Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ramparts Walk -- The Wall of the Old City...

Map of the Rampart Walk.
he Jaffe Gate is to the Left about mid height.
Today is Shabbat so we figured we'd stay in the Christian and Muslim Quarters of the Old City. As chance would have it I met an interesting fellow traveler from Holland at breakfast --  his name is Hank. He's here for a 3 month stay, but this is his 14th year in Israel. As we  talked about the character and beauty of the City, Hank mentioned The Ramparts Walk  (thanks to Steve Lipman, for this suggestion, too) -- a stroll around the top of the wall that encloses the Old City.

Linda climbs to the top
of The Rampart Walk.
Once again, our location makes for a perfect union of activity and accessibility to many Old City sights. The Ramparts Walk begins at the Jaffe Gate and goes in two directions -- one to the north, along the Christian and Muslim quarters, and one to the south, along the Armenian Quarter, the Zion Gate and the Jewish Quarter. It turns out that the wall around the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount is closed -- so one must take the wall in two sections. It costs us "seniors" 8 sheqels to make the journey -- and it's worth it.

We bought our ticket and found the entry way -- up a couple of flights of steps, to a gate. Once inside, one climbs more stairs to the top of the wall. It's a narrow passage, for most of the way, with hand-holds on one side and a banister on the other. The walk-way itself is made of small square "domed" stones that are sometimes slippery and difficult to navigate. The "many" steps one needs to climb up or down are often steep and slippery as well. As we continued along the narrow wall, it sometimes opened to a wider space used, we read, as a gathering place for "soldiers" sent to defend the Old City against the "enemy of the day".
Children's Playground, Soccer Field
and School.
Going in the "northern direction", the inside of the city is always to the right with the outside to the left. We would stop every now and then to see the sights that were below. On the outside of the wall, the New City of Jerusalem is below, with many stores, parks and a constant din of activity. By contrast, the inside view reveals the private patios and back yards of residents and churches.  An expanded view of the Old City was displayed before us.

There are so many contrasts. At one point, we'll see the back yard of a 12th Century church and then a modern children's playground just a few feet away. A large soccer field was on the same property. Farther down the wall, in the Christian Quarter, was a soccer stadium and basketball court. It was a fascinating contrast of life in the Old City. Along the way there was another modern children's playground, fountain and sitting area for adults. All protected by fences and, sometimes, guards.

The end of the Northern Rampart
Walk with the Dome of the Rock and
Mosque nearby.
Finally, at the very end of this section of The Rampart Walk, we reached a dead-end -- but the view was beautiful as we looked over to the Dome of the Rock  and a mosque tower in the near distance. We walked down the steps and, thankfully, found a little shop with bottles of cold water and a cool place to sit.

We wandered along the narrow streets of the Muslim Quarter and found a church purported to be the birthplace of Mary. A convent was nearby as was a Catholic seminary. We finally found our way back to the Jaffe Gate, had a bit of lunch and rest, and then will walk the southern section of The Rampart Walk.

A 45-foot spiral staircase.
2:30 p.m. -- With an ample lunch and rest under our belts, we decided to take the southern stretch of the Rampart Walk. I was surprised to find our ticket was good for the entry fee -- so we found the gate and made our way along the inside of the wall the high stairs leading to the top of the Wall. What we saw in front of us was daunting!! There, scaling to the top of the Wall, was a 45-foot circular staircase bolted to the stones. Now, I must admit, I don't like heights. But, we attacked the stairs and made our way to the top of Wall for the second leg of the journey.

Jerusalem from the Southern rim
of The Rampart.
This section of the wall is  quite different. Now the outside of the wall was to our right. We came to a large observation platform -- actually the roof of some building below -- and saw a beautiful panorama of New Jerusalem to the east. We saw the David Hotel in the distance with the Mamila Mall to the right. The park below the Jaffe Gate was visible, with children and adults playing in a fairly large fountain. Along Jaffe Street, traffic was heavy with tour buses and tourists along the parking garage and street.

It ain't Starbucks, but it'll do!!
We managed our way along the wall for about 1/3 of the way and decided that "OK, enough is enough!!". Just as we made that decision, an exit was just a few feet farther down the path, so we took the stairs to the street level. The exit was at the Zion Gate, and we took the winding street back to our "neighborhood" at the Jaffe Gate.

We rewarded ourselves with a coffee and cool drink. It was an end to a perfect morning and afternoon exploring the Old City of Jerusalem in a different perspective. I read, somewhere on the Internet, that the Rampart Walk is a "hidden gem of Jerusalem". It's true. If you're in this part of the world, I urge to try this adventure. But, it isn't for the "faint of heart". Wear good shoes, wear a hat and, above all -- TAKE WATER!!

Tonight, we're off to the movie house at 6 p.m. for a film and a couple of hours in a "cool dark theater". For me -- that's always a pleasure.

Ciao for now.....