A Travellerspoint blog

the aftermath

As I am writing this blog, nothing has changed for the good, that's for sure. It is almost a month and our country is still in lockdown, although I must say that they call it lockdown light! If this is a good thing I don't know coz every day more than hundreds of people die.

It seemed that our government was a bit too gullible to think it was just a flu and with thousands and thousands of people contaminated in the first place. Today we are the 9th of april and almost 3000 people are dead. Most of them are older people but still, even little me belongs to the people who should be very careful, with my age of 44 I belong to the risk group. Who in his right mind could have believed that when the year 2020 started? Now it even looks like I am not even going to make 2021!

Of course we have to think positive, but still, at times it is quite hard and I just am lucky for every day I am here ... I guess when this is all over, the world is going to think a little bit more about the things that matter the most.

Maybe this sounds a bit selfish, but for me besides family, friends and good health of course that is traveling. I can't help it, but it is in my blood and it will stay there till the day I die ... which I hope is 40 years from now!

Writing my final trip makes it certain, I have the travel bug and I can only hope it can vanquish that other more dangerous bug called COVID-19.

Here is to better times and stay safe!

Posted by Ils1976 00:36 Archived in Belgium Tagged home europe Comments (2)

back home again!


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Touching the ground a little bit after midnight never in my life felt that good, I don't know how to explain it but for the first time ever I was glad to be home and as soon I was cleared for customs and found my luggage again I said my quick goodbye to a few other group members and I was out of there, straight in the loving arms of my mum and brother.

I was so glad to see them back again and as we drove back home, I put me up-to-date with all the things going on in the country nowadays and to me it seemed that the world had changed in one weeks time. As I left them, not much was going on, but now coming home it sounded I came back to a war zone, it was just incredible!

To my surprise, my mum even told me that from next week the entire country was going in lockdown with everything closed and my brain was hurting. I just couldn't believe what was going on. I was complete numb. I just so hoped that it would be over soon!

Driving for more than 2 hours, I was glad to be back home and went straight to bed, I was just that tired. While I went to sleep I sincerely hoped that it was all but a bad dream ... but than I woke up again ... ready to face living in Covid times!

Posted by Ils1976 00:36 Archived in Netherlands Tagged home family europe Comments (2)

counting the hours


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Nothing was planned today and this simply meant that we were going to be free to do whatever we wanted til 3PM in the afternoon, when Boas was going to arrive to pick us all up to go to the airport.

With all of this in the back of my mind I decided to sleep in. It must have been almost 9 AM when I was ready for my breakfast, where I met up with a few others of our group.

Since we were the only ones in the hotel, this meant we could have the room all to ourselves till it was time for our departure, so instead of packing my bags immediately after breakfast, I spent some time on the communal lawn in front of the dining area with a few others. The sun was shining, but it was a bit chilly as well, but somehow we ended up at the beach of Netanya about an hour later. Together with 2 others we enjoyed a nice walk along the beach and searched for some shells for my nieces at home.

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It must have been already 1 PM when me and Bibi went for a quick bite to eat, we had a frisk walk behind us and besides soaking up some sun, there was nothing else do to, so we enjoyed a few Israeli tapas together with a good glass of wine.

Sadly enough almost an hour later it was already time to go back to the hotel coz I still needed to pack and it must have been almost 3 PM when I was good and ready to go. I must admit that I wasn't the only one, it seemed that our entire group wanted to go home. Every day we received bad news from home about people getting infected and even worse, dying from Covid-19, so instead of sitting here, we just wanted to go back to our respective family.

Exactly at 3 PM Boas arrived and we quickly put our luggage inside the bus and went on our way towards the airport where we arrived almost an hour later. Checking in was still too early and although there were not that many people at the airport, as soon as we were cleared for the security, there was nothing else to do but wait till we could check, almost an entire hour later.

It seemed to take forever, but later on we heard it had something to do with new rules concerning the Corona virus. Not too many people where aloud at one place.

After checking in, we had a bit of free time to have another snack to eat and then it was off to the Netherlands. Boarding went very smooth and within minutes we were airborne. Since it was already late, I decided to just close my eyes will listening to some music and I must say that I was a bit surprised to even have slept a little bit, but needless to say, I was more than glad to be back in Schiphol a little after midnight!

