The Space Between Israel and Palestine, a Fragile Peace

Reading Time: 7 minutes

A boy flying a Palestinian flag near Jewish Settlements[/caption] Despite Palestinian’s being supported by forces of Syria, Egypt etc… By 1949 Israel forces controlled 70% of the land of Palestine & had pushed well past their borders established in the U.N. plan of 1947. When the 750,000 Palestinians who fled due to fighting tried to return to the now Israeli State, they were permanently barred by the Israeli government. The descendants of those refugees number around 7 million. Given the tensions, and the recent Genocide, I can see their point of view of wanting to be overly protective of their people. I also see the Palestinian view of frustration, because no matter where you are in this world, home is still home, and never being able to return would be very heart breaking. To this day there are millions of Palestinian refugees that have a very hard time finding decent jobs & many more still living in refugee camps in the Gaza strip, west bank, Lebanon and Jordan. The Jewish people needed a refuge from the storm of World War II & a safe place to be able to heal; but in giving them that, a large number of Palestinian refugees was created. [caption id="attachment_3693" align="alignnone" width="4608"]Between Israel and Palestine Jewish Men praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem[/caption] As the Israeli state became more established, there was segregation, there were rights denied to Palestinians who had stayed — including privileged housing that is and was denied to them, but allowed for the Jewish people. This gave rise to the 6 day war, where Israel was able to seize the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Sinai & Gaza strip from Egypt’s control; the Israeli State now controlled all of Israel, including the Holy Sites within Jerusalem. Israel now was able to govern those Palestinians that they had fought for decades. Then in 1978, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, and gave the Siani Peninsula back to Egypt. This was very controversial to many Arab states, but over time the other Arab states were able to come to peace with Israel even if they never formally signed a peace deal. [gallery ids="4187,4188" type="rectangular"] The Gaza Strip and the West Bank were intended to be areas where Palestinians were allowed to live and raise their families. When I visited Israel, it seemed that the Palestinians were boxed in with barbed wire and from friends I have living there, the living conditions are not good at all. There is rationing of power, water, infrastructure and resources. While on the Israel side, the Jewish people have managed to turn it into a thriving Metropolis that attracts thousands of visitors and tourists every year. The Palestinians were not happy with the Israeli rule, and the Israeli & Palestinian conflict ensued. The Palestinians began to fight back, including with acts of terrorism; backpack bombs, bombs in Maternity wards and buses– none of this was going to help with peace talks for either side. The Palestinians who were struggling against Israel wanted to end the Israeli occupation entirely. The fighting was very brutal, at one point Israel actually began to invade Lebanon (1982). [caption id="attachment_4246" align="alignnone" width="3000"]Between Israel and Palestine Police fences were randomly placed throughout the city in Jerusalem for precaution[/caption] Unfortunately, the State of Israel, has started putting Jewish settlements inside the Gaza strip, they partition those areas off, and when the Palestinians complain, they are hushed quietly but also forcefully at times (according to reports). Because they are backed by the Israeli army, they have allowed them to come into Palestinian sections and destroyed hundreds of homes, orchards and agricultural lands. If there is resistance by the Palestinians, they are punished with raids, arrests and assassinations. Some assume that this is an attempt to make life so hard for the Palestinians that they will be too afraid to resist, or they will just leave. Why would the Jewish people want to live in these areas at all? Some chose to move to these settlements for religious reasons, some for political reasons, and some… just because the housing was so much cheaper than the housing near all the Holy sites throughout Israel. Between Israel and Palestine By placing these settlements within the Palestinian occupied lands, it will make it much harder for the Palestinians to ever have a Palestinian state. Currently the settlers have been numbered above 700,000. In 1987-1999 was the first Intifada, or the first Palestinian uprising; the Israeli’s lost several hundred and the Palestinians over 1,000. About this same time that this was happening in the West Bank, Gaza created its own army called Hamas; a group of violent extremists that felt they were defending their ‘state’. By 1993 it was clear from the destruction and devastation on both sides, that a peace deal would need to be made. This is when the Oslo Accords was signed by leaders on both sides. This accord was suppose to be the first step in Israel withdrawing from Palestinian lands, and potentially allowing