Friday, 8 February 2019

Larnaca, Cyprus (Nicolaides Sea View City)

I was up early to get ready for my short flight to Tel Aviv that was scheduled to depart at 1:00 p.m. Was out the door at 10:00 as planned and was at the airport by 10:30. Probably a bit early, but I’ve been surprised before and always good to have extra time rather than have to rush through lines to catch a plane.

I sat next to a guy on the plane who just finished visiting his mother. We talked the whole flight. Learned that he can speak four languages fluently (Greek, English, Arabic, and Hebrew). He gave me all sorts of hints about visiting Jerusalem. He recommended taking a taxi into Jerusalem, but I opted for the shuttle bus. The train into Jerusalem was not operating because it was the Jewish Sabbath.

I was approached several times in the airport by “taxi drivers” who charge an enormous fare. We were actually warned by announcements at the airport. I took the shuttle, not because it was cheaper, but because it seemed like an interesting and new way to travel. The shuttle driver waited until he had 10 people to transport and then dropped us off at our hotels or homes as we arrived to Jerusalem. Fortunately I was the third person he dropped off. The fare was 67 NIS (Israeli New Shekel) or about $18 US.

Forgot to mention that while getting my passport checked by Passport Control, they asked a lot of questions then issued me a Visa on a paper card. No stamp in my passport. Some countries will not allow someone who has visited Israel to visit their country.

Along the way I was surprised at how much forest land there was. Guess we think of Israel being all sand and rock. The freeway looked like it could be from anywhere in the U.S. As we got into Jerusalem the terrain became more hilly and the buildings and homes were very modern. As we got into the city, the streets became narrow and many older buildings as well. I’m sure the layout of the streets haven’t changed in over 1,000 or more years.

I got into my flat okay. There was a security door to the small collection of flats and my door also needed a code to get in. The flat is a small studio, which is fine for me since I’ll only be here four nights. But it was cold and was directed by instructions to turn on the wall heater, which just barely kept the flat so it wasn’t icy cold. And the WiFi didn’t work.

But first, I needed food and found that most restaurants and stores, via what I could see in the Internet, were closed. I headed out to a nearby store that said it was open but it wasn’t. I met a guy at this store who also just arrived with his girlfriend in Jerusalem. He was from Romania. We both went looking for a nearby store and he eventually gave up. I saw a taxi driver across the street and he offered to take me to an open restaurant down by the old city. The fare he offered was around $13 so I said okay. He didn’t seem to understand that I was looking for a grocery store to buy food.

He dropped me off and pointed me to the restaurant. It was in an area that was mainly visited by Muslim locals and visitors. I noticed up the street from the restaurant that there were shops that sold food. I managed to find some corn flakes, milk, and bread from a bakery. I was able to walk back to my flat and have some food to fill my belly for the evening. Still very cold in my flat even with the wall heater turned up to maximum.

I noticed as I was walking back from shopping that my Internet dropped. The service I was using stopped broadcasting. And I was due to talk to a friend in the U.S. I had to go into a nearby hotel and ask to use their WiFi to make the call. Then while I was there I was able to connect to another network that had service to the Internet.

By this time it was early evening and the street were dark with occasional street lights along the sidewalk. I felt perfectly safe as I walked along. There were a few other people who were walking up and down the street when I was. I had heard from the guy who I sat next to on the plane that if I were to get bothered by someone, anyone nearby would come to my rescue. Also, the many police who drive around keep order in the city.

I needed a beer and wished that there was an open store somewhere, but knew I was very tired and would be asleep soon. When I got back to my flat I looked in the small refrigerator and found a can of Heineken beer. Perfect! I should have looked in the refrigerator before I left to go shopping because my Airbnb host also put in a carton of milk in there as well.

It was a cold night while I slept. It wasn’t until nearly morning when I discovered that the A/C unit also had a heating setting. Finally I warmed up.

Tomorrow I’ll explore more of the city and go into the old city and do a walk around and plan which places to visit probably on Sunday and Monday.

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