Posted by Ils1976 00:08 Archived in Israel Tagged beaches sea walk asia Comments (2)

the end is near


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Another early morning, another sunny day. Today we were going to leave Jerusalem and not able to pack yesterday because of Purim, I set my alarm clock at 7 in the morning and let me tell you that it hurt a lot ... it seemed the zombie modus was back! This time however I came prepared and with a bit of pain relief, I was more than ready to tackle my dreadful task ahead.

It must have been a little after 8 AM when I arrived at the breakfast area feeling quite hungry and I guess this had everything to do with the alcohol last night, but with all the choices in front of me, this wasn't going to be a problem.

About an hour later we left the big city behind us and were on our way towards Jaffa, where we arrived at 10 AM, it seemed we made good time, but I guess that's because there was no traffic at all, or not so much anyway ... in Belgium you would be driving from one traffic jam to another, but here it was smooth sailing so to speak!

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Upon our arrival we had a bit of free time to have a cup of coffee or just to relax, and as the sun was shining and the old town overlooked the Mediterranean Sea in all its splendor, this was the ideal place to end a holiday. The vibe coming from this place was nothing but good and half an hour later Michel, who dressed up like a modern day Napoleon, guided our group through town. Never in the back of my mind did I know that the little guy sailed all the way towards the Promised Land and I must admit, it was quite fun to hear his "adventures" back in the day through the wonderful words of our crazy guide!

Jaffa really is an artistic town with little but, very expensive galleries, small cobbled stones, amazing views ... to be honest, it has it all. I do understand why the artist Uri Geller settled in this town. Who could blame him, it sounds like paradise!

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As we walked all the way to the harbor of Jaffa, we met up with the children of Michel, who wanted to spend a day with their dad. This was so nice that they were immediately welcomed into the group and as we left the old town behind, we were on our way to Tel Aviv around noon.

This afternoon we were going to have some free time on our hands and while most of the group where trying to seek their way to the modern city and the shopping malls, me and a few others decided to go for a walk alongside the beach. Although it was quite chilly, it was nice to go on a walk and taking the boulevard, we walked all the way back to Jaffa where we had a visit to the flea market and the clock tower as well.

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Walking back towards Tel Aviv, a few clouds appeared and while I thought it was chilly going one way, it was freezing cold when we walked back to the city. I was glad to see the our meeting point again and with still a bit of fee time on our hands, we had a quick peek at the Carmel market.

I must admit that I love going to a local market and the Carmel Market didn't disappoint at all. It truly is a nice market to walk around with not only fruits, veggies, meats and sweets, but you can also find your daily goods like any market here in Belgium. It is nice to see this coz in our country it is slowly disappearing because of the shopping malls and supermarkets, but here you can find it all.

Exactly at 5 PM we were back to meet up with the rest of the group and were on our way towards Netanya, our homebase for tonight.

As we were driving towards our beach destination, we've been told by Michel that we had to leave the country within 48 hours. Of course we knew the situation with the virus became more worse and worse every day because of the news from the home front, but that it was that bad, we had no idea.
It seemed that the Israeli government got scared of all the foreigners bringing the virus into the country and they were going to close all the borders after 48 hours.

Things really got serious and we noticed this when we arrived at the hotel which we had completely for ourselves. The staff were no-where to be found and the keys were handed out by our guide. Luckily we did get some food for our hungry stomachs, but the staff wanted us out of the dining area by 10 PM.

Because we couldn't sit in a group of more than 4 persons, there was nothing fun to do at the end of this day and we just said goodnight to each other about half an hour later.

For the first time ever during this trip I was actually glad I was going home tomorrow and after a nice dip in the bath, I was more than ready to go to sleep while wondering what tomorrow would bring.

Posted by Ils1976 00:00 Archived in Israel Tagged landscapes beaches churches art sky sea monument history shopping city house tour group asia viewpoint Comments (4)

Jerusalem, you certainly doesn't disappoint!


