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Wedding art

Someone I know is getting married! I will not comment on the marriage itself as I really hope it will work out for them regardless. And to be fair I think it just might…

But the most exciting thing about the wedding (obviously only for me anyway) apart from party times and interpreting (yay?) is that I got asked to design the wedding invitations / announcements!
They are meant to be elegant and in the pearly pink and creamy white. But i’m kind of thinking that something interactive would be cool! I was thinking a jigsaw puzzle, an origami thing, a pop up, a music card… eventually I thought of an idea that might be more elegant than all the others… maybe I could figure out a way to make a little tree grow on it over time.

I was thinking of pregnancy tests (that is appropriate right?) and the way the pee goes up the tube and then colours a stripe for good news and two stripes for bad. I thought it would be cool if there could be a little tree that would get coloured in this way. I would obviously try to avoid everyone having to pee on the card.
The problem is that pregnancy tests work on hormones. If the pregnancy hormone is present, it will bind to enzymes that catalyse a colour reaction or some such. I’d rather not use enzymes on the card either.

But using the capillary action seemed like a good idea. I decided to research this on the interweb and this is what I found; Oscar Diaz’s Ink Calendar:

First I thought the tree wouldn’t be visible at all, a pregnancy test tree, but really, a faint outline wouldn’t spoil anything. It might even make it more interesting. But what are the materials used? And how to put an ink cartridge on a wedding announcement card and still keep it elegant? That is a challenge I am facing now and any tips or ideas would be much appreciated.

I might go and run a few experiments now…


Benjamin’s Great Surprise

Just rubbing this in…

The picture of the week is really not a clue. I googled ‘Benjamin’s Great Surprise’ and clicked on images. Then I picked the one that reminded me of Benji the most. So if that confused you Benji, even for a minute, good! That was intentional.

Just a little update on your treasure hunt coming along reasonably well, with 4 present ideas for now. And here’s a clue to add to your two existing ones (one was mentioned on here, the other purely oral… giggity): ‘Germany’

Also, just a little update on everything I want to put in here but don’t quite have enough interesting material to actually do it:
Mum is coming over in September and we are going to Skye. I have planned a trip to Slovakia in October and we will go to a spa. I really need to get the brewing thing going as catnip is now a forest (maybe a post tomorrow). I’m going to look into online universities.

Real Israel!

This post is written as a captain’s log, or as you landlubbers might know it, a diary. I was writing it during my stay in Israel and it’s all written at times indicated in the log:

Merry month of June 25th, Armageddon year

We are finally on the train to the Big town. After running around since 5pm like a headless chicken in search of shorts and means to post a letter to Jaymin I arrived at Waverley station at 18h10. As I was about to descend to the platform Benjamin rocked up, dripping sweat like a wet hen but carrying three bottles of Whisky which meant that my premonition had not come true and we were going to make the train after all.

In London, post heart-attack event of Benji dropping his bag and then himself under an approaching Victoria line train… well almost!
On our way to the spidermans’ lair of the creepy for some cannelloni and the nights’ lodgment! The train trip was long and only scenic at the beginning but some nice merlot courtesy of Benjamin and my kindle made it alright! Stories were no good though!

Well that was fun! We were stuck in front of Victoria station for about 10 mins to a point where Benji got paranoid about missing the last train that was to depart in half an hours’ time. We are now on said train but let me just tell you I feel like I know more about Dave, Becky and this Noname third person stuck between them then I cared for. Though Dave should probably stop being a twat and leading Becky on if he doesn’t want to do anything about it. For someone that didn’t give a fucking shit about the relationship, Noname definitely seemed to give a whole lot of fucking shit. (Tube banter, wow, Londoner’s make me feel like a village kid.)

So we made it all the way to Basia’s. Me, Benji, his two pairs of jeans and three pairs of shorts. We are now getting ready for bed and repacking, leaving stuff behind in London. Shower time!!!

Merry month of June 26th, Armageddon year

We are on a bus to Luton, due to arrive at 10:25, exactly two hours before the flight takes off. London stresses me out no end with its rush hour traffic, clogged up entrances to tube stations and people with foldable brampton bikes.

At the airport! Passed the visa check! The bus trip must have been the most entertaining thing I’ve experienced in a long time. The driver kept yelling at everyone to hurry up, that he was on schedule and people were gonna miss their flight which really satisfied that huge part of me which hates noobs that turn up late and think the world is going to wait for them. When he let them on, which wasn’t always the case, at least he gave them a good shouting beforehand. I almost wish I’d asked for his number. But maybe he would have shouted at me.

We are flying over a dubious Mediterranean island and have about an hour left to go. The plane is full of people scared of trolls and not ashamed to show it. The flight, though scheduled to last over six hours is in reality only meant to take just over four. Way to copy Ryanair. Ah, turbulence! Glorious!

19:30 local time
Tel Aviv
We are at Tel Aviv airport pondering our next step. Should we get a coffee? Get one to take away? Hurry and get a train? Draw money? Take embarrassing pictures with people scared of trolls in the background?

At the platform. Train in 12. It is warmish here!

Aaand on the train. We get to Ha’Shalom at 20:14. We are checking out local dosh that we are about to spend of goodies.

