We knew this was the Sea of Galilee because we were in Tiberius, and Google Maps confirmed our location. But from the view, we could have been somewhere in Scotland. My room mate and I agreed that we were reminded of may of our respective childhood holidays. This is not how I imagined Galilee at all!
Our itinerary today was to take us to Mount Tabor (possibly the site of the Transfiguration), Cana, and Nazareth. The weather forecast was best described as lousy. Incessant rain and about 6 degrees celsius. By the end of the day I was very glad to have packed thermals (which whilst packing I thought was definitely stupid of me).
The Sea of Galilee is 250 m below sea level, Mount Tabor is about 700 m above sea level, there was a lot of climbing. Most of it was by coach, but for the last bit we transferred from our coaches to minibuses.
I suspect that the succession of hairpin bends would have been distinctly alarming, but for the fact that we couldn’t really see very far beyond the edge of the road. There is something appropriate about limited visibility at the Transfiguration site, but it was funny to hear OWG talk about what we would be able to see if only it wasn’t raining. The counter point is that we had driven through some desperately dry places yesterday – so to complain about rain felt wrong. So many of our supermarkets stock fruit and vegetables from this part of the world, and they won’t grow without rain.
You can see the soggy pilgrims in the photo. The top of the mountain was a small flat plateau, and would have been beautiful in sunlight! There were gardens and some archeology, but if I’m honest I mainly remember the rain. Inside, the church a group do fpilgrims was celebrating Eucharist, and once again I’d have loved a bit of time to stay and join in.
We adjourned to the little chapel dedicated to Moses (whose mistranslated “horns” made him look rather like a reverse badger to me) and LTL produced the Bible passage describing Transfiguration.
We got very soggy indeed waiting for the minibuses to take us back down the mountain, and I felt for OWG, who was very clear that solid rain was not on his list of things to show pilgrims. My photographs of the next part of the journey are blurry and show great or lesser distances of visibility.
When we arrived in Cana, the rain briefly stopped, much to our relief. We passed lots of souvenir shops as we walked to the church, but OWG was very clear. “You can of course do as you wish with your money, but Cana wine is some of the worst you can buy”. I can only assume that the excellent drink produced by Jesus eventually ran out!
I loved the decoration on the gates, which was beautifully wrought in metal. In fact, lots of the doors and gates to churches had been made beautifully, and prefigured what was inside. We didn’t see inside the church because there was a mass, but we were taken to an undercroft and shown a copy of the kind of stone jar where water would have been kept.
It was an enormous piece of hollowed out stone, and would have needed several people to lift it, whether it was empty or full. I’ve never quite been able to picture the moving of the jars and having seen one I am no wiser. It is a proper engineering challenge.
See what I mean?
This was one of the few churches which contained lots of signs warning us not to write on the walls. I thought it was weird, until I saw a bit of wall not protected by perspex. It was covered in recent graffiti – the only place in a church where I saw this. Most odd.
We drove on to Nazareth, where we first went to Nazareth Village. This is a recreation of the 1st Century village, based on archeological evidence from the area. I was reminded of Blists Hill in the Ironbridge Gorge, or the Black Country Museum. There were people dressed as characters who talked to us about their lives, and the whole thing helped my imagination a little. However, it was on a very steep hillside, and with pouring rain, it was treacherous. They obviously (and reasonably enough) weren’t geared for solid rain. I am sure I would have enjoyed it far more in better weather! The highlight was the excellent 1st Century lunch they served us, which was tasty and filling – and very welcome on a cold day.
My journal reads “I was thinking that not much had struck me spiritually today when we arrived at the Church of the Annunciation. Oh. My. Word.”
The space in the church was just wonderful. The concrete reminded me of Coventry Cathedral, but the broad spans made it feel so light, even though there weren’t many windows. My cold wet grumpiness began to dissipate….
…and then we went upstairs. There had been depictions of the Virgin Mary all around the courtyard, from all over the world. The theme continued in the upper church. They were vibrant and challenging and I adored them. Never had the cry of “Ready? Let’s go!) been less welcome. For the first time this week I ignored it. And ignored it. A feature of the radio mic and our earpieces was that I could hear over quite long distances.
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only rebel, but I was the one who held out longest. Eventually I was persuaded to leave, but it took effort, and only the promise of a labyrinth was enough to coax me out. It felt as though we had done a lot of standing about in rain, and then not had much time for this gorgeous church. I’ll have to go back.
There wasn’t time to walk the labyrinth, although a friend sprinted it. You can just see some of the icons on the wall.
We left to walk to Mary’s Well at St Gabriel’s Church, through the streets of Nazareth. The rain poured, and the streets were quiet because it was the Orthodox Byzantine New Year. We paused at the Church of the Synagogue, which was closed. OWG tried to get the key, but without success. When we arrived at St Gabriel’s Church, that was shut too!
We were all rather sad to have spent 40 minutes walking in the rain to no purpose, BUT me and my room mate were also aware that our hotel room contained a rather good shower, so spirits lifted once we’d each cleaned up, warmed up, and had a nice cup of tea. It really was one of those things.
I wouldn’t have missed the Church of the Annunciation for worlds, and it is good to know that this region got plenty of rain in January – I’ll be able to buy fruit and veg later in the year I hope!