Tuesday, August 13, 2013

City Bus to Masada.
Today started out with a cool breeze in the early morning. I thought it was the perfect beginning to our plans for the day. Yesterday we had decided to go to Masada and the Dead Sea on the same day. At the last minute we changed our plan and chose to go to Masada only, we would go to the Dead Sea tomorrow or Thursday. It turned out to be a good decision.

After breakfast, we got on the tram for the Central Bus Station at about 8:30. There was a 9:40 a.m. bus, so we had a few minutes to wait at the departing gate. As chance would have it, I sat next to a Japanese fellow. We chatted and, as it turns out, he knew the company I worked for in Silicone Valley -- Alps Electric. Alps is a Japanese manufacturer of computer peripherals, so it's well known in Japan. It was fun reminiscing about some of the cities I used to visit while in Japan on business.

Bedouin Settlement along the
highway to Masada and the Dead Sea
After boarding the bus at 9:45 we departed the station at 10 a.m. and started our 1 1/2-hour journey to Masada. As we drove through the desert, I noticed how modern and well kept the highways are in this country. We enjoyed a four-lane divided highway all the way to our destination.

Along the way we saw an occasional Bedouin settlement. Their dwellings look like temporary structures and seem to be made from plywood, cardboard and canvas.  Most of the roofs are corrugated metal. Around their dwellings, herds of goats and/or sheep graze in the hot sun. There are about 130,000 Bedouin's in Israel and these nomadic people have been residents of the Middle East for the last 7000 years! Quite a history.

After Hitch Hiking we arrive
at Masada!!
We arrived at Masada at around 12:15 p.m. It was "hot" and the Visitor's Center is a healthy walk from the bus stop. As we walked along, a couple of cars passed us and, as a humorous gesture, I put out my thumb to "hitch hike". A delightful young couple from Paris picked us up and drove us the rest of the way. We had a wonderful couple of  "getting to know each-other" moments. We learned they were visiting from France for 2 weeks and were touring the country by car. We saw them off and on during our time on the top of the mountain and said "hi".

There are three ways to get to the top of Masada. One, the tram, was our choice and only takes a few minutes. The other two are trails one on each side of the mountain. One may choose to walk up and or down -- but in the heat of summer, we decided against it.

On top of Masada with the Roman
Fort and Visitor's Center below.
Once at the top, we chose to rent an audio tour and began exploring the mountain top. Masada is truly an "ancient place", dating back to 37 B.C.E. when "Herod The Great" built palaces for himself on the mountain. I visited both of these -- one to the north and down the mountain by a few hundred feet. The other is the "Western Palace" located on the level top. The tourist, "me", can see the Northern Palace via a series of stairs and paths.

The rest of the mountain-top is a series of ancient cisterns, storage rooms, living quarters, pathways and public areas. Masada, as an archaeological find, is relatively new and was "rediscovered"
At the "Commanders" Residence
as recently at 1842. The excavation of the site generally took place between 1963 and 1965 and still is going on today. Interestingly, as one wanders around the mountain-top looking at the buildings, a "black line" painted on the walls designates the original construction. The area above the line is a reproduction.

Using the audio tour as our guide, we wandered the 27 stations of Masada listening to the descriptions. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to explore the encampment. I'm sure there was much that we missed -- but it seemed a thorough way to see this ancient site.

At about 4 o:clock, we made our back to the Visitor's Center cafe for some lunch and cool drinks. We found the bus stop and headed back into Jerusalem. The bus came fairly quickly and we enjoyed the cool air conditioning and rest on the bus after an exhausting but interesting and enjoyable visit to Masada.

Stay tuned, reader, it "ain't" over yet!!