Thursday, July 31, 2008

An Evening in Jerusalem

On Saturday night, we headed into Jerusalem to watch the world come back to life after a day of rest. We got there right at sunset:
And I insisted we stop outside the walls for some sunset-lit photos. I even managed to snag a solo one of my elusive and mildly camera-shy boyfriend: We entered the Old City, and soon found ourselves winding through the inner streets of the souk, where there are hundreds of colorful little shops to draw you in. Me, getting drawn in:They've got a lot to delight the traveler's eye: beautiful rugs, vintage-style posters, wall hangings, hookahs...
Dazzling arrays of sparkly things to buy:We headed up to the roofs overhead, where after climbing a few stairs, you can roam from rooftop to rooftop, all around the city. It was gorgeous up there, cool and breezy and quiet:
We even found a spot with a perfect view of the Western Wall, which was packed with people who'd been there for Saturday prayers:
This was a much more leisurely and relaxed trip to Jerusalem, and I found myself enjoying it a lot more. The city is so breathtaking at night, as well as cooler and less crowded. An evening trip is a definite must for anyone visiting.
Two lone smokers against the outer wall:
Next stop: The Dead Sea!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Delayed Blogging: Gardens of the Baha'i

We have been running around so much over here, all I have had a chance to do is upload new photos to Flickr. I had major posts planned, knew what I wanted to say and everything, but haven't had a morning to sit and write. I almost decided to skip over it, but everyone's comments from my last post were so inspiring, I decided to take the time--this is sort of my travel journal, too, so I know I will be glad for the perseverance later. There will be a few posts in quick succession in the next few days....
So, after our trip to Jerusalem, Vitalay was dying to take me north to Haifa to visit the Gardens of the Baha'i. I had no idea what these were, but wow, was I glad we went:
This place was, in a word, spectacular.
The Baha'i are an interesting group. This is a religion, consisting of about 5-6 million followers worldwide, who take a very holistic approach to faith, encompassing the teachings of all of the world's major religions in one. They view all of the great religious leaders as prophets from one universal religion. I really liked the sound of this one!
View from the top:
As visitors, we start at the top and go down, but this is a pilgrimage site for the Baha'i (kind of like Mecca), and they have to start at the bottom. Um, maybe this is not the religion for me? ;) But the view from up there of the gardens, Haifa, and the Mediterranean is stunning. People can only go on very carefully guided tours through the place in an effort to keep it serene and holy for the pilgrims, but it is free to anyone who reserves a place in the tour.
We got in to the first tour of the day, at 9 am, and it was already boiling hot:
You've got to be properly covered there--not quite as much as me, but knees, shoulders, and chest must not be showing--and they are serious about this, I watched an intense altercation as they refused admission to an older woman in a sleeveless top! But I wanted to be totally safe:
Vitalay refers to this as my "good religious girl" outfit, which I think he finds a bit disconcerting--like people are looking at him as though he kidnapped some nice orthodox girl.
View from the shrine, looking up:
This place was seriously so incredible, it felt like my eyes were being assaulted with beauty. It was so carefully and lovingly tended, with not a petal out of place. It sounds a little stifling, but it's not at all--it's more like a brightly sparkling jewel.
And this was the view from the street below, after we exited:
After the Baha'i Gardens, I stripped off my sweaty clothing, reverted to standard shorts-and-wife-beater uniform, and we headed out to a nature preserve. It was ridiculously hot, so the place was completely deserted:
But peaceful and lovely, and a wild and un-groomed contrast to our previous stop.
Happy and hot!
Next stop: an evening trip to Jerusalem....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jerusalem