About to hit the hay. We got picked up from the station by the angry bird guy Doron and, to Benji’s great surprise, Yasmin. After goofing around at Doron’s flat for a bit we went out and had food and drink and merriment followed by a short stroll through town and a frozen yoghurt before ending up in Polaroid with a bunch of saffas. We were pretty exhausted but I still picked up some Hebrew letters and words and remembered how to say “I don’t speak Hebrew” in Hebrew, something I learned a year ago. Tel Aviv tomorrow!!! Now sleep!

Merry month of Jewn 27th, Armageddon year

Sitting on Rothschild boulevard drinking iced coffee. They brought us a little jar of what looked like water but once we finished our coffees I decided to have a sip. Was sugar water. Noobs! Now I’m scrubbing my tongue with salt because I hate the sugary aftertaste and Benji is ripping his hair out because he hadn’t put it in his coffee. Everyone is hooting, which is a top activity in Israel and jaywalking is illegal. And I thought “Robin Hood: Men in tights” was barely an exaggerated comedy!

Next stop! The beach!!! Another iced coffee an compulsory hydration. We walked through Neve Tzedek, the first neighbourhood out of Jaffa. Benji almost got us lost but I unlost us and got us to the shore, all the while being humble about it. It’s nice and breezy but I felt like that was a recipe for a sun stroke so we are taking a shady break, listening to Hebrew music and drinking before we head to Jaffa.

What I really want to find is that rock that Andromeda was tied to as a sacrifice before Perseus and his medusa head saved her! I think it’s one of these:

Walking through old Jaffa! Just found the craziest building full of bats and birds and bird carcasses. It sounded like machinery!

Benji and I are being complete noobs in the Big Itzik!
We ordered a meal of two kebabs and unlimited salad. Lunch fail. After getting completely full, there is more food than there was when we started. Did we really need to order a starter? Yes we did! It seemed like every time we said something the waitress made a “whatever you say, customer’s always right” face and we knew we did something wrong. Once we got told off for saying thank you every time she brought food on the table. But we tried just about everything Israeli in one meal.
Pre / post food image:

We are chilling in a place that sells Weihenstephan and Leffe by the beach, but I might be too dehydrated to have those.

Just had a snooze! Teehee! Got back completely knackered and conked out right under the AC, laughing fan death in the face. Now waiting for Doron to pick us up and drive us to a place of drink, possibly food and certainly merriment in a new and unexplored neighbourhood of the Spring Hill Town.

We are sitting in a back garden of a pub somewhere in Ra’anana with Doron, Avi and Saul. Munching calamari and drinking Weihenstephan, which I could have got bottomless but I don’t think it’s smart to dehydrate myself this way in this heat. I don’t want to know what a hangover would be like in this country. Or this climate. Looks like Spain and Portugal are going to tie at 90 mins and we’re about to get out of here…

Merry month of Jewn 28th, Armageddon year

We are at Hotel Mercure, at 7am!!! After a revitalising two hours of sleep we are beginning our day tour of Masada / Dead Sea. And the bus is here too.
Last night after Ra’anana we went to Florentin, Jacksons bar, for a drink. They IDed us but I didn’t have anything on me so Doron said I was 26. Tee hee. Then we bored him with Ireland and flatmate stories and eventually went back after a couple of beers and still chilled at home. I found out that the Isle of Man is not part of the UK. Crazy night I say!
And now we are on an air-conditioned bus still waiting for more people. From what a heard Masada is a rock in the desert with a fortress on top. Must have been fun to build but maybe they did it back when Edinburgh was tropical.

And the Dead Sea is… well, the Dead Sea, no description required. I have been wanting to go there since I was a kid and read that green kiddy encyclopedia we had that also lied about glass being liquid. You can sit in it and read a book, but I’ve got something better: a kindle!

This heat is so intense! We are in Masada, about to hit the cable car. Our tour guide is amazing. A stereotypical Israeli, says the funniest things. We went past the water truck memorial to the 1948 war where Israeli trucks with water supply for Jerusalem kept getting ambushed by arab soldiers on the narrow sandy roads (now a highway) in the hills of Judea. We went past Jerusalem and through the Palestinian territory, past Jericho and Nazareth. Stopped at Ahava place for Dead Sea mud and salt cosmetics and iced coffee.

I survived Masada inferno difficulty. Out of all the places to hide they had to pick the top of a sun bleached mountain in the middle of the Desert of Judea where the only water in sight is the 33% salty Dead Sea. Then again, maybe I misunderstand. Maybe it was back during one of the ice ages and it’s comparable to one of the European castles.

Naaaah! Masada is a motherfucking fortress with a synagogue, a palace and even a bloody Roman bathhouse. Oh and a kitteh! The king of the mountain.
Coincidentally, the fortress was besieged and eventually conquered by the goddamned Romans after they built a ramp on one side. As the Jewskis were slavery shy they ended up nominating ten lucky dudes who killed them all and then in turn nominated one to kill the other nine thus escaping the eternal heartburn that comes off suicides. All but the one who was probably forgiven anyway for being such a Samaritan! Out of 967 Jews seven survived. They hid in a water cistern and that’s how we now know what happened up there. The slaughter happened the night before to Romans broke in and when they did all they found was a burned down fortress and mounds of bodies. Less work, happy Romans! Less slaves too, sad Romans!

About to head to the beaches biatches! Really hope I’m not completely burned yet!

At the Dead Sea! Had a float! Man that thing is scary! I float really well in regular water and this was just too much! I kept spinning uncontrollably according to the position of my butt. Tee hee! It was fun, only wish it was more of a sandy beach as the stones weren’t so good on one’s feet. The allocated hour and a half was way too quick! Gone in no time!

