet another 'trip of a lifetime'!

As Constellation Journeys are an Australian company we had to start our journey by flying to Sydney. We flew over the night before, ready for our early morning flight to Seoul.

Around 80 of the 200+ passengers, on our very own chartered 747, were passengers that had traveled on last year's trip so we figured we were in for a holiday to remember.

On our first day in Seoul we all went to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which is the 2km separation point between North and South Korea. First we headed to the look out point but it was very smoggy and not really photo worthy.
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Afterwards we entered tunnel 3 one of the tunnels that the North Koreans tried to make to connect to South Korea. North Korean people are not tall so the tunnels are only about 5ft6 high. We had to enter wearing hard hats and they were well needed. The man in front of me hit his head many times, once so hard he knocked his hat off! Nothing can be taken into the tunnels so there are no photos.
We also had a quick look around the museum and stopped off at the train station that can enable (but doesn’t) travel to North Korea from the DMZ.

After our DMZ tour we had lunch on the 59th floor of building 63 Square in the city. Sadly it was so hazy the views weren’t great but it gave us the chance to get to know some of the other passengers.
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Next we headed for our first optional activity - a taekwondo lesson - which was great fun. We had to wear a uniform then learnt to hit, kick and shout. Our final task was to break a board with our fist. It took me 2 attempts but I did it!
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That night we got to experience the first of our gala dinners. Our special Seoul dinner was on The Floating Island and we were entertained with some traditional Korean dancing whilst being treated to a delicious 3 course meal.
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The next day we visited the royal palace Gyeongbokgung, built in 1395. If you dress up in traditional costume you get free entrance so there were people dressed up everywhere! It was a cloudy day so it didn't provide great photos but the palace was very impressive and beautifully decorated inside and out.
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Next up was a visit to one of the oldest and biggest markets in Seoul with 5000 stalls. We only saw a couple of hundred. There was lots of food including live octopus, pigs head, fruits & veg and lots of other seafood options.
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The afternoon provided our second optional activity, a very relaxing few hours in Aquafield Bath House. The place was huge and had many saunas ranging from 25-81 degrees. Each with different theme - a charcoal room, clay room, Himalayan salt room, mist room and more. We really enjoyed our visit and felt extremely relaxed after our visit.
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We had a fairly early night as it was an early start for our 9.40 am flight to Jerusalem the next morning. That will be the next blog installment!

Posted by bumblebum 23:59 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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