Archiv der Kategorie: Palestine

Israel & Palestine – Summary & Pictures

People: Other travellers were a colourful mix of deeply religious people, volunteers, students and other backpackers (not as many as expected). I did not always meet cool people to hang out with, so spent a lot of time by myself in Israel (which I’m totally fine with nowadays – my company is awesome! Lol). The locals I met every day in Israel were rather distant. Polite, but not openly welcoming, and often a bit impatient. The constant presence of security personnel is a bit unnerving if you’re not used to it too. In Palestine, people were sooo happy to see me, a tourist, visiting their cities. I heard „welcome to Palestine“ everywhere, was offered dates and bread to taste and people wanted me to take pictures of them. That being said, I do have some good friends in Israel, who were hosting me just as openly. Maybe it takes some more time for people from Israel to open up, but once you’re their friend, they will be very warm and helpful…? At least that would be my experience.

Food: I did not eat out a lot during my 2,5 weeks in Israel and Palestine due to high prices. I did have lots of hummus and falafel though, and not to forget the delicious knafeh in Nablus! Also, when I did eat out, it was usually very good quality and very nice (worth the price). There are international restaurants in all bigger cities, so I ended up having really nice Thai food in Haifa for example. As in Israeli cuisine, I enjoyed shakshuka a lot, had the best hummus of my life in Akko, the best falafel of my life in Haifa and the very damn best knafeh in Nablus (someone take me back pleaaase!).

Weather: I was very lucky with the weather. While it can usually still be a bit rainy in March, I only had 2 cooler, grey-ish days with still much better weather than snowy Europe at the same time. Mostly it was sunny and often hot, hot, hot! Wonder how it is in July…

Costs: I went to Israel on a mission to prove everyone wrong – that it is possible to travel Israel on a budget. And it is! At 41€/day I managed to stay well below my 60€/day target. This was mostly done through Couchsurfing for 7 days, staying in the cheapest available dorms on the other days, and cooking a lot for myself instead of eating out. I did not save on sightseeing and the like!

Accommodation: On average, dorm beds would cost around 20€/night with the exception of much-recommended Hebron Youth Hostel in Jerusalem. They were usually very nice, often included breakfast, but still… that much money for a dorm!?

Infrastructure: I used busses most of the time, the tram within Jerusalem and the train between Akko and Haifa. Often there was free WIFI which was nice, and generally the busses were comparable to busses at home (Austria). There are frequent delays though, especially in the North of Israel (Galilee area, Nazareth, Haifa), busses always took longer than expected, even when there were no significant traffic jams. Odd.

Illnesses: No cold for once! Happy days.

Safety: The old towns of Jerusalem and Nazareth can get a bit spooky after sunset, but I never felt unsafe. I did feel annoyed with all the security everywhere though at one point. Every day, I had to show my passport at least once, and the constant bag checks at every bus/train station, shopping center, major tourist site etc. were exhausting. I call Israel a military high-security state. I would not enjoy living like this.

Itinerary: I followed a bit of an odd-shaped circular route, seeing most major sights along the way. I felt quite rushed at times though and really had to push to manage and see everything that I wanted to see in my 2,5 weeks. Therefore, I would not recommend my itinerary to anyone with the same amount of time. Plan 3 weeks and you will enjoy it more. I would have especially liked some more time in Palestine, Golan Heights, Nazareth and Safed. I don’t have any travel regrets this time. I saw everything that was on „my list“ 🙂 Luckily, hence no reason to ever come back.

Highlight: Tricky, but I will go with Jerusalem although I did high-five myself when making it to Hexagon Pools!

Lowlight: My interrogation when leaving the country. As in places: Tiberias.

Click here to see all my pictures of Israel:

IMG_3810 (Kopie)


Visiting Palestine independently

First of all, this is not a political blog and I don’t want this post to be political either -something that is difficult to achieve when talking about a piece of land that is either referred to as Palestine, the West Bank or even „disputed territories“. I will call it Palestine in this post, and that’s that. For me, it’s about travelling – and about meeting amazing people. On both sides.