a Palestinian state. This was when the Palestinian authority was established and allowed Palestinians a little bit of authority to govern themselves in certain areas. Members of Hamas launched a series of bombings to try and sabotage the process. Because of this, the Israeli’s began to protest the peace talks, and called the Israeli Prime Minister of the time Hitler and a Nazi. After the 2nd round of the Oslo Accords was signed, the Prime Minister was then shot to death by a far right Israeli in Tel Aviv. [caption id="attachment_4184" align="alignnone" width="4000"]Between Israel and Palestine An Israeli flag flight near the traditional site where Jesus Christ was believed to be Baptized[/caption] By 2000-2005 with the failure of Camp David II summit, Palestinians began to give up hope for peace. The Palestinians rose up with the Second Intafada or uprising, and this one ended up being MUCH more violent than the first Intafada. This conflict produced 1,000 Israeli deaths, and 3,200 Palestinian deaths. This uprising change the tone of the conflict for Israeli’s, they became much more doubtful and skeptical that the Palestinians actually wanted peace, and not just their total destruction. This is when all the walls, checkpoints, and increased Israeli military presence came into Israel to not make peace, but manage the violence and protect its Jewish citizens. [caption id="attachment_4185" align="alignnone" width="4000"]IMG_3345 Barbed wire along the road to the Jordan River, where Jesus Christ was believed to be Baptized[/caption] This left the Palestinians feeling that peace will never come, and are feeling the growth of an ever increasing Israeli occupation through the settlements. Israel ends up withdrawing from Gaza, Hamas then gains power, ends up splitting from the Palestinian authority rule in a short Civil war. This is when Israel places the Gaza strip under a massive & suffocating isolation, because of all the violence originating from the Gaza strip. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip rises up to 40%, and living conditions have deteriorated even further with nearly 1.8 million Palestinians living within a 25 mile by 7 mile wide area, and an estimated 1.1 million Palestinian refugees between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. [caption id="attachment_4216" align="aligncenter" width="704"]Between Israel and Palestine The Area of the Gaza Strip Compared to Los Angeles in the United States[/caption] In the West Bank the Israeli government is still putting up settlements, and the Palestinians are getting increasingly frustrated by this… which then leads to violence and riots. Because of the continued and long history of war, and violence, most Israeli’s have become apathetic to the situation; and the government manages the conflict to the point that most Israeli’s don’t know about it. There are brief periods when the violent groups will rise up, and the deaths that occur from this violence are largely Palestinian (due to US backing of the Israeli Army). So as you can see, on both sides, there are extremists that use Violence to derail peace. It is a thin line that both leaders must walk in order to make peace talks both happen and take effect without risking their own lives & keep the area relatively stable. Until BOTH sides are able to be at peace, and not seek for the opposing sides total destruction… peace will not happen, only relative stability. [caption id="attachment_4194" align="aligncenter" width="488"]Between Israel and Palestine A flag and Menorah are proudly displayed atop an Israeli buidling[/caption] The Israeli occupation on Palestinian lands (according previous accords signed), cannot peacefully last much longer. Whatever we see come next will be much worse, it is a struggle on both sides of each one wanting the other’s destruction. I don’t know what the right answer is, and I have friends on both sides of this conflict. I have to be careful of what I call the land there. If I’m talking to my Jewish friends, it is ‘Israel’; if I’m talking to my Palestinian friends, then its ‘Israeli occupied Palestine’. [caption id="attachment_4197" align="aligncenter" width="679"]Between Israel and Palestine Dome of the Rock in Israel a Sacred site to Muslims[/caption] Now I feel I have a better understanding of why there is a need for the barricades, barbed wire etc…. on both sides. All in all, it just makes me sad. Its not just about religion, its about both sides wanting to protect their lands, people, and children. I do not personally feel the US should solely be involved in this, especially if they have something to gain through some export from Israel. I don’t really want to get into that political portion of this conflict. All I can do is listen to both sides, encourage peace, pray for it & try not to ruffle anyone’s feathers by talking about my opinions on the matter. Don’t let this conflict discourage you from visiting Israel though, it really is incredible to be a witness to thousands of years of history & see for yourself what Israel is today. Much love to both sides, and may God bring you both peace in this time of heartache and turmoil. [gallery ids="4207,4208,4209,4210,4200,4198" type="slideshow"]


