Monday, November 30, 2009

Jerusalem Day Two

Is it December already? Wow! Today we hung out with our new German friends for the day, Thomas and Michael. While in their company laughter and deep conversation is frequent. We walked out Lion’s Gate down the hill through Gethsemane and up the Mt. of Olives. We visited a couple of churches before soaking in the view of the Old City from atop the oldest functioning cemetery in the world. Later we went on a “three-hour tour” around the city. We greatly enjoyed the history lesson from a native Israeli. We ended with a visit to the church of the Holy Sepulcher built on the site of Calvary or Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion of Jesus. The church is actually under the care of a Muslim family who open and lock the premises each evening. We also visited one of the locations of the last supper. It turns out there are many sites that claim to be the location of various religious events. It is a little unsettling to see teenage boys and girls walking around with their machine guns, real this time. Crazy to us, but the locals seem to be comfortable with it. Young Israeli’s are required to serve three years of military service. It is intriguing to see people of different faiths divided into different areas of the old city. The Armenian and Jewish quarters are in the south. While the Christian and Muslim quarters are in the Northern part. Mosques, churches and synagogues fill the skyline. Sometimes people of different faiths live in areas dominated by other faiths. One photo shows the roof-top of an Israeli family living in the Muslim quarter. There are high fences around the roof top where there is a guard on duty 24-hours a day sitting in his guard shack right next to the children’s playground, both located on the roof. Crazy! We saw the ancient Roman road that passed through the city. It is actually twenty or so feet below the current ground level of the city. There are layers and layers of ruins below Jerusalem. This evening we ate in a restaurant that recently opened, located of a side alley on Via Dolorosa. The owner told us that he found an ancient room while remodeling. Supposedly we were eating in history. Not sure, but the room was far below the current level of the city. We plan on departing Jerusalem tomorrow to go down to Bethlehem for a couple days. We will attempt to exit Israel into the Palestinian territory, where Bethlehem is located. We have contacted an organization that is connecting us with a Palestinian family to stay with for a couple days.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Today we left the grimy hostel we located late last night; I guess you get what you pay for. After walking from one end of Old City Jerusalem to the other and checking out more grimy hostels, we located the Austrian Hospice located on Via Dolorosa. Check in time was later in the afternoon so we left the bags and walked through the Muslim Quarter to the Jewish Quarter where the Western “Wailing Wall” stands. We met Yair, a seventeen-year-old who was praying at the wall. He was kind enough to answer our barrage of questions. Thank you! We departed and walked back down Via Dolorosa and out the Lions Gate entrance. Lions Gate also called St. Stephens Gate is where Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death. We continued down the hill to the base of the Mt. of Olives. We Visited the Gethsemane site where there are huge, gnarled olive trees from the time of Jesus. We walked back to the Old City visiting Mary’s tomb in and underground cave like location filled with nearly 300 intricately designed incense lamps. Mariella is thrilled that we are staying in a place that’s clean and has real mattresses, what a blessing, we are thankful. Old City Jerusalem is a unique place.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

From Nazareth to Jerusalem

After a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, we were invited to stay with David and Anna, the couple heading up the Jesus Trail, for a few days. We accepted and got some much needed down time, thanks guys, we really enjoyed getting to know you a bit better and learning more about the Jesus Trail.

Craig and are really enjoying our time in Israel, the people have been super kind and welcoming. The store owners usually want to know where you are coming from and upon hearing California, they usually get a smile on their face and tell us about some relative that lives there or on the east coast. This is all followed by a common, but still genuine, "Welcome". The children usually are a bit curious, and smile, most greeting us with a "shalom" and today Craig got a little one wanting a high five, super cute. The most unusual thing in Nazareth and maybe it will be common here in Jerusalem too, is seeing children with guns. Gotcha! They're not real guns, they are either air soft guns or cap guns, but they are black and resemble real guns, well at least for the untrained eye they do. I was bummed that the camera wasn't working yesterday because we saw loads of kids carrying these guns. The best was on the way back from Mt.Precipice. There were four or five kids all carrying flower bouquets in one hand and guns in the other-it was perfect, but the camera wasn't working so you will have to take my word for it and use your imagination.

