Israel – Masada, The Fortress On The Sky

In the tiny rental car the Judaean Desert felt even more huge. A black bitumen road navigates between stony fields, rocky areas and along deep, dry valleys with some rare, green oasis. I have to admit, i always do enjoy traveling trough lonely deserts. All in a sudden a deep blue surface appeared on the edge of a plateau. I reached the Dead Sea region.

Not far from here i arrived at the foot of a mountain. On top of it is the legendary fortress of Masada.

Built by Herod the Great it has two palaces for himself and fortified city on the plateau of the mountain. Beside the space for the inhabitants it also has huge storage rooms and a clever system of water drains and cisterns. King Herod enjoyed life up here with big, painted halls, terraces overlooking the Dead Sea and even heated baths.

Later the fortified city was occupied by the Jewish on the First Jewish-Roman War. The story tells a sad end of the folks up there. When the Romans besieged the fortress, they even build up a ramp to breach the walls. The people inside the city decided not to go in slavery but rather commit a mass suicide.

Nowadays a cable car brings the tourists on the top. There’s still a long, steep way uphill for the wanderers. I preferred to spend some time up there and wander between the ruins. Some wall paintings are still well preserved, as parts of the Roman bath is too. Even the earthen ramp, which was built to breach the wall, is still good to see.

The view is just stunning. On the back raises the mountains of the desert with its nice rock formations. On the front lies the blue Dead Sea with the Jordan mountains on the other side. It was so beautiful and magic, i spent longer than planned, but regret not one minute of it.

Palestine – Jordan River, where Jesus got baptized, maybe.

A big crowd was gathered at the small, brown muddy river. It’s supposed to be the place, where Jesus got baptized in the Jordan river. These groups of believers obviously want follow their religion idol by get also blessed in that dirty water.

There’s a singing, praying and even screaming all over the crowd. A few standing in the water, all in white clothes, and holding the believers. Some seemed to hesitate, but loud prayers demanding to the supposing daemons to leave. Then, in a quick move, the priest dived the believer backwards into the river. A guy with a horn blows a deep tone to announce the new baptized, while the crowd was cheering and the singing is swelling in excitement.

The Jordan river is the border to the state of Jordan too. At the other side there’s also a small access to the river. The wooden platform is smaller and much less crowded. The few tourists from Jordan side was watching and filming the event. In between, there was a lonely guy, a bit off the crowd dipping himself into the river. When he reappeared he looked around, seemed to be almost a bit lost.

Israel – Jerusalem Ramparts Walk

It was a secret tip i read about: walk on the walls of Old City Jerusalem.

And indeed, it was a good advice.

Just behind the Jaffa Gate i got the tickets for the ramparts entrance, and some spicy breads to go. The city guide with his small electro car had no job for me, but had a small talk while he waited for other tourists.

Once up the wall, one get a very different view of Jerusalem, on both side of the wall. But at this point i let my images give you an impression of it.

Israel – The Nazareth Village

An open-air museum shows the life at time of Jesus.

Israel – The Golan Heights

Actually belongs the Golan Heights still to Syria. Since the occupation from Israel in the „Six-Day War“ it was never recognized internationally as part of Israel. But due its strategically importance, the latter never gave it back.

Despite the politically situation, the Golan Heights are known for its beautiful landscape and wonderful views.

Frankly, i’ve been too curious for both reasons. How it looks there, and is any tension to feel or to see when i travel there.

I started very early in the morning from the coast and headed straight to a point, which was marked in my map as memorial and picnic spot in the heights. An old tank was displayed there and some boards telling the stories of the battle in the ‚Six-Dax War‘.

I was honestly disappointed from the view there. Not only was it bit hazy, but also couldn’t see really far.

There was another mark on the map. Merom Golan, it says, was also a picnic spot or so. As i arrived there another ten minutes driving, it turned out as holiday resort. I turned my car at the security gate. Just few hundreds meters back heads a steep, winding road to the top of Mt. Bental with a wonderful lookout westwards over rolling hills of Golan.

