Rain today and definitely cooler. We aimed for Nazareth on the basis we would probably be in doors for much of the time. Quite a good choice as it turned out.
On the advice of the receptionist at the Jerusalem Hotel we had downloaded a free satnav for my mobile phone. We call her Rachel, and she has proved to be one of the most unreliable navigators in the history of mankind. She may of course be wreaking revenge for the British Mandate and all that then ensued, or she may just be very incompetent, but either way we shall not be using her in future.
We set off for Nazareth, and proceeded by a somewhat devious route, but got there eventually by reading road signs and ignoring Rachel. We headed into the old city and amazingly found a small car park just below the Church of the Annunciation. For a mere 20 shekels we could stay all day!
We walked up the street and circumnavigated the building, eventually asking a very pleasant local how to gain access. The church is massive and very modern (1969). It is built on the foundations of a Byzantine church which apparently lies on the house where Mary got the call from Gabriel. We started by wandering around the outside looking at various representations of the virgin and child from around the world. It was fascinating to see the cultural differences.n
Then we went inside St Joseph’s church which is quite simple and rather attractive. Underneath it are some more remains, although it was unclear what they were – possibly his carpenter’s shop?
We had a little difficulty finding our way into the main church, but when we did, it was well worth it. It is very impressive, with a large dome and concrete pillars. More representations of Mary and Jesus from around the world are on the walls.
Down in the crypt is the Grotto of the Annunciation and we duly filed past it, while others had their pictures taken in front of it or prayed. The latter seeming to be the more appropriate activity to me.
From the church we walked up into the souk, much of it closed as it was out of season. Nevertheless it was charming and we plodded up through it to the White Mosque, one of the oldest religious buildings in the town, dating from the 1700s. We were made very welcome and admired it’s fine prayer hall.
Across from it was a small cafe where we enjoyed some Arabic coffees and I enjoyed an interesting baklava, not unreminiscent of an apple turnover to look at. Wandering further, Christine found a very nice scarf in a small shop. It claims to be real cashmere and cost only 20 shekels. Those two facts do not seem to tally, but it is a nice scarf so who cares!
We eventually found our way back to the car, after a few hesitations and asked Rachel to find a route to Zippari, a hilltop town from the Roman times. She got us completely lost, but when we reset her led us triumphantly to the place!
It was still raining on and off, was quite cool (jumpers and fleeces needed) and very windy. We parked and walked around the site. The mosaics are amazing and clearly there is still much more to be found. On the very top of the hill are the remains of a villa with a central dining/living room with an beautiful mosaic showing the life of Dionysus. The views from the top were stunning, particularly as the clouds parted and sent shafts of light over the hills. Unfortunately we only had about an hour and a bit to look around before the site closed.
We set Rachel the task of getting us home. She began well, but then sent us down a side street into a residential area, through a factory site and finally onto a gravel track on the side of a mountain. We switched her off and retraced our steps. Using the signs we found our way to Tiberius and thus home. Rachel has been fired.
Tonight we are going to try a different restaurant down in the village. Tomorrow, who knows! Perhaps a journey to the Lebanese border – just the two of us, Rachel will not be coming . Two’s company……….!