Craig and I left Nazareth today at about 7pm for Jerusalem. We plan on staying here for a few days. Good news, we are here safe and have beds to sleep in. Bad news, our camera has died again, this is the longest it's gone without coming back, so ...we will see. -Wow, it just came back as I finished typing that sentence-yahoo! Ok, so we took a two hour bus ride from Nazareth and walked into Old City Jerusalem, entering through Jaffa Gate. Tonight we are staying between the Christian and Jewish quarter of old City Jerusalem. Tomorrow we will explore and take loads of pictures to make up for the two days of a broken camera. Goodnight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in Nazareth

Thanksgiving! We were invited back to Nazareth by a nice couple who are getting this “Jesus Trail” project going. We will be celebrating Thanksgiving with them and other volunteers and workers at the Fauzi Azar Inn (hostel). David and Anna are great people who’ve invited us to stay with them. We will likely leave for Jeruselum on Saturday evening. Not many busses run tomorrow because of Shabbat (Sabbath). Almost everything shuts down on Friday evening and into Saturday.

We have much to be thankful for. Thank you Lord!

Hiking to Tabgah and Capernaum (11 miles)

From Israel, Jesus Trail, Water Walking1

Photos from November 25th 2009

The next morning we entered Arbel National Park and ascended the Arbel Cliff. We soaked up the view from the top. After an hour or so we descended, passing ancient cliff dwellings and caves. This is where Mariella saved the life of a baby tortoise that was turned upside down, Maryanne you would’ve taken this guy home in a heartbeat, Mariella sure wanted to. We continued down the mountain into Wadi Hamam before continuing to Tabgah. At this point a refreshing rain ensued that turned into heavy, not so welcomed, rain. We decided to ask the Franciscan monastery, which is the traditional location of the feeding of the 5,000, if there were any accommodations for the night. After some persuasion slash playing the poor couple without a place to stay, they let us stay in one of their rooms located in the back garden near a babbling brook that empties in the nearby Sea of Galilee-not too bad at all. Yet another example of God’s provision, this time near the site where he fed 5,000. Beautiful! The next day we woke up and walked to the church of the Primacy of St. Peter, which is built over a rock traditionally thought to be where Jesus shared a meal with his disciples after the resurrection. Then we ascended the Mount of Beatitudes, the traditional side of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Later, we hiked down the mount to Capernaum where we meandered through the ruins of the city which was the hub of Jesus’ ministry. In Capernaum there are ruins of a synagogue and the church at St. Peters house built over the ruins of St. Peters home. Mariella made friends with more strangers as she played with a few of the cats at the ruins, they later picked us up on the road and offered to join them as they drove around the Sea of Galilee, we gladly jumped in. It turned out to be a huge blessing for all people involved. Linda and Mariella were glad to have another female around and Craig and James both found they had an affinity for similar strange adventures involving more discomfort than most prefer. Thank you James and Linda for letting us join you. After a short time of driving, James suggested we pull over when we see the Jordan River and jump in. So we did! Somewhere on the drive we also passed the location where Jesus cast demons into pigs that ran off a cliff into the sea. We continued to a place where people can be baptized in the Jordan. There were busloads of people, literally! We ended the day in Tiberias where Linda treated all of us to a nice dinner. Thank you guys for letting us hang out with you. We needed to be around other people. The arguments were becoming too frequent, turns out several days of hiking on our own creates a bit more tension than the last 150’ish days. Thank you for being a blessing to us. *Thank you so much Linda for the few delightful hours of female interaction-you were indeed a gift from God for me-love Mariella.

From Israel, Jesus Trail, Water Walking2

Hiking from Kibbutz Lavi to Moshav Arbel (10 miles)

From Israel, Jesus Trail, Cow Head

We hiked through more agricultural fields to ascend the Horns of Hittin, a volcanic structure where a famous Crusader battle took place. It is at this location where we caught our first glimpse of the Sea of Galilee. Later, we descended past the tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses. We walked past olive groves and made sure we stayed on the trail, not wanting to wander off into the mine fields. Yikes! The fields were a beautiful green because of heavy rains about a week ago, it was great. Mariella sunk down in one of the“mud” puddles (also pictured). We continued on through the valley and rose up to Moshav Arbel where we stayed at a great bed and breakfast. The place is run by a husband and wife team. Israel, the husband, makes amazing meals and his wife, Sarah, was more the hospitality and logistics, both incredibly warm and amiable. The personal in-room hot tub was a real treat after a long hike.