In the last 20 minutes we had to rush and get the mudding done, along with showering, changing and discarding old swimsuit. I ran up the walk to meet up with our guide and get our luggage moved into the Jerusalem bus then had another half an hour to chill out at the cafeteria. On the bus to Jerusalem now.

Wow this country is absolutely useless! I just can’t believe they would go and fight for this piece of crap land when places like Ireland are just around the corner. Don’t get me wrong, the desert is beautiful to drive across in a nice air -conditioned bus…

… but being out there in armor fighting for what must be the least fertile land after Australia seems like a waste of time. I’ll just assume that it was different people giving orders for funny reasons and different people doing the fighting.
Either way, we are on a tram to an Italian place after arriving to the hotel, breaking the shower and getting it fixed, meeting up with Jonti and his father and getting some wine for the wedding. We haven’t seem much of Jerusalem yet but it’s on the agenda soon.

About to hit the hay so gooooood. After munching with Jonti’s folks and sister the three of us headed into town for Jonti’s stag night. First wandered around in streets randomly until a yank friend of his joined in. Found a place, a struggling waitress and I stayed until a bunch of underage Jews rocked up at half midnight. Now sleep, hope Benji can find his way home!

Merry month of Jewn 29th, Armageddon year

Late morning! I needed that!!! Benji got back at half two, or so he says, but I barely registered that. I think we will now meet up with the South African bunch that just checked into the hotel and take it from there.

We are hanging out with Dee, Dori and Michael. First we went and had a crazy yoghurt based smoothy from all sorts of fruit and cookies and an iced coffee. A bunch of Jewish kids, some in costumes, some in troll protection, started dancing around collecting money for Jew camp. They could do all sorts of summersaults and street dance moves.

Then we moved to a pizza place but Benji and I popped into McDonald’s for a toilet. Some stingy Jews, trying to make money from this made it paid for, one shekel!!! Other, stingier Jews, found a way around this. One lady was dancing around from how much she needed to pee but then she sat down and ogled the door until someone came out, at which point two other people got up and ran for it. I was lucky, as I was about to put my shekel in, someone came out. Tee hee hee!

We are having the laziest of days. Benji finally got a reply about his paper so he’s been doing corrections until recently while I learned more Hebrew. Well not Hebrew as such but the alphabet and I was using the Torah to learn all sorts of vowels. Then we went for a walk but all of a sudden, on Friday night, everything is deserted for Sabbath! It’s like a different place, the vibe is gone! Only kittehs are in the streets, millions of them. In a couple of hours we are heading to this frummer dinner (that’s me picking up Jewish slang). Kittehs all have cars here!

We are all ready for the scary Sabbath dinner. And there are kittens on the roof opposite. A mommy kitteh with three kittens. We were watching them earlier, one got lost and was meowing heartbreakingly before it found the others! So many of them to save:

We are now back in the room and I am using Benji as a live canvas and naming his body parts in Hebrew, and by that I mean English in Hebrew alphabet.
The Jew dinner was ok, we got there late as the service thing that the others went to finished late and then they got lost and life is so hard without one’s smartphone and GPS.

[picture coming soon]

It was all you can eat meaty dinner with a big prayer fuck up in the beginning and a little two much Jew talk in the middle. At the end everyone did the Jewish thing of singing and Benji did the Jewish thing of whining so it was a total Jewish experience. Afterwards we walked for a bit, we saw more kittens and I read Hebrew in a bookstore. The children’s books in the shop window have vowels!!! Then we got a bottle of beer at the reception and retired to the room. Benji’s getting up early to go to shul for the Saturday morning service as it is Jonti’s wedding thing and it appears there will be a lot of Whisky drinking. We will try and do the walking tour at 2pm and maybe Jericho on Monday. Tomorrow I can sleep in again.

Merry month of Jewn 30th, Armageddon year

We are sitting at the establishment where Jesus ate his first falafel! We are obviously in the old city of Jerusalem, having done the two hour walking tour and some strolling around the shook. This morning, while waiting for Benji to come back from yeshiva through the hardcore Jewtown where one gets stoned for not being a good Jew, I translated half a page of some Oscar Wilde book about a haanak, a giant.
We saw the Western wall where photos cannot be taken on Sabbath and ate shawerma at the previously mentioned place called Pizzeria Basti.

Jeso really knew what it was all about. A few minutes ago a dispute broke out between the locals, in plain view of three army guys with rifles who leaned casually against the wall and watched the whole thing with mysterious smiles, one speaking quietly to his walkie talkie device as if chatting to a bird. They didn’t get involved and eventually the dispute quieted down. Now there are eight of them. Twelve now though five are leaving.

We are sitting in Gent Bistro Bar with Deanne, Dori, Michael, Dumbfuckingface and some other guy. After we left Jeso’s diner we went to look for a good view of the wall to watch the service at the end of Sabbath so we can collect Dee and Dori afterwards and make plans.

What we saw was a whole bunch of crazy Jews of all sorts of sectual persuasions and fluffy hats, what we didn’t see was Dee and Dori! While waiting I made Benji into a Jew by giving him a pair of floppy Jewish puppy ears and when it got dark we went to the wall to have a closer look.

