We spent New Year’s Day travelling on the bus from Jerusalem to Nazareth, via Haifa. We took this route because the direct bus from Jerusalem to Nazareth did not leave Jerusalem until 4:15 whereas this extra route arrived in Nazareth around 4 PM. Besides, why not try our luck catching two buses rather than just one in the land where there is no English?!?! It’s all part of the adventure, right?
Anyways, we made it to our destination and our new BNB was just around the corner from the bus stop. How handy. Because we hadn’t eaten all day (just a few chippies on the bus) we headed out to a joint called Richard Burger. How could we go wrong? Well, it wasn’t even open. Maybe because it was New Year’s Day, but we had a hard time finding anything open and it was only about 5 PM. However, trusty McDonalds saved the day and after a $40 basic burger meal, we arrived back at the BNB, caught up on all the New Year’s messages on Facebook, watched a movie and called it a night.
Today, we roamed around Nazareth with our first stop being the Basilica of the Annunciation. This marks the traditional location of Mary’s house, where she was visited by the angel Gabriel to receive the news of her divine pregnancy. Though the church was only built in 1969, the grotto below the church dates back to Byzantine times. As with many things that we saw in Jerusalem, there was also a Crusader church here during the 1100’s and one of the original walls has been incorporated into the new church. The church is quite magnificent and is considered the largest in the Middle East. The outside courtyard features Madonna (not the singer) mosaics from around the world each in different cultural styles. Some were quite beautiful while others were not so much. I didn’t see one there from Canada.
St. Joseph’s Church of Nazareth, built over an earlier Crusader church in 1911, is situated within the same compound as the Basilica. This church has some pretty cool ancient architecture in the lower grotto featuring a Byzantine baptistery and cisterns.
Old Nazareth is much like Old Jerusalem in that there are many narrow streets running in all directions. It doesn’t take long until you are completely turned around and lost. Even Google Maps wasn’t a big help today. So, by accident we came across the Synagogue Church which was more like a door in a wall and a cave rather than a church. However, this is traditionally the church where Jesus announced his ministry by reading from Isaiah and confirming the he was fulfilling the prophecy. So, it might be small but it holds much significance.
We found our way out of the labyrinth and managed to find St. Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. How can that be? Did we not already see the Church of the Annunciation? Yes, we did but The Greek Orthodox believe that Mary received this news while she was drawing water at the well and not in her home. So, very near this church is “Mary’s Well” and water runs from this well through the lower grotto of the church. This church was also pretty cool because it has ancient stone steps leading up to a mezzanine floor where there are many frescoes depicting stories from both the Old and New Testaments.
Our last, and most enjoyable stop of the day was the Mary of Nazareth International Centre. TripAdvisor has it rated as Number Two just behind the Basilica as must see attractions in Nazareth. As we entered the center we were standing just above the remains of a 1st century house. From there we headed up to the rooftop chapel and adjoining terrace. The chapel is small, modern and unassuming but so very peaceful. The terrace has beautiful views of the Basilica and the surrounding city. We headed back downstairs and spoke with one of the members of the Chemin Neuf Community, who are the caretakers of this wonderful facility. They are an International Ecumenical Fraternity working together for peace and reconciliation in the world and unity between Christians. We watched a wonderful multimedia show that tells the biblical story from the time of creation ending with the crucifixion of Christ. This show takes place across four theatres, and you move through each one as a different part of the story unfolds. It is really quite amazing and we will definitely write another review on Tripadvisor.
We have decided to stay in Nazareth for another few days and will rent a car to see the sites of Cana, Tiberius, Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee. It should be an interesting week!!
The Church of the Annunciation.
The Church of St. Joseph.
The Synagogue Church where Jesus gave his first sermons.
Saint Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. Nothing like good old fashioned competition.
The Well of Mary.
The Mary of Nazareth International Center. Probably our most enjoyable stop of the day.
Some random pictures of Nazareth from today.