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Another sunny day awaited us as soon as we left our hotel behind. It was only 9 AM in the morning, but the sun was shining so bright that sunglasses were the most essential item of the day! Yesterday turned out to be quite an interesting day and I must say that I was really looking forward to another one.

Michel was once again his cheerful self and as soon as our group was completed, we drove of to our first stop of the day, which was the Mount of Olives!

Seen as I just love the fruit on its own, I was more than eager to go and see what it was all about and as we drove higher and higher, the view got more and more interesting on the city of Jerusalem. Michel told us that back in the time that Jesus walked this earth, it must have been quite a view with loads of olive groves, but modern man seems to like the building aspect on the Mount even more. It seems that real estate brings more "joy" than a very old olive tree, so as we drove to the top instead of olive groves, we rather saw one old building after another ... such a pity if you ask me.

Once outside of the bus, it immediately struck me that we weren't the only ones, but listening to our guide, it was nothing compared to a "normal" tourist day and he said that the Corona outbreak started to show. We felt a bit pity for him because when we left the country he was probably out of a job for a very, very long time.

Michel wouldn't be Michel if he didn't ask us to feel sorry, but to enjoy this beautiful day and that is just what we did!

From the Mount of Olives you have a magnificent view on the city of Jerusalem as well as the most important Jewish and ancient cemetery where loads of people are buried from way back then. Even now you can still be buried on the southern part of the mountain, but I guess you need a lot of money seen the place where you'll end up. The view is not for free I am afraid!?!

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It is said that this is the same spot where Jesus ascended to heaven and hence it is a very important pilgrimage site for Christians, but I must say for once I love the Jewish part of it even better, that is the Old Testament believers. Jewish people love to be buried here because it is not only close to the sacred city, but also close to the Golden gate, one of the few closed gates in the whole of Jerusalem.

According to Jewish tradition, the Shekhinah or Divine Presence used to appear through the eastern Gate and will appear again when the Anointed One or Messiah comes and goes through the Gate. From that point the present one will be replaced with a new one and all the believers will resurrect. You might even say that from that point on they all live happily ever after again ... if this should happen, you'll better get a front row seat, that's for sure!

Michel also told us that they closed the gate because after Jesus died loads of people thought they were the Messiah and people really got tired of having one once every week as Christians also believe that their Messiah or Jesus will return through this Gate. I think they were smart to close it, but as I asked if it was possible a female Messiah would announce herself at the Gate, our guide started to laugh and said that human race wasn't ready for that ... I guess he is right! Some males or so small minded, but we will see once it reopens! :)

Walking down from the Mount of Olives passing the cemetery we saw a Jewish funeral going on and it was quite impressive to say the least. Sadly enough we had to move on and mere minutes later we arrived at the little Dominus Flevit Church where accordingly Jesus cried when we looked at the city Jerusalem and saw its destruction in the future. It seemed that not only Nostradamus was great seer, he had the gift as well.

As we walked further down the road, we arrived at the Church of All Nations or Basilica of the Agony where you can still see a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest. The church on itself is quite impressive but I loved the Garden of Gethsemane a bit more. Those ancient olive trees are really worth a visit.

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Since Mary's Tomb is closed, it seems we were going to miss out on the burial place of the Virgin Mary and instead we walked al the way towards the main road.

From this place we took the bus again and Boas dropped us off at the Dung Gate mere minutes later. Walking again in the sunshine felt so good and as we passed the Davidson Archeological Park, we had a quick stop at the Western Wall excavations and when you see the pictures Michel handed out to us, this Temple Mount had to be gigantic so many decades ago. The First Temple build by King Solomon is long gone, so is the Second Temple and even though the Jewish people are still waiting for the Third and Final Temple to be build here, I guess for the moment we all have to make due with the fact that it is more or less a muslim domain with its most important buildings being the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the beautiful Dome of the Rock.

It is but a short walk towards the Western Wall and as men and women are separated, you immediately see who is worse off between the battle of the sexes. As there are practical but a few men present, the small part reserved for the women is packed and it is difficult to even get to the wall. With a bit of perseverance the women of our group made it and as we were ready for our own part of "wailing" at the Wall, I must say that we were better off than some next to us, as it seemed they could not let go of the wall. I guess like they say here in Belgium, the women had a lot of wailing / complaining to do., something I can relate to ... 100 %!