As it is divided to girls and guys I had to go and investigate. I think I must have looked a bit like a terrorist, walking in a few steps at a time, looking around, checking everyone out obviously without any intention of praying. Walked to the wall, touched it and walked out quickly. It was really weird. All the frumers rocking back and forth praying, a bit like retardville, must be much like the place where Dumbfuckingface is from. After that we left. When we got back to the hotel Dee and Dori were already back. I finished translating my page of Oscar Wilde while they were getting ready and we headed into town. Man, Jerusalem must the the vibiest place I have ever seen. Deserted all Saturday, in the evenings suddenly everything opens and everyone comes out and the place changed completely! Who would have thought?

Jewly 1st, Armageddon year
Wedding day!
Also Mank’s birthday!

We went home early-ish last night because Benji ordered a yucky drink and it made him grumpy. That and Dumbfuckingface. To be fair I wanted to leave too. We hung out in the room, then Dee came round to cheer him up. We promised to meet them at 9 the following morning but we overslept so they went shoe shopping without us, oh noes! Just met them for bakery times on Jaffa Street.

We just saw the most amazing kitteh! He was one of them who like being patted. He was jumping up and arching his back against my hand. The good thing is that he was actually neutered unlike many cats in Israel. Apparently he is the street’s cat. Everyone likes him and takes care of him.
Here he is:

We are now back at the hotel and Benji will have to start getting ready soon. I’ve been trying to buy a postcard for my grandma but Jerusalem sucks at postcards. I really wanted one with the Church of the Sepulchre where JC is supposedly buried but at the same time it’s not Jerusalem without the Western wall and the Dome of the Rock. I realize it must be hard to put all these into one view but I was ready to make a concession and get a split image thing. Still it seems the different religions don’t mix well on cards. Will keep trying.

We are post wedding post coitum fine dining. Well maybe not post coitum but the newlyweds got a room and we are waiting for them to come back and start eating, once they bring the food I guess. Benji left early for the photos that were late and I was left alone to shower and get ready and translate the first page of the Tigger-Tigger book that Benji got me. Then Dee, Dori and I left for Prima Palace where the wedding is taking place.

Everything was running late. We were talking until the bride turned up, then we had to go wish her mazel tov which was awkward as I’d never met her before. Then Men came through and Jonti identified her as the chick he’s been seeing for the last few weeks.

Then the ceremony took place outside. They didn’t kiss though!!! I was greatly disappointed as I wanted to see two noobs kissing! Now we’re eating but it’s all boys and girls separate so there’s not much of a chance I’ll pick me up a nice Jewish boy! A nice Jewish girl would do. There’s a really hot waitress!
Oh! Oh! Turns out the best thing about a Jewish wedding is that I don’t need to find a good spot. They are so tiny!!! Jonti and Faralyn looke like kids during the ceremony, the rabbis were unusually tall.

Looks like most of the stuff is over, only desert to go. Dancing and screaming has been done, so has the speech, much shorter than at the last wedding! Took a pick of the hot waitress:

Also turns out some hardcore rabbi’s hardcore wife is sitting at our table, wig and all.

Just back from the wedding, well a while ago. We were sitting on the balcony chilling and chatting for a long time, then booked a tour to Jericho for tomorrow morning. One of the oldest cities on Earth and the lowest one, about 400m below sea level. We just need to hide Benji’s Jewface as it is in West Bank, a Palestinian territory.

Jewly 2nd, Armageddon year

Crazy morning! First we got a phone call at about 8am while Benji was showering and asked of it was ok to do the tour at 13h. I said ok as I couldn’t consult Benj and we tried to coordinate with the girls. Just after 8:30 the reception called us to say our tour guide was there but we were still in bed so Benji went to talk to them and they said we could do it now but “if we wanna do it at ooone, we can do it at ooone”. By the time we decided morning would be better the tour guide had left. We went to have an iced coffee just outside the hotel and the girls came out when we were done. We strolled around the city shopping and smoothing until we realized we might not have enough time for City of David so we “rushed” there.

It was frustrating as we were slow and late and had to cross the old city to get there but we made it eventually and decided to only do the wet tour, which turned out to be awesome! Twenty minutes in a narrow as tunnel full of water.

Not at all what I expected but very cool despite the severe lack of mutant rats. So glad we made it. It’s now almost time to be at the hotel and we are in a cab we waved down somewhere in the middle of nowhere at the end of the waterway. Should be able to make it.

Aaaaaand we’re on the minibus to Jericho! Sweeeeet! I’m starving but apparently we get to have lunch there.

Lunch was a BAD idea! All you can eat buffet and I ate way too much! Still full to popping and we have already finished out tour of Jericho and are on our way back to Jerusalem, just stopped at Kalia kibbutz for some people to hop onto a Tel Aviv bus.
Our first stop had been the sea level line where I photographed and patted a camel:

Then Jericho and the restaurant of doom. We grew a guide and he took us on a tour of ancient Jericho, and told us about the excavations. He was telling us how lucky we were as the temperatures tend to climb to 55-60 degrees centigrade in summer as opposed to our lousy 45.

It was interesting though I was happy I read the history of Jericho on my phone on the way there. Then we went to check out some tree that Jeso was sitting under when he invented gravity as the apple fell on his head, a two thousand year old sycamore.

Then went to check out some Arabic palace from the bus and then the Mount of Temptation where devil tends to tempt one, though unfortunately we didn’t go up it. I was even tempted to climb it as it was mostly in the shade by then and it would have probably helped my stomach, either by making me digest or, if i was lucky, throw up. Back on the bus now.