Hiking Cana to Kibbutz Lavi (9 miles)

From Israel, Jesus Trail, Church Wings

Photos from November, 23nd 2009

In Cana we stayed with a local family who run a B & B. They are amazingly kind people whose hospitality overwhelmed us. We were welcomed as family and were even treated to a fresh catch of “St. Peter’s” fish caught in the Sea of Galilee. We hadn’t even arrived to the area where Jesus fed the five thousand and we were being provided loaves and fishes. This gesture of hospitality was a reminder for us of God’s constant provision in our lives. We bless Him! So good! Most of their family lives in the neighborhood. One son runs the N.Y. Pizza the other runs a barber shop. The husband manages the store beneath their house. They were great people overflowing with a Christ like love. They live next door to the traditional location of Jesus’ first miracle where he turns wine into water. There are some photos from the ruins under the church as well as a large ancient jug/cistern used for holding water and wine. The Jews, Muslims and Christians we’ve met have been overwhelmingly welcoming. Everyone has greeted us with a smile and eager to assist when needed. That is with the exception of a boy we met while walking through Cana. He greeted us with a broken hello then threw a stick at Mariella’s head just missing her. He followed the stick with a rock but he was much further away when he chucked the rock. In one photo I caught Mariella just after a big sneeze. Nasty! We were shocked one evening by the sound of automatic gunfire around the neighborhood. Our host did not seem too concerned. They told us it was people celebrating. I was hoping the people shooting did so at an angle and not straight up. We were jolted out of bed in the morning by the blaring chants coming from the mosque two blocks away. During the pauses in the chant we could hear the other mosque at the next town echoing in the distance. Once the blaring chant ceased the church bells of the two neighboring churches started to sound. Good morning!

Hiking Nazareth to Cana (8.6 miles)

From Israel, Jesus Trail, Roman Road

Photos From Saturday, November 21st and 22nd

Here are some photos from the hostel we stayed at (Fauzi Azar Inn) and the first day of hiking. There are photos from the Church of Annunciation, built over the cave that is traditionally thought to be the location where Mary lived and was visited by the angel Gabriel who announced her conception by the Holy Spirit. We ascended out of Nazareth and walked through calm pastoral fields to Zippori National Park to visit the archeological ruins of the main administrative city in the Galilee at the time of Jesus. We admired the beautiful mosaics and enjoyed the view from the top of the Crusader fortress (Craig is picture in-front of the building). Walking on the ancient Roman roads was fantastic. If you look closely at the pictures you can see the groves worn by chariots and carts wore down the stone road. We continued from Zippori to Meshhed, the city where Jonah was born. We continued on to Cana where we had pizza at NY Pizza and stayed at a bed and breakfast next door to the Cana Wedding Church.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Spent time in Jaffa with some friends we met the night before at a restaurant near our hostel, not at all a coincidence, it was meant to be. Eyal, a lover of words and meanings beyond words, and Michal… one of those girls that I, Mariella :), could easily develop a friendship crush on, met with us and took us out to some amazing pizza, yeah probably the best pizza we’ve had so far. We went back to Eyal’s place and began our study, if you will. I quickly realized how badly I need Jewish friends, why don’t I have Jewish friends? What and amazing culture, faith, people. Craig and I sat, sipped on tea, and soaked in the history and stories. It was such a sweet time and I wish it would’ve lasted much much longer. I have a feeling we will meet again. COME TO CALIFORNIA! Until then, we have the glorious resources of communication via the World Wide Web. Thanks so much guys for making our short stay in Tel Aviv memorable, and not just because we had a surreal experience at the Egyptian embassy, but because we had the beautiful opportunity for an incredibly organic cultural exchange-thank you.
After a 2.5 hour bus ride from Tel Aviv we arrived safely in Nazareth. We are staying in Old Town Nazareth which is great. We peaked in on the Church of Annunciation, the traditional location where the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a child. We perused the mazes of street side shops and enjoyed good tasting falafel recommended by a shop keeper. We also visited the synagogue built over the location (maybe near the location) where Jesus read in the synagogue (Luke 4:16). The following quote is from a guy name Ray Vander Laan ( about how Synagogue services were conducted:
“Following the reading of the Torah portion, a section from the prophets (called the Haphtarah) would be read by the same or another reader. After all readings, a short sermon would be offered, often by the reader of the Torah or Haftarah. Any adult member of the community was eligible to speak the sermon called the derashah. The sermon was frequently quite short (Jesus spoke only a few words-Luke 4:21). The service ended with a benediction using the Aaronic blessing found in the Torah (Numbers 6:24-26), if a priest was present to offer it. In Luke 4:16-30, Jesus was scheduled to read the Hephtarah and may have read the Torah as well as he concludes with a provocative derashah.” Now read Luke with this Jewish context. God’s word comes alive in a new and refreshing way.
We plan on attending 6am mass at the Church of the Annunciation before embarking on the 40 mile or so hike around the Galilee region (“Jesus Trail”). We may extend it a day or two or three and walk along the hills of the western side of the Sea of Galilee. Today we met a couple spearheading the “Jesus Trail”. They have invited us over for Thanksgiving. We hope to join them, Mariella especially hopes to join them. We make our plans, but God directs our steps.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Contact info.