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BEFORE You Hike to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco, You Need To Know This….

BEFORE You Hike to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco, You Need To Know This….

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Before we began our hike to Akchour, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I had just arrived in Chefchaouen the night before with my friend Omar and his friend Medi, after a nearly 2-hour drive from Rabat. I had been traveling through Morocco for 2 weeks with very little sleep and was completely exhausted when I started this hike. So my first tip is to do this hike when you are well rested and hydrated. If I had done this any other day, not while I was feeling ill, dehydrated and exhausted – it would have been a Moderate hike with beautiful surroundings. That being said, here is my personal experience when hiking to Akchour and some of the tips and mistakes I made when doing it.

It was cooler in the mountains than I expected, so make sure to bring a jacket (especially if you were sunburned from Marrakech like I was). There were a few clouds resting on the mountain side which gave this place even more of a mysterious and magical feeling than before. When you come to Chefchaouen, you feel as if it is the calmest place on the planet. The locals are very welcoming to tourists and incredibly helpful. The locals don’t get irritated with travelers like other popular destinations I have seen or lived in.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

We went to grab dinner at the old Medina, hiking up the narrow passageways to the center of town. Omar picked a café that had quite a few locals in it and we sat down to order our Tagines. I ordered a Vegetable Tagine that really hit the spot.

This was my first mistake: I didn’t eat any protein the night before the hike to Akchour waterfalls.
We left the Medina and headed back to our guest house to get some much-needed sleep so we could wake early the next morning and start our hike to Cascades D’Akchour.

Omar kept telling me, “the hike to Akchour waterfalls is hard Janiel, its 1 hour and 30 minutes hike” — well he looked about the same physical shape I was in, and I had been working with a trainer, so I thought, “Oh, I’ll be fine, he doesn’t know what he is talking about.” That was my second mistake…..
We left for Akchour and had a little trouble finding the way, but after asking several locals the correct roads to take, we were able to arrive in time to start (and finish) the hike.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

Traveler tip: You can catch a Grand Taxi in the center of town but try and get a local or the hotel/hostel/guest house personnel to negotiate a good price for you. A fair price would be around 250 Dirham (with tip included), which is around $25. Just make sure they are willing to take you back into town as well. Bring extra cash with you for the return trip to Chefchaouen and for some important items I will explain later, as well as your own towel, a jacket or sweater, and a water bottle.

The road to Akchour passes through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen in all of my travels. I literally filled my 64 GB memory card with hundreds of images of this breathtaking scenery.
Once we got to Akchour, it was fairly easy to find the trail. There are plenty of locals there to point you in the right direction (but don’t expect many of them to know English). We started hiking up the canyon (where the sign points to Akchour), and the first thing that immediately impressed me was the endless swaths of green and the waterfalls that seemed to appear around every corner.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

I know you may think that I keep showing you the same waterfall over and over, but each one of these waterfalls is uniquely different and special in their own way. Each waterfall had a swimming hole, that is quite deep, and on a hot summer day is great to pause you hike and take a quick dip to cool off.

Traveler tip: The hike to Akchour waterfalls itself is said to take around 2-3 hours. That is, if you are use to the high altitude of the Atlas Mountains and can tackle the steep elevations of the trail. Yes there are steps you can use, the trail is well maintained; but the steps are made for tall people…..not short people. So be prepared, its like when my trainer has me doing box steps onto the 24″ box step, for 2 hours.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

At the first hour of the hike to Akchour waterfalls, I felt like I was getting a good workout. Then we started to get to the steeper portions, and I started to lag behind my giraffe-like friends, who at one point I was cursing in my head for their ridiculous height.

TALL PEOPLE JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH HARDER IT IS TO GO UP THE GIANT 24″ -32″ STEPS! It takes us a lot more effort and energy! (ok, rant over) — I know I’m not in the best shape, but I had been working out really hard and felt like I could tackle this. They were going really fast up the hill for me, so be sure to hike with people who go at your same pace.