Funny thing, as Benji pointed out, Jericho is ten thousand years old and all major religions claim the world was created 5700ish years ago.

Sitting in a bar back in Jerusalem drinking Carlsberg and iced coffee. We have been back for a couple of hours but we wasted time looking for a laundry place. All good now, we ended up not doing laundry and I’m wining on the Kittehcount 4:1. Benji just told me that none of the people at the Arabic all you can eat place talked to him until he told them where he was from. Is that Jewface of his! But yeah, they all want peace! Jericho was really quite deserted for a place that’s been around long enough to open a brewery and a beer garden. I suppose they are “occupied territory”.

Jewly 3rd, Armageddon year

Won yesterday’s Kittehcount 12:3 and leading in today’s one 7:3. Last night after drinks we went and picked up Dee, Dori and Michael and went for a burger.

After getting back to the hotel later I went to pack and then we hung out at the girls room for a bit. I said the goodbyes early and went to shower, Benji stayed a bit longer but I was already asleep when he got back and started packing. Crazy street cleaner car was being loud again at stupid o’clock but at least it kind of woke me up and we didn’t miss our tour. Was pretty close though. We are now on the bus, very dehydrated and in need of an iced coffee but we made it!

Hahaaaaa! In Tel Aviv, on a bus, we just picked up our guide and it will be a very “special trip” indeed, she already sang oh what a beautiful mooooorning!!! Is some sort of a hippie, standing up without a seatbelt like that, but Benji likes her so it’s all good. Heading up north now.

In Caesarea!

Saw a movie about Cesarea’s history and checked out the ruins of Herod’s great port town, theatre and hippodrome. Our guide Tamar, or the camel lady, says the funniest things and laughs a little spitting laugh.

Via Maris, the road by the sea, or road no. 2 running along the coast of Israel all the way up from the south to the north. Just leaving Caesarea, or Qesaryyia. It used to be a huge harbour build by Herod the Great, then destroyed by storms and earthquake, only a sixth of it is left… After Romans it was Byzantine christians, then Arabic Muslims before the crusaders. Benji spotted a kitteh but I played with him, he was one of the rare friendly ones.

In Haifa! Just checked out the Bahai gardens from the top. The view from up here is amazing:

Also there seems to be one tube line going from top to bottom stopping at 6 different levels. This place is the centre of the Baha’i religion, which seems to be an improved version of Islam.

We are having lunch in Akko, when Napoleon got his skinny ass kicked. We are in a shewarma / falafel place that was arranged by the tour. They served a tiny coffee after food and even gave us a little chocolate thing. Now going to check out old Akko. We have been talking to some Yanks at lunch, two were nice, one was a pretentious Californian or some such.

The camel lady is so strict! We are on a tight schedule and I haven’t had an iced coffee yet. We checked out and old Templar prison in Akko, renamed to Acre to sound more biblical, the old town and some sewers and underground tunnels. Now heading toward the border with Lebanon. Kittehcount 19:6.

Kittehcount unchanged!
We just did the cave by the Lebanese border and are heading back up in a cable car. The steepest cable car ride in the world, apparently. Bumpiest one too I think. At the bottom of the cliffs there’s a couple of tunnels that the British made for a choo choo train during WWII to get supplies into the middle east while trying to protect it from sausage eaters. They also strengthened one of the walls with sandbags that have petrified overtime due to salt water. After the war the Israelis exploded the bridge to prevent the Lebanese from supplying their own armies in Israel. The remains of the rails are still there today, along with the sandbags:

The cave was originally a little crack in the rock that have been washed by the water and created and tunnel throughout the cliff wall:

We are now heading back to the bus and getting dropped off at some B&B to be picked up by a different tour tomorrow morning. I think we have the evening to ourselves which is nice. I need an iced coffee badly! So far the racist camel lady sang four songs, the Oklahoma one at the start, Let My People Go and I forgot the other two. She is a total loony. Very funny though!

Just checked into our hotel. There was one more song. Iced coffee needed baaaaad!

About to hit the hay! No iced coffee but we got some in a shop along with dinner and ate it in the hotel courtyard. Then we got a glass of wine and did necessary internetting, showering and wine drinking. The room is stinky from the aircon but oh well. Turning in early anyway! Getting up at 7:40. End of broadcast!

Jewly 4th, Armageddon year

Having breakfast in the lobby. We’re supposed to be picked up in 10 for the Golan trip.

In Bet She’an.

We are changing bus here after checking out the excavations. Let’s hope the other guide is as funny as this guy. People here seem to be so fit for their age. This guy is seventy and the racist camel lady was born in 1934 which makes her almost 80, only six years younger than my grandma but by the way she was running around yesterday you would never have guessed. She was handling it better than I was in that heat! So this place has been compared to Caesarea several times by our guide, I think it was also a gate-town into the country of some sort. It was destroyed by an earthquake. I think we are waiting for the other bus to rock up before we go in.

Just made a stop in a kibbutz after driving up the Golan heights. But first things first, Ben She’an was amazing. An old Roman City of Herod’s destroyed by an earthquake and recently excavated, in the last 15 years:

Everything under the dark walls was under sand:

We climbed up the artificial hill to the ancient acropolis from 4000BC, with old Egyptian buildings and an awesome view of the Roman town and the adjacent McDonalds.