Hey guys, while in Israel we temporarily will have a cell phone! If you would like to contact us you can do so by calling 972543916615 ,your best bet might be calling through skype for best prices.

If you are in Israel, Eyal and Michal! you can call us at 025 4391 6615. Thanks so much for having us over, what a great great surprise and blessing. Michal, I should have taken you up on your offer to cut my hair because I have not stopped thinking about it since then...:(. It was really great meeting you two and enjoying some of the best pizza ever in Israel. We will be in contact, I'm sure of it.

As we understand it's free to receive calls, so call away!

Off to Nazareth!


Good News & Not so Good News

Written Thursday, November 19th

The good news is we quickly obtained our visas for China. The bad news is we were rejected by the crazy guy at the Egyptian embassy. By the way our future plane flight to China departs out of Cairo. I am not sure if what we experienced is a common occurrence at the Egypt Embassy or not. The visa guy was crazy! We showed up to a line of three people lined up behind one window. The people in-front of us all had their visa application filled out and were nervously waiting for their turn. I figured I would ask the man behind the window if we could get two applications from to fill out. He started yelling at me and telling me to wait in the back of the line. The time was 10:45am. I was informed by the frustrated customers that he rolls the shades down at precisely 11:00am. During the short wait we witnessed one man get denied for the visa he dropped off a few days before with no monetary refund. The second guy, a Peruvian, was charged a considerable amount more than the price posted in the window. We reached the window at 10:50 and were given forms to fill out. We quickly filled them out and went back to the window with 4 minutes to spare. The moment we reached the window the crazy guy said, “No visas for you! Come back on Sunday.” I told him we could not wait until Sunday. Then he pressed a button and rolling shades came down to cover the inside of the window. I guess we were not getting our Egyptian visas. Not more than 30 seconds later, shades on the window next to the one that just closed opens up. He helps an Israeli guy and gives him the run around for a minute or so before telling him it will be 3-weeks before it can be processed. Discrimination? The others before him were told to come back three days later to get their visas. Next we start begging him to please take our applications. After telling us no multiple time he takes the applications. Then he tells us to write what we teach and study in school on the side of the application. Weird? He was making up his own application questions. We pay him, but he does not have change. So he takes more money than we owe him. Whatever, it is only a few U.S. dollars. Then we asked him if we could please get the visas at the end of the day. We requested this because we read that it was standard operating procedure to apply in the morning and pick up the Egyptian visa in the afternoon. After persistently asking, he started yelling and through our applications out the window then grabbed money out of the cash box and threw it out the window. “No visa for you!” We stared at the crazy dictator astonished by the way he handled the visa procedure. Crazy! Plan B is to secure a visa in Jordan. Tomorrow we plan on taking a bus to Nazareth and walking the “Jesus Trail” for five days (Sea of Galilee area) through Nazareth, Cana, Kibbutz Lavi, and Capernum. We printed out a ton of reading material to help understand the Bible through a Jewish historical and cultural context. Can’t wait to hike and read.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Arrived in Tel Aviv

We made it to the hostel in Tel Aviv by 2:00am this morning after a train ride from the airport and a taxi to the hostel. It is nice to be back in warmer weather near the beach. The beaches are reminding us of the beach area of Southern California. The weather is supposed to be good for the next couple days (about 70 degrees). We also went to the Chinese Embassy this morning (9:00am) and applied for visas. We were verbally approved for a visa by the guy in charge. It should be official tomorrow morning when we pick up the passports, stamped and approved. We made a new friend at the beach front kebab shop. We enjoyed a Gyro. Fresh bread baked on the roof of an oven then filled with turkey, hummus, a salsa like concoction and tomatoes. Good stuff. We hope to go back tomorrow and hang out with the guys and get more good food. Nice!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Leaving Athens. On our way to Tel Aviv

