Walking the Galilee with John the Baptist

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

If you've read the title of this entry, you may think that we've developed a slightly innacurate ploy to make you interested in reading.  We didn't.  We actually walked around the Galilee with John the Baptist - Jean-Baptiste, French student lately come from Lebanon.  He was possibly the most easily satisfied man I ever met.  Everything was perfect.  The day was excellent. 

From Nazareth it's relatively easy to catch a bus to anywhere, so we set out in the morning and hopped on the bus to Tiberias.  From Tiberias, Travis and I had intended to bicycle around the famous sea, but expense and ease of travel and the fact that it was really hot led us to go with Jean-Baptiste by bus.  It was actually cheaper for both of us to go by bus than to rent one bicycle for the day.  Sometimes life doesn't make sense. 

The bus dropped us at the crossroads and we made our way down to the Church of the Loaves and the Fishes, aka the Heptagon (it has more than seven sides, so I don't know why this name is present).  This church contains a stone, and this stone is supposedly where Jesus put the bread and fish that multiplied to feed 5000.  20th century excavations uncovered an amazing mosaic floor, and just below the altar, next to the stone, you may see for yourself the ubiquitous loaves and fishes mosaic.  Sweet.  It's a pretty little church, operative word little, and we were once again on our way. 

Our next stop was at the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, another tiny spot with beautiful stained-glass.  Much of the floor of the church is covered with a big rock.  It's appropriate since Peter (Latin - rock) was the rock (English - rock) on which the church was built.  And the church commemorated Jesus choosing Peter to be the first pope (I can say that because it was a Catholic Church).  On the other side of the church we walked to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and put our hands in the water.  None of us could stop admiring the beauty of the spot. 

From these little churches we made our way to the path that would take us over the hills and up to the Church of the Beatitudes.  This church is straight-up beautiful and it rests on a lovely and well-kept campus, watched over by slightly intimidating nuns.  Unfortunately we got to the church an hour after it closed, but the gatekeeper felt sorry for us because we were on foot so he let us in anyway.  Still, the church was locked, but we had a most scenic spot to eat our lunch and admire the Galilee.  When Jean-Baptiste saw that the church had opened we popped in before the tourist invasion and popped out to leave the nun inside to her prayers.  We then attempted to make our way back down the hill to Capernaum. 

Fortunately for us, I made a mistake with directions.  Also fortunately for us, Travis was present to decide that we should walk down this here path.  We traipsed down the hill through an olive grove.  I tasted an unripe olive.  It was beyond nasty, so don't do it.  After maybe ten minutes the olive grove ended and we were surprised to come upon a mango grove.  None of the mangos on the tree were ripe, so we weren't persuaded by our little inner voices to pick any, but we did snag a couple off the ground and have ourselves a tasty mango snack.  A few minutes later we were walking through a banana grove, which turned into a lychee grove (my inner voice did persuade me to pick two little lychees and they were oh-so-delicious).  The lychee grove turned once more into a banana grove, which became a mango grove.  By this time we were nearly at the bottom of the hill and had thoroughly enjoyed our little adventure.  Our stomachs persuaded us to grab some more mangos off the ground so we could take them back to Nazareth and make ourselve a yummy mango smoothie.  Then we were at the locked gate, which would have been a problem except that the chain was relatively loose, so we could all squeeze out.  And we were at Capernaum. 

Capernaum is thought to be the settlement on the Galilee where Jesus lived during his preaching years.  It's not terribly large, but it was an interesting spot - a little ruined town.  The site is centered on a room that was gradually transformed into a church.  Now the walls of the ruin can be viewed underneath the octogonal church built to commemorate the site.  Next to the church is an old synagogue, a lovely creation of pillars and white stone.  And then there's the sea, and you can sit and enjoy it in a little copse where the breeze floats by. 

As beautiful things go, it - the Galilee - was the most beautiful thing - place - I saw in all of Israel. 

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