I found out that our crazy driver’s father was from Humenne. He immigrated to the Israeli area back in 1924 and never went back. This guy is about my dad’s age but I thought he was about 50. He walks faster than any of us. What’s up with these people??? I’m not very good at understanding his English though, he has a strong accent and a funny sentence structure. Though he did say I had a very strong Scottish one. Whaaaaat?

Afterwards we drove up to Golan heights:

The windy road has barbed wire on electric fences and land mine signs all along the road. I even saw a wreck of a truck on the hillside. This used to be Syrian territory until the Six Day war in 1967, that for some reason lasted for four days, when Israeli army defeated Egypt down south and Syria and Jordan norths and east, against all odds. The Golan heights were the key area in the Israeli strategy.

There is an amazing view of the Sea of Galilee and a really cheap gift shop of mainly jewelry handcrafted in the kibbutz where we bought a lot of the presents:

We are about to check out the ancient village of Qazrin.

Pretty much raced through the village, the longest part was the video about Talmud, some story about two rabbis that I didn’t get but the cinema was pretty cool, several screens showing different parts of the story:

Then we saw stuff about production of olives, even had olives, I had two, it’s good Benji doesn’t like them, and now it’s food break time and we are going to finish our hummus.

That was exactly what I’ve been needing for two days now, maybe even my whole life. This coffee was cold but taste of coffee and had a lump of caramel ice-cream that stretched in ones mouth but didn’t fully dissolve so the coffee stayed unsweetened the whole time but the bits of ice-cream were yummy and very tangible! There ends my ode to Qazrin (Katsrin) Iced Coffee and the Kittehcount begins: 1:0 for meee, a pretty big black panther like katschen.

We climbed Mt. Bental, in a bus, to an old military bunker that is now a museum but will be used again should the war start. I was so proud of myself for having a torch with me but somehow it wasn’t bright enough for me to see. Then I realised I still had my sunglasses on! Gah!

It was used in the Yom Kippur war in 1973 and there are many cool animal statues made out of old military equipment:

We had an iced coffee in a place called Coffee Anan and, probably not coincidentally, we saw a few UN vehicles, checking out the local winery situation. The views of Syria and Lebanon from the top of the mountain were spectacular:

It appears that we are now going to our hotel with a swimming pool.

Wow! This place is amazing!!! We are staying in a kibbutz on top of a mountain with a view like this:

We have a terrace facing the valley. We bought hummus and wine at the local shop and are now chilling and drying off after an hour and a half in the swimming pool playing with a basketball and an Iranian guy:

[picture of me dunking the basketball to come]

The hut’s got a fridge and a microwave which is more than the hotels had and a jacuzzi!
It seems that tomorrow we are getting up at 6am and walking to a waterfall for a swim. Kittehcount 5:0, four right here at the kibbutz and two right under our balcony. Turns out Israeli kittehs like hummus!

Watching sunset over Golan with Benjamin, Binyamina wine, Falafel and Panther. Bliss!

This place rocks! Just tried the jacuzzi in our bathroom and I think I’m pretty much ready for bed. Early start tomorrow. Gotta find a post office too now that I have the postcards ready.

Jewly 5th, Armageddon year

So the place were we are staying is called kibbutz Snir.
We woke up at 6 this morning and climbed the watchtower before heading off:

Crazy battle commander, as our guide Menachem is called from now on, drove us, the Iranian Emil, a kiwi and two merkin girls to a place about three minutes away and from there we hiked. The first stop was an upside down Syrian tank in the river, possibly with people still in it. We mucked around in the water that was icy cold:

Then we hiked on and had to climb around a fence on a cliff edge. Afterwards Emil came to me and told me we were such a sweet couple and that he learned something about relationships today. It was ringing all sorts of disturbing bells of cheesy and awkward in my head. We hiked on past a river on a suspended walkway, checking out the rapids, then we got to the waterfall and crazy battle commander said he was gonna jump but we were running late so he was worried we’d get busted so he couldn’t and we started heading back. End of story after breakfast.

So the crazy veteran battle commander didn’t do his jump but we still ran into a ranger on our way out. Menachem dealt with him. He rushed us forward while he did it so we think he just killed him. Then he ran all the way back and we were having a hard time keeping up.
Breakfast was served on the tables outside when we got back. We also made sandwiches for lunch as it’s cheaper and now we won’t be stopping for food.

Crazy veteran battle commander is called Dagan, but his father was Vajcen. He was a Zionist so he immigrated to Israel and wanted to be all Israeli like so he changed his name and everything. He didn’t speak any Slovakian so Menachem also doesn’t but he said his dad met someone from Slovakia when he was 95 and it all came back to him.
Benji also asked him about his military past. Apparently he was an officer but retired from the reserves age 42, which is the minimum. He said many people serve until sixty or seventy just to get away for a few days to a month every year for their compulsory military reserves service. Apparently many like to feel young again and catch up with old army buddies but Menachem had the tourism thing so he didn’t feel the need.
After breakfast we packed up, showered and went for a kibbutz tour led by a lady called Buffy. It seems like a good example of why communism didn’t work, even when everyone had a say in it and everyone liked it that way. The debts were too big. Eventually they transformed into a capitalist institution but I guess they still have some aspects of the community. They all know each other and there’s local doctors, local policemen patrolling etc. Back in the bus to check out the rest of Galilee.

Kittehcount 3:1 for me.

Just drove up another long windy road to the top of Golan past a fortress where they trained assassins. Israeli military bases on all mountaintops.