Omar tried to be patient, but Medi was not as patient, and I felt like the weak link. So if you go hiking, make sure people know if you like to go fast or slow and split into two groups. In defense of Medi, his English was not that great, and I think was a little shy to talk to a single American woman when he was a married guy.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

I was positive the whole trip, but the last hour up the canyon I really thought that my legs were going to either give out, or I was going to pass out. I didn’t realize how hard it would be, even Omar started to get tired by the end of it. My legs felt like Jello, my mind growled, “I’m going to die in these mountains, just like the Spanish did when they tried to invade. I don’t think Morocco has helicopters that can transport me out of here. I really don’t know if you are going to be able to stand once you get to the end, and if you are able to, how the hell are you going to make it back without needing to be carried”? While this may be a tad bit on the dramatic side, I think the travel fatigue had set in full force. I had been traveling for two weeks non-stop and had Montezuma’s revenge set in the week before.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

There were some blessed spots along the way that leveled out & I wanted to just linger longer in these areas to soak up the beauty and take more photos. Alas, this was not possible to do, as a storm was coming in and we had to get there and head back to travel to the next destination. Omar tried to make me laugh, and entice me with the food at the end, but I was NOT in the mood & poor guy… I just told him I wasn’t able to talk about food right then.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

We finally arrived at the Cascades D’Akchour, and it was soooo cold! The storm winds had started to set in, and I was quite sweaty so I got cold very quickly. Omar was so excited to show me the waterfall, it truly was beautiful and I just sat in one of the chairs enjoying the relief of making it to the waterfall.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

Traveler Tip: Please eat a hearty breakfast & take water with you before you hike to Akchour waterfalls. There are areas along the way that you can buy orange juice and water at the local cafes, but I didn’t bring any cash with me thinking, ‘oh I will be fine, who needs money when you are in nature’.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

Omar is a hilarious and kind human being, he just laid back in the water taking selfies like he was in a hot tub. He also had a Cigar that was given to him that he had been saving for an entire year, just to come and smoke in these waters and take a selfie, lol. He really lives his life to the fullest and tries to bring everyone around him on his grand adventures.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

The water had to be around 40 degrees F, very very very cold, especially after a hike. I didn’t really want to hike back wet, but Omar convinced me, ‘You don’t travel to a country like this, do that hike like you did, and not reward yourself with this amazing swim. Don’t waste an opportunity like this, this is when you create good memories’. Well, he sold me on the idea, and I went in for a dip. If you decide to swim, I would recommend just wearing wicking material & go in fully clothed, it’s nice to have the cool clothing on you when you are hiking back.

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

The swim was great, and I stayed in about 15 minutes because it was actually making my legs feel so good. It was like a natural ice bath for my exhausted legs, and I really really appreciated that the next day. (If you think I’m exaggerating about this hike, there were some other Americans there that came up and looked about the same way I probably did – completely knackered. It’s not just about your fitness level– these mountain valleys are the reason the Spanish Armada was defeated here).

Hiking to Akchour Waterfalls in Morocco

We got done swimming and had this wonderful tagine that was cooked by the locals right there. They were so nice and let us sit by their stoves to keep warm for a bit. We ate our fill, drank the delicious mint tea & decided to head back down the mountain to get back into Chefchaouen before dark.

Once I had a little food in my stomach, and stopped being so ‘hangry’, I was able to keep up with the guys pretty well. Took plenty of photos on the way back down, and couldn’t believe how good I felt after taking the dip in the waters of the Cascades D’Akchour. Still, to this day, I keep telling Omar, how magical and truly healing I feel like those waters were for me.

I have never been one to hesitate on things like that until some experiences in Dallas changed me into something I didn’t recognize myself as being.
But for some reason, ever since my hike to Akchour waterfalls, the spontaneity came back to me, and it was the first time I felt happy and like giggling (like the old me), in nearly a year.  So if you are ever looking for magical waters in Morocco, this is the place to be, in my own way I have now named it the ‘Fountain of Youth’. Because when you leave, you really feel like you have become the young, free and spontaneous self again.
Happy Travels my friends, and don’t hesitate to go and see this wonderful Fountain of Youth in Akchour. The road is hard on the hike to Akchour, but it is worth it in the end.


Where to Stay near Akchour

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For More Articles like this:

Who are the Berber People?
The Sapphire of Morocco, Chefchaouen 
Three Weeks in Morocco Itinerary – by Owlovertheworld
The Sin City of Morocco…Marrakech. Tips for those traveling here.]]>

Delos Island Greek Mythology and Things To Know Before Visiting

Delos Island Greek Mythology and Things To Know Before Visiting

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you like to see destinations in their natural state, and a virtually untouched historical setting then the Island of Delos is for you. Delos Greek Mythology was born in this place, many in ancient times thought this to be the Birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. There are fields of wildflowers, ancient stone houses from the 1st and 2nd Century, and evidence suggesting that this place was inhabited since 3000 BCE. It is so important to Greek Culture, that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. A place well worth the visit should you find yourself among the Greek Isles.