It is 5:30 pm (7:34am in California) we are getting ready to head to Tel Aviv with a short stop-over in Larnica, Cyprus. We enjoyed our time in Athens. We especially liked the friendly Greeks who were very sociable and hospitable.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Acropolis

The camera came back to life! Nice! Tomorrow we leave for Israel. Today we will do research and plan for our time in Israel. Yesterday we took advantage of the free entry Sundays and went to the Acropolis and other museums. At one museum we saw pieces of clay pots with peoples name written on them. We read that there was a vote each year to ostracize one person from the city for a ten year period. Crazy! The Acropolis is quite a magnificent building. I expected it to be more intact than it was. There is an ongoing restoration of the site which started before the summer Olympic Games in 2004. As a result there is scaffolding and other construction equipment everywhere. We walked back to the Areopagus and found the site of the Church of Dionysius, located just below the Areopagus. Dionysius was a member of the Areopagus (Greek Council) who responded to the good news Paul shared about the resurrection and saving grace of Jesus. This was the site of one of the first church communities in Athens. On the east side of the Acropolis we visited the remnants of the cliff carved alters to different gods. It is possible that the “alter to the unknown god” Paul refers to in his sermon in Acts, was in this very place. We are excited about the upcoming pilgrimage to Israel. Mariella also laughed at me because a bird pooped on me at one of the ancient outdoor theaters. I am glad I can still make her laugh. We can officially say we've been through a lot of crap together. There are times when we get sick of each other and long to be around family and friends, but we continue to be grateful for everyday we have exploring this great world. What a blessed season in life!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Today we woke up to sunshine and warm weather. A welcomed change from the past couple weeks spent in Czech and Hungary. We walked the streets around the Acropolis. Mariella was more interested in all the shops as I was drawn to the historical sites. It is exciting for me to visit this area because Mariella and I did a year long Bible study on the book of Acts with our teen friends from Community Bible Study (C.B.S.) in Fullerton. On our way to Athens we stopped briefly in Thessalonica. In the New Testament in Acts 17, Paul writes about his visit to the people in Thessalonica. He went there and preached in the Jewish synagogue where he explained that Christ had to suffer and raise from the dead fulfilling what was written in the scriptures about the coming Messiah (Emanuel-meaning God with us). Some people believed and others chased him out of the city. Soon after this, Paul went to Athens. Today we browsed around what is left of the Ancient Agora. Acts chapter 17 verse 17 says, “he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.” The Agora was the chief meeting place of the city, where orators spoke, where business was discussed and gossip exchanged. Socrates also spent time here expounding his philosophy. We also walked to the Areopagus (also known as Mars Hill), which is located next to the Acropolis. It was here where Paul preached the “Sermon on an Unknown God.” This hill was the site of the council nobles and the Judicial Court under the aristocratic rule of ancient Athens. It is clear from looking at the ruins and reading the historical literature that Athens used to be a place of worship to many Gods constructed out of metal, wood and stone.

Paul told the people about Christ’s death and resurrection. He told them that he saw an alter with an inscription: TO AN UNKOWN GOD (maybe they wanted to make sure they didn’t offend any God’s they may have left out). The Unknown god was not so much a specific deity, but a placeholder, for whatever god or gods actually existed but whose name and nature were not revealed to the Athenians and the world. Paul told the people, “what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” I like how Paul acknowledges that their spiritual and intelectual pursuits were legitimate.

So many of us are searching and yearning for something connected to the mind and heart of the Living God. This connection must be met so God redeems and satisfies our longing for life to the full and peace that surpasses understanding.

C.S. Lewis once said that all vices are virtues gone wrong.

The rest of the story can be found in Acts 17.

