Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jerusalem Wanderings Continue...

Ruth Richter relates enjoyment of interesting lunches, sites to see, and the Light Show:

I believe Ron wrote earlier about having delicious lamb chops but bemoaned the fact that lambs need to have more of those little bitty chops since he didn’t get enough to eat. That was from our first night here when we went to the historic American Colony Hotel (a story in itself) and had dinner. Since this is our daughter, Ginger’s, favorite place to go for a meal, we had lunch there last Saturday sitting in the sunshine – too hot – and in the shade, a little bit cool - of the courtyard, with the birds singing in the trees, lovely blooming flowers and a burbling fountain.

This is all good stuff, but I’d not be anxious for the restaurants in Garden Valley – or even in Boise – to adopt the prices they charge any time soon. Ginger and I opted to have the business lunch which included soup or salad, the main course, dessert, and our non-alcoholic drink of choice, all for the magnificent price of $28.00. I ordered the lamb shank since I love lamb when the chef actually knows how to prepare it, and assumed it would be a proper lady-size portion of the lamb chop story previously related.

Not so, chops are small, shanks are BIG! Our jaws all dropped at this magnificent portion of meat I was being served all in a bowl by itself with my side of fried rice in another bowl. Well, it was melt in the mouth delicious, plenty to share with Ron, who was begging, and enough to bring home and make another meal out of it the next day. The price is sounding better, right? (Sorry, US $130.00 is not sounding better to me. Not for a lunch and all he had was a salad.) Since my two companions didn’t begin to order their meal as cleverly as I did, no need to bore you with the details!

Earlier, we’d taken a taxi over to see the Church of All Nations, rather a famous and well-known landmark here since multiple nations including the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain contributed to build it in 1924. Once again, it was a rather gloomy interior, and I guess our preferences are for something more light and bright.

Right beside it is the Garden of Gethsemane. When visiting such a country as Israel, one feels a bit duty-bound to see a lot of these sites but it’s hard to know what your expectation should be. As I’m sure in Jesus’ time, the Garden of Gethsemane was really just this little plot of earth which when we saw it, happened to be all turned earth waiting for spring planting of flowers, one presumes. The olive trees, however, are obviously very old and the guide book indicates they likely would have been there in Jesus' time.

Ginger had gotten us tickets to see the “night show” at The Citadel, which is just inside the Old City and part of the city wall. We’d not gone to see the place in the daytime and she didn’t tell us what was meant by night show, so we innocently walked in expecting to see maybe something glitzy and colorful. What we were treated to was truly beyond description and to understand the magnificence and reality of it, you’d have to be there.
We walked in and all through the beautiful limestone mostly in ruins area, which started out in the 1st century as a palace for Herod the Great. Over the years since then, it’s been added to as well as crumbled here and there. So, the show began and one can only say it was the best motion picture show depicting thousands of years of history that one is ever likely to see, all of which was displayed on the existing edifices of The Citadel, which became the motion picture screen, and it was virtually like being transported back to whatever time they were representing at that moment.

There was wonderful music throbbing throughout the presentation and you could see people and animals that appeared to be actually walking through the various scenes, so that from time to time, I found myself trying to figure out if it was some stray tourist walking about or was it part of the presentation. This was truly a memorable happening and one to reflect on over and over. (I liken it to sitting on the bank of the Colorado River in the bottom of the Grand Canyon watching a motion picture on the walls of the canyon on the far side or the same in Bryce Canyon.)
The Wine Tour

On Sunday, the American Consulate had arranged a wine tour for those who wished to participate, and off we went to see these wineries with both Ron and myself being somewhat dubious about how they might actually grow grapes in what we’d seen of Israel at this point.
The wineries are located in the Judean
Hills and actually these come close to
rivaling some of the mountains surrounding Garden Valley.
The drive itself was the pleasure of the day for me. In our big bus, we wound around narrow mountain roads looking up to higher places to go, and down into deep ravines, with one even having a lovely, clear mountain stream running through it. The trees and foliage were mostly green and there was quite a lot of it. As Ginger pointed out, this is about as green as Israel is ever going to get – so enjoy it!