A month after arriving, we finally made a trip to lovely Jerusalem, which is a breathtakingly beautiful place:
It's only an hour away by car, but we spend most of our time in Tel Aviv, which is a little closer to us, and a very secular town (we being kind of a secular couple, obviously). That's the mosque you see above, which was built on top of the old Jewish temple, leaving only the Western Wall accessible. Jerusalem is a holy site for 3 of the world's major religions, and as you wander around the city, you feel each of these cultures as separately and distinctly as if you were crossing into 3 different nations. I've always been one of those pacifist love children, of the "Why can't we all just get along??" variety, and pretty laughably oblivious to lines of religion and race (oft repeated conversation: Vitalay: "He's Jewish, you know." Me: "No way, really?" Vitalay: "With the name Ira Silverstein? Seriously?!?")
But even I can feel the differences between people here, the sharp change in atmosphere as we pass from the Muslim Quarter into the Jewish Quarter--a division marked, literally, by nothing but a sign, and yet as definitive a divide as a vast sea. The loud, demonstrative Christians, wandering around carrying large crosses and praying in groups, versus the quiet prayers of the soberly dressed Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall, versus the beautiful singing of the Muslim prayers being broadcast from the mosque to every ear in the city, including mine as I stood in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, about to enter the most holy site for the entire Christian faith.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built around the spot that was, supposedly, Jesus's tomb. There is even a slab of stone that, we are told, is the one on which his body was laid after he was taken down from the cross:
There was all manner of activity happening here. People crying, stretching their bodies across the stone, rubbing scarves and other objects all over it, just generally making a serious spectacle. I grew up semi-Catholic, so I'm sort of used to this kind of thing, but it does kind of turn me off. I don't know why I feel totally OK sitting down to chant to Shiva with a roomful of Hindus, but feel the need to avert my eyes from women sobbing across Jesus's grave. It's weird, but there you have it.
The church is owned in pieces by several different sects of the Christian Church, so there are also all different kinds of priests and monks wandering around in much more severe and exotic dress than I had ever seen before. Some looked positively intimidating in their long black robes and bizarrely-shaped hats! Also groups of people praying in unison, or singing, in all different languages. It's not a traditionally laid-out church, either, with a place for services and all that, but more like a weird, twisty, turny, underground tomb, with stairs leading up and down into different chambers, all smelling strongly of incense. It was creepy, for sure, but creepy-cool, and very interesting.
Crosses etched in the wall by 2 millennia of pilgrims:
Mosaic of Jesus, taken down from the cross:
Very pretty dome:
And next, we visited the Western Wall, of course:
This was probably the nicest part of Jerusalem, for me. Most of the people there were actually praying, but not in spectacular fashion. No one appeared to be crying, no one was throwing themselves on the wall, you know what I mean. I had to cover myself up for this one--knees and elbows--or I would have stood out like a sore thumb. There's no shorts in sight here, not even a female pair pf pants. In fact, next time we go to Jerusalem, I'm donning the ankle-length skirt and elbow-length sleeves that religious women here wear, just to save myself the trouble of fussing with my shawl or worrying about my wrap skirt flipping up. Which it did, in a lovely breeze, as I was walking away from the wall, trying to both hold down my skirt and keep the shawl covering my shoulders. Leave your hot pants and tube tops at home, ladies!
We exited the Old City by Zion Gate:
Vitalay pointed out that all of those little pockmarks are bulletholes, from the war that resulted in Jerusalem being part of Israel. Sigh. These things make me really appreciate the relative absence of bulletholes where I live.
Outside the walls:
That slit in the wall was for shooting your bow and arrow out of. Bows and arrows?! Cool!
Walking along the outside of the Old City walls, we saw a pony:
Which I obviously thought was pretty funny. :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hiking and En Karem

Much thanks to all of you for the lovely comments on my Summer Swing Jacket! I think it's the first time I've really designed an actual sweater all the way from scratch, so it's really nice to hear how much everyone liked it. For those of you who asked for the pattern, it's now linked in the sidebar, and on Ravelry, too.

We've been on a bit of a sightseeing whirlwind lately--Vitalay's parents went to Belarus for 10 days and left us the car, so we've fully taken advantage--despite having to travel with mashed potatoes for what has proven to be a very painful post-wisdom-teeth-removal week for V.
Last week we drove out towards Jerusalem for some hiking, first in a beautiful agricultural preserve, and then in a little mountain artists' town called En Karem.
We hiked down:
There were some ruins.
All around us were fruit and nut trees. The place is some special sort of gardens for organic farming. You could walk along and pick walnuts, almonds, olives, or figs.
And grapes:We hiked till we reached this cave:
See how I'm smiling, like, normally? Well, I was not smiling on the inside. To get into this cave, you have to walk through this crevice, in pitch blackness, and there's water running under your feet, and then you climb precariously up through a hole--all the while, in blackness, except for your teeny-tiny flashlight--and then you're in this little cavern. Also black. I never knew something like this could be so scary, but I was a little shaky! No worries, though, we made it out alive:See how happy I was to see daylight again?
Then it was off to En Karem, a beautiful little town built into the side of some mountains. It was once an Arab village, surrounded by Christian monasteries and convents, but the Arabs left it and the Israelis moved in, and now it's a very cool, artsy little community.
The Christians are still here too, though we couldn't visit any of their churches because it was quite late in the day. You can see one of the churches up in the hills:
Taken through the convent gate:
View from the convent road:
Happy hikers:
On the knitting front, Indigo Ripples has screeched to a grinding halt as, halfway through the ruffle, I ran out of yarn. There was no going back, since I'd already cut out one lace repeat, and I still need to make an i-cord. So yarn has been ordered, and shipped, from the UK, and now we'll see how efficient the Israeli postal system is.... Unfortunately, this is one of the rare projects that I am knitting solely for the end result--I WANT that skirt! Guess I'll have a few more days to wait....
Next stop: Jerusalem!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Summer Swing Jacket--and Pattern!