Just finished a walking tour of Tzfat. It’s a little artsy town in the north. There’s a lot of pretty little streets, synagogues and Kabbalist artsy objects: candles, paintings, stainless steel objects laced out with acid. Everything was blue and white. We saw a little meowing kitteh which I hope is ok now but he made me worried! Kittehcount 4:3.
We are now driving to the Sea of Galilee.

Just drive through a mini tornado.

Crisis averted! Looks like the little kitteh was actually looking around, maybe sitting up. It wasn’t until I walked up to him that he started hiding and looking pathetic.

Looks like we’re heading back to Tel Aviv. Apparently there’s protests so it might be a bitch to get around.

Back in Tel Aviv, sitting on Doron’s doorstep. We drove past the place where Armageddon is going to start, Meggido:

I think we are going to get a coffee so Doron doesn’t need to rush back.

Some lady living above Doron just offered that we can use her bathroom if we need to and should just knock. How nice!
This is a good lady because the local kitteh likes her while it was scared of me! Kittehcount 6:5, so close today!

Kittehcount 9:6.
We are at a sushi place on Rothschild Boulevard. We dropped our bags at Doron’s who left immediately afterwards. We took our time getting ready, showered, dressed, checked out trains for tomorrow (I should note at this point that Benjamin made a booboo and almost made us take a nine hour bus ride instead of a four hour train ride because he thought the price for two was actually for a single ticket)… we talked to Doron’s flatmate Nahalal about the architectural situation in Israel. He gave me his email so I can email him later and he will give me a list of places to apply to.
Than we casually strolled out and after an hour of looking for a place we finally decided on the first one we considered today: a sushi place called Hasushia. We are now waiting for our food and Benji’s friends are supposed to turn up in about half an hour.

Jewly 6th, Armageddon year

The food was yummy and reasonably cheap and then we met up with Benji’s friend Adam. Whinestein didn’t make it after all. It was ok banterwise but the choice of a pub was a disaster. It was a long as walk and although we were sitting outside it was hard to breathe for all the smoke. We had one drink that lasted forever. Then we got home concluding the Kittehcount on 10:6 and chatted to Doron before booking train tickets and hitting the hay at 3am.
Today we have to find a post office, post the cards and make our way to the airport. Sad times!

About to leave Doron’s flat. We spent the morning looking for a post office which was closed, having and iced coffee while waiting for Doron, then strolling around the local market.

Getting our bags now and heading to the airport. Hopefully there will be a post office there.

We are at the airport going through all sorts of security checks and inspections, Israel finally made good of their promise of security. They asked all about our relationship, Benji’s relationship to Jonti, our visit, then when our bags failed the scan we got inspected. They didn’t like the Jerusalem that looks like an egg.

Survived the inspections and had iced coffee and the yummiest salmon and cream cheese sandwich in the universe. Now about to stroll around and look for more knickknacks the way Benji likes it.

About to board the plane.

20:52 local time
London Luton

Waiting in the baggage reclaim for Benji who should walk out of passport control any hour now. Flight was uneventful except for funny london accent crew that cracked us up on occasion. Now going to bus to Victoria and from there to the spiderman’s lair! Uh oh!

July 7th, Armageddon year

On the tube to King’s Cross and (as I like to think of it) St. Pancreas. We spent the evening chatting to the spider people and showing them all of Benji’s photos until very very late.
I had a crazy dream where I stumbled upon an area or Jewish habitation where one supposedly could not go improperly covered. I decided to give it a go and as soon as I stepped across the line I got the worst cramp in my calf. It’s still sore now. I’m probably dehydrated but it’s still funny how my dreams can coordinate these things.

Sixteen minutes until Edinburgh. We can officially say we are now sick of traveling, at least the going back home part.
I will end my entries here, maybe by mentioning the Binjamin won his first Kittehcount yesterday 4:5. All hail Binjamin and his newly discovered kitteh spotting ability!

Return to the Emerald Isle

I’m back after a few weeks of slacking off, three days / about 1000km smarter in the matters of the Emerald Isle, aka Ireland. Benji, Barbora and I headed out from Edinburgh airport on Friday night after making a life changing purchase at the airport Accesorize: a pair of sunglasses. Their purpose was completely monofunctional: disguise! We were planning on picking up a takeaway dinner from Mr. Perri’s, an infamous place where I once worked, back in 2005. As suspected, the greedy owner was there, we even had a taste of the greediness itself! She refused to give us vinegar!!! Said it was no good with curry sauce! Bollocks! The more surprising thing was that I recognised three people who worked there, the one was still wearing the same shoes! And to think I was already horrified when she told me she had been working there for nine years back in 2005. Either way, we walked out with three curry cheese and chipses, though severely lacking in vinegar, and all of my dignity, thank you sunglasses, thank you owl hat!

From Santry we headed straight to Galway in our cute red Toyota Yaris. Got there just after 11pm, parked and went and checked into our hostel, the Kinlay House. I stayed there with Suzie six years ago and I remembered it being ok and very central. We got a 3 person private dorm and Barbora went to bed while I went out to show Benji around. Galway is famous for its nightlife and certainly didn’t disappoint! The pub street was packed with people and great vibes. Eventually we found what we were looking for. A quiet old mans’ pub just off Eyre Square: partying is all well and good but we just wanted a pint of Guinness before bed as we had a lot of driving to do and a lot of Ireland to explore.

