Saturday, October 23, 2010

And did those feet

Jerusalem is a great place for people who love to aimlessly wander around, especially in the Old City.

This bustling microtropolis of stalls, temples and houses is probably what Venice used to be like when locals actually lived there, and the lack of clear boundaries between the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters keeps things interesting, as silver menorah candles abruptly give way to trinkets depicting Our Saviour.

I didn't visit the Vatican while in Italy, but even so, I can safely say that Old Jerusalem's Christian Quarter is much more the sort of tourist attraction He would have wanted. Hopefully the various Messiah Tours criss-crossing significant areas of this holy nation are similarly low-key.

Do the Ramparts Walk

If you get lost, scared and confused during your aimless wandering, rather than converting to the nearest convenient faith and praying for a miracle, you can Do the Rampart Walk - something I'm also trying to popularise as a dance move, which requires wearing ill-equipped canvas shoes because your sturdier ones currently bloody stink, and every so often slipping on the perilous stone steps. You'll all be doing it by the spring.

I have to hand it to Jerusalem - they haven't allowed health and safety considerations or disabled access to spoil this historical site. Actually, very little seems to have changed at all over the last couple of centuries, since the fortress went through its last phase of destruction and rebuilding. It's still used as a centre of defence and law enforcement, as the prevalence of devil's rope will threateningly inform you, and even the Ottoman-built police stable complete with horses has stubbornly refused to notice that it isn't 1876 anymore. I admire it for that.

The Rampart Walk starts at Jaffa Gate and costs 16 shekels. Free stuff fans may want to consider entering through the subterranean chambers of the fortress, where it meets the real world at locations like Batei Machase, and climbing the life-threatening steps that will get you onto the ramparts as long as you aren't disabled.

Even if you aren't physically handicapped, you may still have to be mentally ill, if you really think saving the equivalent of £2.80 is worth risking a run-in with Israeli authorities. My favourite authorities in the world.


  1. I didn't do the whole walk, but there's a bit right next to the Wailing Wall that seemed to be completely free to get on and play about with. They put up a handrail at one point but it was incredibly shaky.

    Are the Israeli army bods still everywhere in that city? It seemed a lot like we got there during training week and they were going to all the tourist hotspots we were. Either that or they were just tailing us.

    There's a really harrowing (and massive) museum about the holocaust nearby - Yad Vashem - which you should go and see. I think it was free as well. There's also a church dedicated to St Andrew which has a plaque saying something like 'Robert the Bruce wanted his heart here but the greedy Scots stole it for their own amusement'. You might want to see that to stay in touch with your Scotch roots.

    If you go to David's City or Massada (presuming you're going to see the Dead Sea - you're going to see the Dead Sea, right?) let me know how they are. We came across them towards the end of holiday time and were feeling poor.

    Also, if you can find a price more outrageous than £16 for a single Macallan 12-year-old let me know.


  2. What a great comment! Thanks for all the recommendations, I'll probably be here a few weeks so will try to fit them all in. My weird hostel (I'm literally sleeping on a roof) has some good prices on day trips around, so I'll probably do the Dead Sea and stuff.

  3. I slept on a roof when I was in Jerusalem! Is it something like the Citadel Hostel? If you go in it's sort of cave like, turn left to go up stairs, past kitchens and cats, go right to go in some caves and stuff. There's a secret passage that way. There's a keypad with the code on it. Not very secure. Mind, I think the main door had something clever like 1234# as its code.

  4. Yeah, that's exactly what it is! Great view up here. And a lot better than the hostel I was in the last two nights (New Palm Hostel), where I couldn't get any sleep for Israeli road rage honking.