With so much to see and do in Jerusalem, one can easily be overcome. To make the most of your visit to the Holy City, follow my travel bible.
1. Plan to spend several days in Jerusalem. On Day One, wander without a map and without an agenda. It is only by navigating the maze that is the Old City that you will learn how to get around.
2. If you want to access the Temple Mount, and are not a Muslim, visiting times vary (but are usually restricted to three hours in the morning and one in the afternoon). The site is closed to visitors on Fridays and Saturdays. Non-Muslims are not allowed in the Dome of the Rock (see photo) nor the Al Aqsa Mosque. The main security entrance to the Western Wall is also the main entry point for non-Muslim Temple Mount visitors. The line for the Temple Mount is on the far right-hand side of the sidewalk. As the line moves slowly, get there at least 30 minutes early.
3. The only time to see the interior of the 12th-century Church of St. James in the Armenian Quarter is at 3 PM daily, when religious services are held.
4. Try to time your visit to Jerusalem so that you are there at the start of Shabbat. The Jewish Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday night. And that's when the Western Wall is transformed. Thousands of worshipers come to celebrate, commune, and pray. Do note, if you do come to the Western Wall area on the Sabbath (between sundown Friday night and sundown Saturday night), you are not allowed to take photographs.
5. If you can’t visit during Shabbat, go for a Monday or a Thursday. Those are the days reserved for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at the Western Wall. So again, you have a hub of religious activity and fervor.
6. Go up ‘oer the ramparts of the Old City. Built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the XVIth Century, the ramparts built atop the city walls circumnavigate the city. However, you can't circumnavigate the city in one shot, as access to the ramparts by the Temple Mount is closed. As a result, there are two possible routes for a Ramparts Walk: The northern route, from Jaffa Gate to the Lions Gate or the southern route, which begins at the Tower of David and ends at the Dung Gate.
7. Go down below and explore the tunnels under the Western Wall Plaza. A 90-minute tunnel tour reveals hidden layers of history, including large blocks of the Western Wall. Advance reservations are required, but they can be made the same day.
8. There are several hostels that were originally designed to lodge pilgrims to the Holy City. Today, whether you are a religious pilgrim or merely a curious one, you can stay for a song at places like the Lutheran Guesthouse; the Austrian Hospice (complete with a café serving Viennese treats); and the low-budget Armenian Hostel (located smack dab on the Via Dolorosa). Or choose from two dozen other Christian guesthouses.
9. Like any crowded city, if you look like a tourist, you will be a target for hawkers and potential “lovers” (particularly if you are a Western female). I find that walking purposely, dressing modestly, and using abrupt, dismissive but polite no thank yous in the native language fend off most unwanted advances.
Instead of paying inflated prices for a bottle of wine during your Valentine's Day getaway, BYOB and inflate a Vinnibag. Its compressed air chambers will keep packed bottles intact and packed clothing dry. $28
Looking for a little his and hers action this Valentine's Day? What about matching high-end Royce Leather travel accessory bags? Made with fine grain Nappa leather, both versions have a waterproof lining and separate zipped compartments for liquids. His comes in black and tan ($115) and Hers comes in pearl pink, blue, green, and black ($95). Look for them on Amazon or at Brookstone stores. A less expensive his and hers option is this red High Sierra Pack-N-Go Duffel . The duffel doubles as a backpack, and its carrying case transforms into a toiletry pouch. It's available at luggage stores and many major retailers, including Macy’s. $25-30
These little lunch carriers by KoKo will drive any girl cuckoo or to coo-coo. Adorable exteriors are teamed with insulated linings to keep hot things warm and cold things cool. And what else is cool--each bag comes with its own matching cutlery set. $20 For store information, go to www.cosmoda.com. In Washington, DC, Koko products can be found at Frager’s Hardware (Capitol Hill), Home Rule Inc (14th Street, NW), and Johnson’s Florist and Garden Center (Upper NW).
Finally, for something cozy and soft, the SeV Chloe Hoodie, lined in hot pink, will warm any woman's heart. Features include plush fleece cuffs with thumbholes and a dozen no-bulge pockets (with one especially designed for lipstick and another for an iPad). It's available at www.scottevest.com for $90.
As I begin my exploration into mental health and travel, there are so many paths from which to choose. As I mentioned in a previous post, place-related ailments, such as Jerusalem Syndrome and Paris Syndrome, fascinate me for some crazy reason. But given that the majority of us are unlikely to fall prone to such maladies*, perhaps we best embark on the journey elsewhere.
But, if I may, a slight digression--when reading the faculty roster, I was thrilled to note that said list includes one Dr. Yaniv Belhassen, whose research interests include “Deviant Behavior and Drug Usage in Tourism” and “Ideological Manifestation and Consumption in Tourism”. Holla…or should I say “Challah”? Have I found the Holy Grail or what?
Back to our tale, my little teacups. After finding my U. of Essex grad school beanie, I donned it before ingesting Dr. Belhassen’s Cannibis Usage in Tourism: A Sociological Perspective and his Drugs and Risk Taking in Tourism (and one more digression before continuing: I would like to note truthfully that I may be the only person who didn’t inhale. Really…just ask my college boyfriend if you can track him down).
Okay, full disclosure out of the way, let’s go back to that aforementioned yet unmentioned-to-date quote mentioned at the beginning of paragraph two (lesser minds may need to get high to understand that sentence). Cannibis Usage cites a sweet guy named Hirschi, who says “every one of us is attracted to what is considered deviant behavior. However, the fear from social sanctions deters us from acting upon such temptations.” EXCEPT…as one Dr. Bellis writes, “individuals abroad are often free from the social constraints of work and family….” Therefore, Dr. Belhaussen and Cannibis co-authors Carla Almeida Santos and Natan Uriely conclude, “The notion that while on vacation individuals feel that they are free from norms that govern their daily life is quite familiar..."
Next up in Cannibis is a heady dude named Shields, who defines travel as a “liminal zone” --"an area where ‘social conventions…are relaxed under the exigencies of travel and of relative anonymity and freedom from community scrutiny’.” In non-academic terms, the straight dope is that we are all prone to going a bit crazy when traveling.
I myself am certainly not immune to travel-induced crazy (see right). However, I will plead the Fifth in terms of the specifics of my own deviant behaviors while on the road. After all, my journalistic integrity and objectivity must not be questioned. However, I should very much enjoy hearing about yours. Not, I should emphasize, in a voyeuristic sense, but merely as a journalistic/academic exercise. Now, I realize such a request is unlikely to yield results unless anonymity is protected. So, please feel free to use a secret e-mail address from which to share your heteroclitic travel proclivities.
*undocumented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)/the American Psychiatric Association's standard reference for psychiatry