I wish I could post pictures, but our camera died. We hope it will be resurrected as it was a month or so ago when it stopped functioning. Tomorrow we plan to visit the Parthenon. We saw large parts of the Parthenon in London at the British Museum. The parts of the Parthenon were taken by Lord Elgin in 1810-11. Maybe the Museum will send the vast collection back to its home one day.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Never Ending Train Ride

If a train leaving Budapest for Athens, departs at 1pm on Thursday, traveling at the slowest possible speed, stopping at nearly every stop along the way, what time would it arrive to its destination? I know, I know, you need more information to solve this 4th grade math problem, well how about I just give you the answer-34 GRUELING HOURS! Ok, ok, they weren’t all grueling, but I absolutely must tell you about a few of the highlights.
Just entered Serbia. Hour: 5 or 6. Craig and Mariella sitting in a cabin with two other people. For a while everything seems ok. Two men exit at some point. Craig and Mariella read, laugh, and listen to music. Woman cloaked with the black fur of some dead animal around her entire body steps into cabin; she is wearing a face mask. I just finished reading a short article on the H1N1 back home and all the craziness it’s created. Example A: Paranoia? Woman looks around, making eye contact a few times and nervously gets settled into her seat, but before that…she makes eye contact with Mariella and, in French, says please put your feet down.
*Now, I could totally understand this if she was sitting in the very next seat, but she’s not. In fact, she took the seat 3 seats away from my feet and by the way I had just showered and had clean socks on.
Ok, continuing. I look at her and am annoyed by her self-appointed authority. I pretend not to understand. Craig translates. Annoyed, I slide my feet down and start voicing my annoyed-ness out loud to Craig. “who does she think…she’s not even…why doesn’t she…” Craig writes in the magazine three letters: O.C.D.
*Having recently watched a very accurate documentary on Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, I feel I am really aware and understand that this person has issues. Oh, the name of the film? What About Bob?
Some time passes. Craig and I decide it’s ok for me to put my feet up seeing as her back is to us some seats away and she wouldn’t notice. I cough.
*Those of you who know me can vouch for me, I hope, but I always cover my mouth-always, I am sure there is an occasional slip up, but not this time, not after having read that article about H1N1 and sitting next to crazy.
She rambles something else in French and I throw my hands up-once again annoyed. A few minutes pass by and a woman collecting the garbage from the bins comes by, O.C.D. lady stops her and says something. Garbage collector lady walks towards me and gestures, because we clearly don’t speak each other’s language, gestures to me, like a parent does to a child, to cover my mouth.
*Ladies and gentlemen: It’s time to freak out. I loudly argue with Craig about whether or not she should be allowed to be so rude and assuming simply because she has a disorder. I argue that she should have taken a plane or her very own car if she wants to have the entire world stop and submit to her rules. This goes on for a while.
Because I am recovering from a cold, no really I am, I cough a few more times within the next few hours, making sure to cover my mouth every stinkin time, like both hands over face. She continues rambling. Eventually she, in a furious blur of black mink and mask, gathers her belongings and exits the cabin. I now understand that part In What About Bob? When he finally exits the bus and everyone on the bus, having moved to the front in a protective huddle, cheers at his exit. Freedom!
The next are short, I promise Brad.
We are now in Serbia, taking a train overnight to Athens. We get tickets, because after having been stopped twice on trains we thought were Eurorail participators and were not and either having to haggle a price for pocket money for the conductor or pay the regular fee, we know to ask every possible question and not assume that the person, the professional who is paid to give information about trains and times and fees, is in any way serious about helping you, the paying customer. So, we are getting on the train, sleeper cars, the cheaper-oops more affordable “couchettes.”
What’s a couchette? A small cabin with two benches that turn into 6, yup 6 beds.
We get into the train and some guy approached us holding his cigarette in one hand, and asks if we have reservations. Yes, we do. Let me see your ticket. Craig begins to hand his ticket over and I ask, uhh, do you work here? He laughs. Yes,of course. Oh. I pinch the shoulder part of his leather jacket. Is this your uniform? Craig says “He’s the Fonz dude”. I think sometimes Craig forgets that were not in America. The Fonz? Craig? Really? The guy laughs, and ushers us to our sweet cabin. It’s the cabin in the picture where I look like I might cry as I lay on that nasty “couchette.”
The last one is just a really funny observation. So far, we’ve been asked for our passports at least 5 times, just in the last two days. Every time, Craig gets a quick glance and his passport is handed back to him. They get my passport, blue just like the US passport, and they stutter. A glitch in the system. The make a radio or cell phone call, call another guy over, refer to their handbook, or make me white while they light up another cigarette, deep thinking always requires a cigarette in Europe. Finally, usually, they pass me through, so far.
So after 34 hours of train travel, we have made it to Athens, Greece. It’s late. Goodnight. (Hour 36, 1am

Photos of our last day in Budapest, train ride, Mariella creatively making a sandwich and Athens from the balcony. The room feels like a tiny Hume Lake cabin and the view is nice.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bye, Bye Budapest

