For various reasons I decided to walk a bit further today than I had originally planned. But, I like walking, and Kathleen's hip injury has reminded me to enjoy it while I can. So, I walked and I'm sure that I stood out as a crazy American to the locals. I was asked by four or five taxi drivers if I wanted a ride somewhere. I guess they figure Americans are too fat, lazy, or in a hurry to walk. But, I like a good walk, especially somewhere that I have never been before. A walk helps me to slow down and learn my surroundings. When I walk I am surprised by how much of life I miss when I am just driving around. Of course, in the United States I am usually in more of a hurry, and it's not quite as interesting as a new place like I'm in here in Israel.
For example, if I had been driving today I would have missed two beautiful parks that I walked through. The first one had a quiet stream of water flowing through it with different rock formations throughout. The second one is called the Valley of the Cross because there is a monastery at the bottom called “The Monastery of the Cross.” The monastery was a bit south of where I was going or I would have gone over to explore it further. My guess is that 99 percent of Americans who come to Israel never get near this park or the monastery. The Valley of the Cross looked to me more like what I think the Garden of Gethsemane would have looked like in Jesus' time. The current Garden of Gethsemane is surrounded by buildings and churches. But, the Valley of the Cross is a large area of limestone, olive trees, flowers, and birds. In fact, in area about one mile square the monastery is the only building standing there. And, this is extremely unusual in a compact city like Jerusalem where good property is valuable and converted to housing or industry.
Addendum: I got slightly lost for a minute or two, so I thought I would ask a soldier who was sitting on a bench. She didn't have a clue. I'm going to give her the benefit of doubt, thinking that maybe she was not a local, but someone who was brought into town to help with the security for the pope. I went back to looking at my map, compared where I was at a crossroads and made sure I was heading away from the sun (west), and in 30 seconds I was back on track. That confirmed my belief that if you have a good map you can always figure out how to get where you need to go. Of course these days, if you want to spend the money you buy a GPS. Then, you never know where you are, but you always know how to get there.