When I planned to go to Israel, I had always contemplated visiting Palestine as well – however, I had wanted to go with a tour, as I did not know that this was easily possibly independently. Palestine is not a war-zone anymore. People live normal lives there. When I received an invite on Couchsurfing to stay with a girl in Ramallah, I was immediately excited and decided to make it my base for exploring Palestine for 2 days.

First, I left Jerusalem for Bethlehem Saturday morning. While no transport is going in Israel during Shabbath, busses to Palestine are operating their usual schedules. The drive was rather quick and could have been even quicker without the separation wall and checkpoints. The tourist information had offered to store my big backpack while I went sightseeing, but when I finally found their office, it was closed to my annoyance. Luckily a nice shop owner offered to keep an eye on my bag while I walked around…

First, I ventured to the Nativity Church to see the place where supposedly Jesus was born. Annoyingly, I had wasted too much time with storing my luggage so that it was very busy inside and I had to queue about 1h to be able to go down the little grotto to see the exact spot of Jesus‘ birth. It was certainly special to see and the experience was only slightly ruined by the massive tour groups and their respect-less guides who started shouting at each other about which group could enter first. Have I ever said I hate tour groups? I hate tour groups!

So I left rather quickly afterwards to see the milk grotto, a place where supposedly a drop of Mary’s breast milk dropped onto the ground. Hmm, was not that special though. I then walked around in the old town a bit which was nice and busy, and continued all the way back to the separation wall to see the cool graffiti on there, Banksy’s Armoured Dove nearby and the Walled Off Hotel. For me, that was actually the coolest part of Bethlehem!

I then took a shared taxi to Ramallah where I met up with Lama, my host, and chilled at her place for the rest of the day. In the evening, we cooked a traditional local dish together, containing pita bread, aubergine, tomatoes, yoghurt and a couple of spices. Simple, but so delicious!

Next day, I took a bus to Nablus, about 2h north of Ramallah. There aren’t any major sights, but the old town and market located in the little alleys – and I fell in love with it!! The locals were sooo friendly and just feeding me all the time. Everyone wanted to say hello, welcome, where are you from, take a picture or just said „come, try“ and gave me a date/chocolate/spices/some bread etc. It was so much fun!

If there is a dedicated attraction in Nablus, then it would probably be Al-Aqsa knafeh shop. The little shop sells the supposedly best knafeh in the Palestine and since this is the origin of knafeh, potentially the best one in the world. I don’t have any comparison yet, but what I ate in Nablus was truly, truly delicious!! Knafeh is a sweet dish that contains melted goat cheese and is best eaten hot. It’s difficult to describe, so you’ll just have to look at my pictures and trust me on this: Do try when in Nablus!

From Nablus, I took a shared taxi to Jericho where in the heat of the day I rented a bicycle to go around the city and see the different sights. Backpacker life! Distances were not too large though and the beautiful desert scenery made up for it. First I cycled to the cable car to get me up to the Monastery of Temptation. The ride was not cheap, but I wasn’t gonna hike up in the scorching midday sun. And it definitely was worth it! The views from the Austrian-built cable car were great already and once at the Monastery there were some really cool viewpoints as well from where you could see the Jericho, the surrounding area as well as some rock caves nearby. Super nice!! The monastery itself was not too special – it was more about the views in my opinion.

Next, I cycled to the excavations of Hisham’s Palace which were a bit better than expected but there’s still lots of work needed here to free the other mosaics and make the sight more appealing to the visitor.

Afterwards, my original plan was to see Wadi Qelt, but due to a misunderstanding I landed myself in the middle of nowhere, having to hitchhike my way back to Ramallah in the end. I did get some very nice views of the area before that, but sadly missed out on the true Wadi Qelt because of that. While I had never planned to hitchhike in the Palestine, it actually worked out pretty well and I made my way back to Ramallah safely. After heading out for some delicious Arab ice cream and a falafel sandwich, I said goodbye to Palestine and Lama early next day to make my way North to Tiberias…