When we arrived at the first winery, we were met by a man who has a one-person operation going, with the assistance of his wife and one helper. He’s a retired film writer from Hollywood, but I would have said Jewish through and through. He went on at some length about the wine-making process as he defines it. He was definitely doing his own thing, I’d say, and not necessarily following the standard guidelines. This was the one winery of the three we saw that doesn’t make kosher wine (what should be a strenuous process). He said , “My wine isn’t kosher because I choose to drive on Saturday.” I find that a very funny comment but think it’s far from accurate.
We proceeded to do some serious wine tasting of about six different wines and enjoyed a lovely setup of bread, cheeses (I don’t usually care that much for cheese but they have some wonderful stuff here) and the typical chopped up tomatoes and cucumbers, along with olive oil to dip the bread into. Never mind the wine-tasting, I was just enjoying the great food!

The second winery was a much grander setup – and kosher. Kosher means it’s suitable for the most orthodox Jews to use, and their eating and drinking all has to be prepared in kosher conditions. It’s so kosher that a Jewish person was with us, besides the person giving the tour, also Jewish but not so orthodox, who was just there to observe that our “unclean” hands and bodies did not touch anything – the oak barrels, the stainless steel massive containers. If we did touch anything, that lot of wine would be contaminated and no longer acceptable. This time we were all seated at a long table with wooden cutting boards filled with more cheeses, and a big assortment of vegetables, and a basket of bread to pass. We were noting that the red and yellow peppers here have this wonderful sweet taste, much sweeter and tasty than what we’re used to at home.

It’s a good thing we had a big bus and a driver, since by now we’d sampled quite a lot of wine – and there were lots of clanking bottles of wine being loaded onto the bus by the various participants. Since it would be difficult for us to bring any wine back and never mind we typically buy boxed wine, we weren’t among the folks making big expenditures.

And on we went to the final winery, which was located on a kibbutz; though without someone explaining that to us, we really couldn’t note what that meant particularly. Our winemaker guide here was probably not Jewish, but married to a Jewish woman. He had flaming red hair and a distinct accent which we later learned was because he was a South African and came from their wonderful wine region. He was a bit sacrilegious in his comments, which I thought was interesting, but his main item he pointed out to us was that we’d been drinking almost exclusively at all three wineries only red wines – merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel – with few white wines. According to him, the Jewish people don’t like white wines and are not really willing to give them a chance since from birth, on Shabbat (the Sabbath for them), which begins at 6 p.m. on Friday night and ends on Saturday night at the same time, they always have some red wine with their meal.

All this time, we had basically been circling around the edges of Jerusalem. When they refer to the “Hills of Jerusalem” they’re not kidding. This is one very hilly, bordering on mountainous, city. Interesting to all of you will be the fact that the elevation is almost the same as what we have in Garden Valley, right at 3,000 feet. This means the weather at least at this time of the year is considerably cooler than it is at places like the Dead Sea, which is something like 1200 feet BELOW sea level.
As I write this, Ron and I have had one last walk around the Old City for him, as he prepares to fly out of here later this Monday evening. We had a lovely lunch of an Israeli Breakfast, different at every café, but quite a fascinating assembly of food.

Today’s breakfast, costing right around $30 for the two of us, consisted of an omelet with the works, the inevitable bowl of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers with some kind of a light dressing, a big basket of a variety of bread (which we happily had bagged up for us and brought back to the apartment), a big glass of juice and our choice of the kind, a hot drink of our choice, and a tray of lovely dollops of sour cream (with a zing), cream cheese way creamier than we get it, olives, an avocado paste, hummus, and something we didn’t identify, wrapped in a grape leaf, plus a slice of eggplant marinated with some kind of stuffing. This was a lot of food and actually quite good value for the money. Remember just the cappuccino or other coffee of choice and the juice are quite costly in the U.S. I’m getting very fond of this Israeli breakfast!
Photos, top to bottom: 1. Armenian Quarter 2. Children in Armenian Quarter.
3. Garden of Gethsemane 4. Tomb of Mary 5. Jaffa Gate Entrance 6. Street Scene
7. Cemeteries Mount Olive.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I have enjoyed your writings very much.