In the morning we took Barbora into town for a quick tour before heading out Clare-wards at 10am. Before the Cliffs of Moher we stopped at Dunguaire Castle for photos and in Burren for Poulnabrone Dolmen and the scenery. The cliffs, though impressive as always, have become much more commercialised since last time. The tourist centre is finished, it’s buried in the ground and making great effort to be uninvasive. And it probably is. On the other hand, the highway that is the cliffwalk and the staircase that cuts the visitors off from the viewing platform which has obviously been deemed too dangerous, are a slap in the face of scenery. A short walk ends with a barrier that one is not supposed to cross though many do as that is where the proper cliff experience starts.
We decided to see the Cliffs of Kilkee next. They might not be as dramatic but they are quiet and tourist-less, it looks like it’s mostly locals that go there to walk their dogs and their offspring. Unlike Moher, they are maybe still Irish!

After the cliffs the plan was to head to Tralee and make it as far as we can before the Czech Republic – Poland game at 7h45pm, then try and find accommodation there. We cut the trip shorter by taking the Killimer Ferry to Tarbert, however it got late somehow and we decided to stop at every pub on the way and check if they were showing the Euro 2012 game as there were some local games on that night and we didn’t want Barbora to miss out, like that other time with chimpanzees. The first pub we came across, the Swanky Bar, was indeed showing it. It was 15 mins until the game and we decided to just stay there, after all, Barbora needed to change into her Czech jersey and all.
As the game was nearing the end, we got a bit worried about accommodation, it was almost 10pm and we didn’t really want to go ring people’s doorbells at that time of night to get a room in a B&B. We ended up asking the guy that was setting up the stage and the cows in the pub, in case he knew someone that owned a place, which he did indeed. He said there was a hostel right there in the village, he called the owner, told her we were watching the game and we’ll be right over when it’s finished.

Did I mention cows? This was because there was to be a cow milking, wellie drinking, best dressed farmer’s wife competition that night. We thought it was unlikely to be fun as the pub seemed deserted apart from us but just before we left a couple of farmers’ wives turned up indeed.
The nice Ferry House hostel lady greeted us with a “First of all, let’s get it over and done with. Congratulations on the win! It was a good game.” and with a handshake. Then we got an 8-person dorm for the three of us as we were being cheap and went out for Chinese. The curiosity got the better of us then and after the meal we headed back to the Swanky Bar to check out this competition. The bar was a different place! It was completely packed! In the back people were getting the cows ready and according to the poster the guy who arranged the accommodation for us was DJ Shicco himself?

It ended up being the craziest night, a real Irish experience. It felt like everyone was there, all age groups mingling together and having lots of fun. A funny Irishman tried to get Barbora and I to participate in cow milking and I was pretty keen but after the second round finished and we didn’t get a chance I opted for leaving since I was to drive overnight the day after. It was an unforgettable night though, it had everything: good 90’s music courtesy of DJ Shicco, a fight in which six people had to restrain an angry old guy, ladies in short skirts rolling on the floor in the spilled milk, an old man pulling old ladies, a toothless mumbling judge… but the highlight must have been the dirty MC guy. None of us could quite grasp the Irish accent yet but whenever we understood something it was hilarious. He said things like “Mind your language, there’s cows here!” and “Stop talking and keep wanking, I mean pulling.” and occasionally mooed! We felt a little bit out of place but it was the most fun night in a long time! The atmosphere was indescribable and impossible to catch in a photo!

We left the Ferry House early the next morning and headed through Tralee to the Ring of Kerry happy about the sunny weather. We bought hot food and wanted to picnic on the nearest lookout point but Ireland decided to play one of its old tricks and as we were approaching our spot dark clouds started gathering and the moment we reached the lookout the pourdown began. We ate our food in the car completely unaware of the scenery behind the fogged up windows. On the other hand, that was the only proper rain we experienced throughout the trip. As we headed out again the sun came back and pretty much remained for the rest of the trip. After the Ring of Kerry we did Beara and I am proud to say we managed to get lost on the ring road, which I think was my fault. It caused one of the biggest confusions of the trip where we ended up on a three way intersection with all the roads going to Ardgroom. We never reached the cable car at the end of the island but at least it’s something to do on the next trip. Beara easily compares to Kerry, especially the northern road. Again maybe not as dramatic, but much more Irish in the deserted kind of way with beautiful green alleys and coastal views.

As our flight was scheduled for early the next morning, we decided to save money on the last night’s accommodation which would give us about three hours of sleep anyway and just drive to the airport overnight. That opened up a slot for another sight that evening. First we were thinking Cork but we didn’t want to get caught up in a big city so we opted for a smaller place near Cork. One option was the Blarney Castle where one gets to kiss the stone of endless chit chat, which is what Benji really wanted to do, but the opening hours were unfavourable, thank god, and we went to Cobh instead. Briefly known as Queenstown, Cobh was the last port of call of Titanic before its infamous crossing of the Atlantic. Exactly a 100 years since, there was a pretty solid theme to the place. We took photos, had dinner while it was getting dark and headed back to Dublin at about midnight when my night blindess could no longer annoy me.

We got to Dublin airport at about 4am and dropped the car off there. Thank god the second rental guy told us we could just do that instead of going to the car hire place and then shuttling/mopeding to the airport. I went straight to work from Edinburgh airport and got there at 9h20, 10 minutes early!
Needless to say it was a hard day!

Moral of the story: No matter where you’re going, always take sunglasses! Even if it’s Ireland!