Yarn: Henry's Attic Normandy Linen in natural gray, less than 1 cone (800 yds. per cone)
Needles: Addi Turbo US 8, 32"
Pattern: Summer Swing Jacket by me. **Download here.**
Ravelry link
***EDITED TO ADD*** The pattern is now available above as a free Ravelry download. It's only sized for me, so you'll have to make adjustments if you're not the same size, but several people had asked about it, so I thought putting up what I had was better than nothing. Hope you enjoy! :)

I've always been inspired by all things Japanese, and especially by the designs and yarns at Habu. I find their aesthetic so simple and soothing and beautiful. But I wanted, specifically, a short-sleeved linen summer top, a little something to throw over my tank top on a cool evening, something a little Japanese, a little sweet, and very minimal. So I wrote the simplest pattern I could come up with--no side shaping, all one piece, kimono sleeves, no edgings--dutifully made and washed my gauge swatch, and went to work.
You wouldn't believe how many times I almost ripped the whole thing out. Not being able to try on as you knit, combined with having to trust in the fairly substantial shrinkage I figured in thanks to my swatch, made for a slightly more nervous knitter than I had planned to be. Even once it was put together, it wasn't until I washed and blocked it that I finally breathed a sigh of relief: it was exactly as I'd imagined it.
The linen washes like a dream, transforming from something stiff and strawlike into rows of drapey, even knitting. It hangs so nicely, in a way that I hoped it would, but wasn't sure about till the end, and now I can say that it was well-worth the experience of knitting it, which was... well, let's just say, linen is just not wool. More like a light twine scraping over the fingers for about 700 yards....
Wanna see more photos? They're here.
Relaxing on a bench in Tel Aviv:
Hooray for successful summer knits! They are not always easy to come by.
We took a break from eating (well, I was eating--Vitalay is not back on solids yet, having had a not-so-fun time getting his wisdom teeth out, WIDE AWAKE!) and picture-taking to grab an iced coffee (again, for me) and pop into a fabric store (oops, that was for me too).
Fabric shopping here is, well, it's no Purl Patchwork or Brooklyn General. But if you're up for the challenge, you can find some treasures--like this pretty printed linen, for less than $3 a meter! I nearly choked on my iced coffee.
OK, off to work on that languishing Indigo Ripples Skirt. If I just knit 10 rows a day on it, then I'll be done in, like, 4 days. Only 4 more days of indigo-stained hands....

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Belated FO's

It occurred to me, after my last post, that there were several FO's I had neglected to blog about. The most important of which is this:
Pattern: Debardeur #402-T3-366 by Phildar, from Phildar 402 Tendances, Printemps/Spring 2004
Yarn: Jaeger Siena--sorry, don't know the color # or how much
Ravelry link
OK, let's be clear about this--it's not really my FO. Kaitlyn knit nearly the whole thing, and then realized it was not going to work for her--mainly due to Cassie's impending arrival. So, generous knitter that she is, instead of frogging the top, she gave it to me! I finished off one of the top lace sections and knit the straps, which I turned into halter ties, already knowing that the straps were going to stretch.
Thanks to Steph for taking these photos at Kaitlyn's shower! And thanks again, Kaitlyn, for the awesome summer handknit!
And then there was this:I needed a good, sturdy, large needle case for my trip to Israel, something I could put a complete set of Addi's and DPN's in. So I browsed around on Etsy for a while to get an idea of what I wanted and what I could do, and then I used up the rest of my beloved bunny fabric from last summer's skirt, along with a little Kona cotton, to make this case.
I also used some fairly heavyweight fusible interfacing in between to give it structure, and I'm glad I did. See my new little labels? :)
And last but not least is this:Catherine walked by right at this moment and caught Connie and I in mid-photo shoot on her porch, hence the laughter.
The pattern is one of the wrap skirts from Sew What Skirts, the one that is supposed to tie in the front, but whatevs, you can tie it wherever you want. The fabric is the brand Kokka from Japan, purchased at Brooklyn General. This was accomplished in the same several-day sewing spree as the needle case--I was on quite a roll. I wish I'd made it a *wee* bit shorter, but it will cover my knees for all of those churches in Jerusalem, and I can always hem it more when I get home.