On the very top, the view opens to south and east. A big, green valley lies in front, with a few wind mills and small lakes. At the horizon raises big, snowcapped mountains. Mount Hermon, as i found out, is 2’814m asl and already at Libanon – Syria border.

The peak of of Mt Bental is full of old bunkers, ditches and combat positions. It’s nowadays an open air museum, but no doubt, they would put it back into operation and reinforce it, whenever the situation get tense again.

I decided to travel along the ‚buffer zone‘ to the Gamla nature park and have a short hike there. But on my way i got stopped by some military road block, who asked me to turn around, since that road is temporarily closed. As if to underline the soldiers words, a big bang from artillery echoes trough the air. They’re on a training or maneuver, always ready to strike again.

On my way back i saw big trucks parking, ready to take tanks to move them from one spot to another. I rather took a look back to the beautifully and peacefully mountains on the other side.

Old Akko – A Stroll Trough History

The next morning I returned to the old city centre of Akko/Acre.

Some remains in the old town are still witnesses from the past centuries. A combined ticket for the most interesting, historical sites brought me across the city.

Most fascinating for me was the Templar Tunnel, which leads 150 meter long under the old city and was used from the crusaders. It was only recovered in the 1990′ by coincidence.

But most surprising was the citadel of the crusaders, with its knights halls, hospice and many more buildings. The remains are nowadays under the later build city. So, a self guided tour brought under the streets and opened up ancient streets, walls, churches and so on.

There was also a museum about a Turkish bath, known as hammam. In the different room are statues and video explanations to show the history of this particular hammam and how these bathrooms works in general.

The Ramhal synagoge is famous for its earlier Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lozato, who’s a very important religious leader and academic.

In the city wall is one more museum. It exhibits a collection of everyday objects, tools, but also clothes and jewelry from the begin of modern Israel.

Within The Mighty Walls of Akko

Akko, also known as Acre, has a rich history for around 5000 years. Many folks and and groups fought for it, because of its strategic location at the sea with a calm bay.

However, who is interested in history, please use the link provided (as usual 😉 )

My first day in Akko startet with a little breakfast surprise from my host. After that first coffee i was ready to explore the strong city walls and the areas within.

In the morning i found it quite empty. Happily, i walked around, found some small alleys, walked trough the market or watched the kids playing soccer between the mighty walls. Sometimes a stop for a coffee or a small bite. Just enjoying myself and imagine the life in times of the crusaders…

The Ancient Mine Of Ngwenya / Eswatini

After paying a small entrance fee, the guard at the gate jumped in my car and joined me up to the mine. We got to a halt in front of a huge dip. That’s all? That’s the mine? I asked myself a bit disappointed. From the oldest mine on earth I was expecting something more exciting. 

I was doubting about the age of this mine, till I looked up on Wikipedia about Ngwenya Mine. As my guide told me, the scientist dating back the first use of the hematite, or iron ore, for more than 40,000 years. It was used in the stone age for coloring the skin, probably as protecting from the sun.

But first we stepped into the remains of the former museum, which burned down by wildfire a couple years ago. Just in front of the ruins lies the deep hole from the old commercial mine. There are two more dips, the guide explains me. We drove further and parked at another mine dip, filled with water. 

From here we got on our feet and walked up to the highest point, the top of Mount Ngwenya. The last steps are on a steep latter. Stairways to heaven, slipped in my mind and followed me for awhile. From the top, a green wide valley opened up in front of my eyes. The sun rays plays with the clouds, draws pattern in the green landscape. The clouds sprays rain over it, as if it’s in a playful competition with the sun.

Eventually we got to the cave I mentioned earlier. Reddish rocks and ground all around here. Easy to imagine how the early homo sapiens was impressed of that colorful stone. My guide picked up some hematite and rubbed it on the back of my hand to demonstrate how the skin got colored. With the reddish stain on my hand we left the place, still imagining how 40000 years ago people was wandering these beautiful hills.

Best Of Greece 2021 (1/3)

Greece, rich on cultural heritage, legends and history. But there are also beautiful landscape with winding backroads leading to amazing spots. Just wonderful places for motorbiking too.

I spare you my boring stories from abroad, but show you some photo impressions from on-my-ways….