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When we are all back together, men and women, we went on the move again through the Muslim Quarter towards the Via Dolorosa, which is believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. Maybe it is just me, but I had such a romantic view of this main street with cobblestones, that once I saw it in real, I was completely disappointed. It was more like a souk with nothing but one souvenir shop after another and to me it had nothing charming about it whatsoever. Was this the place Jesus walked up to his death !?

There are Nine Stations of the Cross and although we only visited 2 because of limited time, I was but a bit glad that we had lunch soon after in the Muslim Quarter. Like always, the food was delicious. This is the only country I have been to that can make "fast food" tastes so good and yep, it seems that I am addicted to falafel. I just can't help myself!

Some people of our group yearn for a bit of free shopping time and as we get an hour off from the group, I am just glad to sit in the sun for a while, but as there is still a bit of time to kill, I tag along with a few women of our group who want to buy jewelry with the Eilat Stone in it. I must admit that the King Solomon stone is really beautiful and with only a few minutes left, we scored a nice ring for her for a reasonable price.

As we are all back together again, we walked further towards the Christian Quarter were we had a visit at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church with a strange mix of architectural building styles contains the two holiest sites being the site where Jesus was crucified at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha, and where you can find Jesus's empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected.

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Eclectic on the outside, when you enter the huge entrance door it is even worse, but it has a certain charm as well. You can definitely see that many religions want to have a piece of the action so to speak. A mishmash of Roman Catholic, several Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic religions make the church to what it is today.

Strangely enough I like it and although it is overwhelming, there is something about it what makes it all work ... to me that is!

Going up the stairs I am surprised to see a lot of people waiting in line and it is not until Michel tells us that we arrived at Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified, that it finally hit me. This was supposed to be the place where he died and many people waited in line to touch a piece of the rock which is encased in protective glass underneath the Altar of the Crucifixion.

Nothing at all as I expected it to be ... yep I thought it was actually a mountain !?!, we headed downstairs again where we bumped into the Stone of Anointing.

Here the body of Jesus was supposed to be prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea. If this is true or not because of the fact that Jesus died on a Friday I don't know, but I had to do it, in Covid-19 times it is pure madness, but I just couldn't resist myself and I touched the stone, which smelled delicious ... when I die, I want some of that ointment!

Walking deeper and deeper into the church there are a dozen of chapels on several floors, too much to visit personally and after what must have been almost an hour, we finally saw the Aedicula or Holy Sepulchre where people nowadays can see the tomb of Jesus. Normally there is a waiting line of hours, but now that we are here and no waiting line in front of us, we wanted to see the empty tomb ... or not!?

Michel gave us another half an hour of free time to wonder around and to me this was the chance to light a candle for my loved ones at home who were already struggling with daily life under the threat of Covid-19.

Back outside again I already saw most of our group waiting and when we were finally complete we slowly walked back to the Jaffa Gate passing Davids tower and met up with Boas again.

It wasn't that long of a ride back to the hotel and as the sun was still shining, just like the rest of the group I retired to my room till it was time for dinner.

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Together with a few others of the group I went to dinner at 6PM because we wanted to go into the city later this evening. Today was Purim, a Jewish holiday, which sometimes also is called the Festival of Lots. This is the Festival you can do whatever you want and go as crazy as you like. People dress up like we do when we celebrate carnival and the best thing about it, they are allowed to get drunk ... really drunk! Not something you associate with an Orthodox Jew to be honest, but seeing is believing it and that is just what we did!

8 PM on the dot the six of us left the hotel and walked all the way to the tram from where it was but an half an hour ride towards the centre of Jerusalem. All the youngsters were out and about, laughing, drinking and having fun and that is just what we did as well.

It must have been a little after 11 PM when I went back to the hotel with Bibi and Louba. After such a long day the three of us where quite tired and already feeling the alcohol in my head and feet, it was time for me to go to sleep. It has been quite a day and one I will never forget, that's for sure!

Posted by Ils1976 07:31 Archived in Israel Tagged buildings skylines people religion history walk house sightseeing sights asia viewpoint Comments (2)

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