Is it safe to visit the Mount of Olives?

In peaceful times, a trip up the Mount of Olives, for the stunning view over the Old City and the Temple Mount, is part of every itinerary of Jerusalem. Wonderful vistas aside, the Mount of Olives is also one of the sites where Jesus Christ is said to have been departed the Earth to be with God. Even older is the Jewish Cemetery, which has been present on the slopes of the hill for over 3000 years and to this day is a very sought-after burial place,...

A morning on Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is part of the Old City of Jerusalem and a site revered by Jews, Christinas and Muslims, and has a dramatic history, which carries on to the present day.   For people of the Jewish faith, it is the holiest site.  It is the site of the Holiest of the Holies (Tabernacle), containing the Ark of the Covenant.  The first Temple was built by the Israelites under King Solomo around 3000 years ago around it. Following its destruction by Nebukadnezar about 450 years later, ...

Arriving in the Holy Land and Jerusalem – finally!

Jerusalem – Holy City of three faiths, contested for millennia, a destination that has long been on my list of places I wish to visit in my lifetime. For a long time, the Second Intifada put a stop to that, then I couldn’t find anyone to travel with or my mother told me she would be worried sick if I went, and I was never sure I wanted to go there all by myself.   Of course I could have joined a tour. Perhaps a Christian tour?...

West Bank Banksies, Walls and Sweet Child Jesus: a Day in Bethlehem

Bethlehem: I looked everywhere in my 2011 Bradt Guide, but couldn’t find it. No wonder… it’s in the West Bank, one of the three Palestine Territories in Israel. So, it wasn’t even in the guide! (I believe many other guides do cover the Palestine Territories, though). From everywhere, I heard words of caution about travelling to the West Bank, but travelling in relatively stable times (November 2017), I wanted to see the place Jesus was born. Somewhere in a weekend supplement, I’d read about the midnight mass...

Athens without the Crowds: 10 Tips to enjoy the Classic City

Athens is great: almost year-round sunshine, close to the Mediterranean Sea, safe, brimming with ancient history and museums full of artefacts, the food is excellent, and many people speak English. But this means it is extremely popular, and do not let the recent Greek economy crisis years fool you: tourism is what works well in Greece, and in the summer, the path up to the Acropolis is closer to a stampede than an intense dialogue with ancient history. So, here are my tips for that relaxed Athens...

My Personal World Heritage Tour: Paleochora, Aegina

It has become a fashion to visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While this is a great endeavour (beats getting drunk, quad biking in the desert and elephant riding, yes?), it can be a bit hard to tick them all of (there are currently 1073) or to keep track of them, as new ones are added every year, and Dresden (??!!)  has been taken off, and some appear just a bit dull. But I admit I have a certain fascination with them, and I tried to compile a list of...

Research Post: Japan Traditional Ceramics Dream Trip ( WARNING: a rather wordy post)

I love Japan, and I love beautiful things. So it comes as a surprise that I have never been deeply into the Japanese art of ceramics. I was lucky enough to visit Japan three times, and every time I would go to one of the small shops in or near Tsukiji fish market and pick up some pretty but inexpensive bowls, sake cups and rectangular plates, or a bento box.  I bought a small vase in a flea market in Himeji and marvelled at its perfectly imperfect...