“I got a ticket to ride”
Part II of III … “It’s been a hard days night” … by A. Logistician
Arriving at Tel Aviv airport is nothing spectacular, just another airport with funny writing. Following the crowd, I made it to passport control. Choosing the right line is important, and like most of us that have been in a supermarket. I picked the wrong line. I watched as each line around me got smaller and smaller, while the one that I was in hardly moved. There was a point in time that I thought my visa may expire before I was processed, but eventually the person in the booth that was checking passports, must have been given a jolt from a cattle prod and things began to move a little quicker. After I got through I didn’t give a damn about the others.
Out of passport control and into baggage collection. Surprise, surprise for once my luggage and I arrived in the same place at the same time. The down side was that my bag had its zip broken, but a small price to pay. In fact I felt like doing a lap of honour. Maybe it was the people standing around with guns that put me off.
A driver met me at the airport collection point and drove me to Jerusalem. I was amazed that it wasn’t that far really. Only about 30 minutes. We arrived in Jerusalem, and I was dropped at my hotel. OK it was the YMCA but close enough to a hotel (No I haven’t joined the Village people… yet).
On the journey my driver was more than helpful, telling me all about the place and also told me that since as I was going to Syria, don’t buy anything that is remotely related to Israel, as it will be confiscated and I may be detained. Welcome to the Middle East.
I am staying within walking distance from the Old City of Jerusalem. Now this is a place that I have always wanted to visit, ever since my younger days, as a boy in short pants at Sunday school (To all of you that sniggered about the Sunday school comment – shame on you). I checked in, found the room – it’s not that bad.
I had arrived on the Sabbath (see I am picking up the local language) so there was not a lot open. After a quick shower, a change of clothes (Shorts and a tee shirt….thank God for warm weather) I walked down to reception and asked for directions to the old city.
17:00 hrs. Directions firmly in my head. Turn right at the lights from King David street, and head towards Jaffa gate. I had no idea what a Jaffa gate was, nor was I inclined to ask. But putting one foot in front of the other, I set off. I walked down the road, turned left, turned around and then when right. Past the temple of David (which in fact turned out to be a hotel) and went straight on. I saw a sign that said Jaffa gate, and kept on walking. After about 30 minutes of walking, I turned around because I had obviously missed the place. All I could see was this big wall on my left hand side. You guessed it, that was that old city. Frustrated, I crossed the road and decided that I would follow the wall to see where it would take me. Low and behold, I arrived at Jaffa gate.
Now to clarify what I mean by Jaffa gate, apparently there were 7 entrances to Old Jerusalem. Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate, Lion Gate, Zion Gate, Herod’s Gate, New Gate and the best of all Dung Gate ( I kid you not).
18:00 hrs. So there I am at Jaffa Gate, all I see before me is 1) a street full of shops and 2) Tourist trap. I has only just got into the place before I was approached by one of the vendors who asked me if ” he could rip me off” His words not mine. I loved it. I had to smile at this guys honesty.
18:15. I am now officially lost in the old city. For those that know me well enough, you have to realise that I has the sense of direction like a cat caught in the spin cycle of a washing machine. It is amazing that all of the people that I had passed that invited me into their store suddenly didn’t speak a word of English. Back tracking, and after many false starts, I found my way back to the beginning.
In Part III “A day in the life” – our intrepid logistician waits to enter Syria!