The past couple days have been rainy so we’ve been inside the flat or at coffee shops and bookstores most of the time. We’ve gone on at least one long walking adventure each day before heading back to the flat to dry out. We were blessed with the opportunity to visit with Robyn, a missionary friend of Mariella’s from EV Free. We enjoyed an evening of conversation over dinner. Thanks for hanging out with us Robyn. This afternoon we leave on a twenty-nine hour or so marathon train ride south to Athens, Greece. We have reserved two bunks in a sleeping car. Hopefully we can get some sleep. We plan on spending four days in Athens before heading to Tel Aviv, Israel.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Happy Birthday in Hungary

We arrived safely to Budapest, Hungary, a seven hour train journey from Prague. What we did not know is that we were passing through Slovakia. The Slovakian conductor kindly informed us that our rail passes do not work in Slovakia and we owed him a chunk of money. It turns out he was willing to let us remain in the first class seats if we settled with him a different way, which would cost a fraction of the price. I hope he bought his wife something nice. When we exited the train we were greeted by a woman offering us an apartment to stay in. She looked friendly so we jumped on a city bus and she took us to the other side of Budapest to her flat. The flat was in a great location and we worked out a price cheaper than the most affordable hostel. We bless God that we were greeted by this stranger.
We woke up this morning and walked around parts of Budapest. It is an impressively beautiful city. We spent most of our time walking along the river and the nearby streets lining its banks. A highlight was the visit to the city market. The market was stunningly clean with food stalls on the bottom floor and shops on the top. I gifted Mariella a beautiful, hand-made necklace and earrings; she was thrilled, grinning and singing about them as we walked back to the flat. After strolling around the market we walked to Iguanas, a Mexican food restaurant that our friend Matt recommended. It was a fantastic dinner that reminded us of the Mexican food at home. Mariella enjoyed her Hungarian slash Mexican birthday. Although it would be much better if friends and family were here with us. She misses you all.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

All is well in Prague

We are having a good time visiting with our friend Matt and his girlfriend, Anna. It has been a blessing to be able to cook a couple veggie meals and have a home base for a few days. Mariella and I have been doing some planning for the next stage of travels. We hope to head south to Budapest, Hungary tomorrow morning. We will likely make our way toward Athens, Greece over the next seven days before flying to Israel. We hope to see the area where Jesus lived, taught, died, and resurrected. Mariella is fighting off a cold so we are praying for a swift recovery. We will celebrate her birthday in Budapest. Not sure what is in Budapest, I guess we’ll soon find out. : )

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Written Tuesday, November 3rd 2009
Yesterday we visited Vatican City with Jamie. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to hang out with him as we explored St. Peters Basilica. A highlight was walking to the top of the dome where we could look down on the inside central area of the massive Basilica where Saint Peter is buried. The size and beauty of the Basilica was awe inspiring. We were also able to look out from the dome to the city. While in the Basilica we gazed upon Michelangelo’s “Pieta” (completed in his mid twenties) and took a photo of the world’s most photographed sculptures. In the afternoon is started raining so we walked around with plastic ponchos cold and wet, but having a great time together. We left Rome later in the evening and boarded a train for a 19-hour ride to the Czech Republic where we will visit a friend. It was snowing for much of the overnight train ride. It looks like we will head back to the blustery winter weather before heading south again to Hungry and Greece.

Written Wednesday, November 4th 2009
We were welcomed at a train station in Prague by our friend Matt. Today we walked around the city with Matt. Here are some photos. It is cold here, but no snow.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Roaming around Rome

Hello there! This morning we decided not to visit the Vatican because most of the museums are closed, it being Sunday and all. Instead we walked a ton to various historical sites. A highlight was walking to a park near Garibaldi Monument that provides great views of the city. Another highlight was Gelato for the second day in a row from Tre Scalini in Piazza Novona, I stuck with dark chocolate and tried the coffee flavor too, Mariella had cherry and mint, yesterday it was mint and chocolate. Tomorrow we plan to tour the Vatican with Jamie, a new Australian friend we’ve been talking to during breakfast each morning. He teaches Italian at a secondary school in Adelaide, Australia. We hope to take him for some Gelato at Tre Scalini…I mean we have to share the experience, right? Tomorrow night, after another walking marathon, we will get on a train at 7:10pm, hopefully sleep, wake up in Vienna at around 8am, and then head to Prague to visit a friend and see the sights for a few days.