Category Archives: Israel

Daniela and Josh, arriving eventually at the hotel of their destination…

Josh and I have stayed at three different hotels over our ten day trip to Israel. Reaching two of them has proved to be a testing experience for our perambulatory stamina.

Let’s start the recantation of our tales of suitcase dragging in Jerusalem, on none other than Yom Yerushalayim. That’s Jerusalem Day to those not initiated into the cult of pig-reviling, candle-lighting Judaism. So that’s a day that shuts down huge tracts of the city in order to celebrate it and marvel at its wonders. It’s a super festival if you’re a Jerusalem resident who likes parades and singing songs and flag-waving. It’s not such a super holiday if you’re trying to reach your hotel located in the pedestrianised zone close to Jaffa Gate and best accessed by Jerusalem’s rather snazzy tram. That snazzy tram isn’t running through the centre of Jerusalem.

After struggling through Jerusalem’s central bus station, which is a multi-layered affair that, if converted into a cake was satisfy Marie Antoinette or the most grizzly Bridezilla, Josh and I made it onto Jaffa Street from where the trams (did not) depart and plenty of buses ran. Knowing that I needed to take the tram to Jaffa Centre, it seemed best to ask for a bus that would do similar. A kindly attendant said to try an 18, but check with the driver. When eventually an 18 turned up, and I asked in my best Ivrit if it went to Jaffa Centre, I was treated to a tirade of epic proportions from a bus driver who was no doubt entirely frustrated by re-routes and hold-ups, and stupid tourists. Humiliated, frustrated, and none-the-wiser, I turned on my heel, probably ramming my suitcase into various others, and declared to Josh that we’d have to take a cab.

We would have been better dragging our suitcases along Jaffa Street to our hotel.

Forty-five shekels later we had been deposited outside the wrong hotel that was somewhat closer to the Damascus Gate than the Jaffa Gate and therefore still no closer to where we were staying. In normal circumstances, I’d whip out a map and we’d figure out a plan. But these weren’t so normal because we’d left our map of Jerusalem in the UK. A note to fellow travellers: don’t leave your maps at home, they’re not so useful there. And while I’ve spent plenty of time in Israel, all of my time in Jerusalem has been in the company of locals, which means access to cars and intimate knowledge of buses. Thus using a combination of street signs and the tram lines, we attempted to navigate, nay schelp, ourselves from somewhere in Arab East Jerusalem to our hotel close to Jaffa Centre.

Despite the heat, the crowds, the parades, and one truculent wheel on my suitcase, we eventually rolled into our place of hospitality for the next five nights. Heavens were we pleased.

Five days later, we would have to transfer ourselves from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. This time the trams were running, we were able to locate the ticket office at Jerusalem Bus Station easily enough, and although we couldn’t get on the first bus to Tel Aviv, we only had to wait 20 minutes for the second. We’d located our hotel using Google maps, we’d drawn up a list of viable buses, we thought we were set for a relatively easy journey there. Of course we weren’t.

Our first minor hitch was taking the 405 into Tel Aviv Central rather than the 480 into Tel Aviv Savidor. This threw us a little when trying to find a city bus to catch to our hotel at the other end, but we were helped by a kindly stranger who told us that a 16 or 17 would take us to Allenby Street and from there I knew that we could walk easily enough to our hotel.

Where Google Maps said the hotel was

Where Google Maps said the hotel was

This is where we came monumentally unstuck. For reasons that remain unknown, Google Maps placed the hotel where we had a booking on the correct street, but at the wrong end of it. That might not have been too much of a problem, except that Rechov HaYarkon is one of the longest streets in Tel Aviv, spanning practically the entire beach-front. Given that Allenby Street is closer the bottom end of Rechov HaYarkon and the hotel was closer to the top, that walk wasn’t easy as we thought it would be. We made it, eventually. Hot and bothered but relieved, when we checked Google Maps, that we hadn’t got it wrong.

Where the hotel actually was

Where the hotel actually was

The moral of this story? Don’t trust Google Maps.

Never get on a bus around Agrippas Street

Ehm… Daniela, I think that this is the end of the line.

Yes, it was indeed the end of the 30 bus route and instead of taking us to the Israel Museum, Josh and I had wound up at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. Not that there’s anything wrong with Ramat Rachel per se, and given that one of the major works that Josh is exploring in his Master’s thesis is Naftali Bezem’s the The Defence of Ramat Rachel, to say that we’ve been there&emdash;if only to alight one bus and board another in the return direction&emdash;is rather gratifying. But it wasn’t the Israel Museum.

As my friend Arieh were to extol later that day, our mistake had been to catch the bus ‘anywhere around Agrippas Street.’ The buses run in counter-intuitive directions there and while it seemed entirely logical to me to catch a bus pointing in the general topographical direction of the museum, it would actually take us in the opposing direction. Towards Ramat Rachel.

Of course, we could have avoided this entire magical mystery tour had I either asked the driver or read the bus’ direction of travel. There were, however, two particular issues with either of these courses of action. The first being that my previous interaction with a Jerusalem bus driver, two days prior, requesting directional confirmation had resulted in my turning heel and getting off the bus after he had shouted at me with such vehemence that I felt nothing but humiliation. I wasn’t prepared to go through that again. The second was that there was no direction of travel listed on the front of the bus. All I had to go on was its number. This was not helpful. Hence us jumping on a bus going in the wrong direction.

While buses might be cheap and frequently efficient, they do carry with them an air of mystique and vagary. There is a dark art to reading timetables, acquiring tickets, and understanding intersections. It doesn’t matter which bus network you use, in which city, governed by whatever language, there is always immense potential for screw-uppery.

Thankfully, our detour didn’t detract from our plans, despite it being a Friday and the museum closing at 14:00. We were able to saunter through the Israeli art galleries, take in some Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, enjoy the Avedon exhibition, and even grab a high-speed peek at the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then we caught the bus back to Jaffa Street, this time travelling in the right direction.

The moral of the story? Never get on a bus around Agrippas Street in Jerusalem.