Stay in Mykonos and Take a Ferry

Delos Greek Mythology a UNESCO World Heritage Site

This small protected Island is only a short ferry ride away from Mykonos Greece. These Ferry’s are readily available during the summer months, and in the winter months run on a tight and limited schedule. The ride to the Island only takes about 30 minutes & cost about 10 euros. Be sure to check out ferry times before venturing there, and tours that can take you to Delos and surrounding islands.

Delos Greek Mythology a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ferry rides can be purchased either on the Island of Mykonos or here. Avoid going in August as the sea can be quite rough and the boat is a smaller passenger boat. They also have 1/2 day guided tours from Mykonos for about 50 Euros as well.

History Of Delos Island

First. it was a refuge for Pirates who were expelled from Crete (note the stone huts there). Habitation dates all the way back to 3000 BCE. Eventually, in the 6th century BCE, all dead bodies were removed from the Island of Delos & people were forbidden from dying or giving birth here to keep its sacred nature for the Gods Apollo and Artemis.

It quickly became one of the most sacred places in ancient Greece. It was also the center of much of the trade for Greece at the time, because of it’s location in the Aegean Sea.

Merchants would sail here from the major commercial centers of the Aegean–Athens, Miletos, Corinth, Macedonia, Thassos, Samos, Milos, Rhodes, and Crete. In the 4th century BCE, it became the natural meeting place of the Delian League who helped protect and defend Greece from invaders and carved a niche in history for themselves as heroes. At the time it is estimated that nearly 25,000 people lived on this island.

Delos Island Can Be Very Hot

It can also be quite hot, so bring something to shade yourself.
There are minimal facilities on the island, so make sure to relieve yourself before taking the ferry and bring water. Delos Tours can take anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on how detailed you want the tour to be, and if you have an archeological guide or not.

Visit the Delos Archeological Museum

The Island of Delos Archeological Museum contains statues and pottery anywhere from the 1st century to the 25th Century. From the outside, it looks like a rickety shanty – but once you go inside there are true ancient treasures. I just happened to have extra time waiting for my boat back to Mykonos and wandered in here (otherwise I would likely have skipped it).

Delos Greek Mythology a UNESCO World Heritage Site

It contains the original Lions of Delos to protect them from further deterioration from the elements. Artifacts found in the houses on the island, funerary statues and grave stelae, pottery, clay figurines, jewelry and small objects, and mosaics.

Visit the Different Houses & Temples

The Mosaics in these houses are some of the most well preserved in Europe. They are so well preserved, it is said they can rival those found in Pompeii. The house of Dolphins, which contains a Rosetta Stone like mosaic with dolphins in the corners still has the original artists signature.

The house of masks has a spectacularly complex array of mosaics on the floor. In the center, you can see Dionysus riding a colorful tiger, similar to the one found in the nearby House of Dionysos.

Visit the Temple of Hera with tall pillars still standing like sentries after all this time. The Kynthos Cave is mostly a man-made cave in a natural hollow on the rock near the summit of Mt. Cynthus. It is roofed by monumental slabs of granite, and previously had an altar near its entrance.

The Temple of Isis is a partially restored area, dedicated to the goddess typically found in ancient Egypt. A fantastic representation of cultures crossing even in ancient times.

The Temple of Apollo is one of the first temples you encounter and is very easy to pick out because of the Delos Lions lining the walkway. These Lions were placed here around 600 BC, and were used to inspire, awe and intimidate those wishing to visit the God Apollo. The lions here are replicas, and the originals are kept in the Delos Archaeological Museum.

Exposed Ruins and Financial Crisis

Because of the financial crisis of Greece in recent years, there are excavations still happening, funded by the French. At first, I was really upset that the ruins were not protected, preserved, or at least covered- it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site after all. It wasn’t until after I researched why they weren’t that I was able to gain a little more understanding of the complicated situation. Excavations are slow and many of the ruins are still in disrepair. So make sure to bring a detailed map of Delos to help aid your imagination in what once was the birthplace of the Hero’s of Greece.

Tours to Delos

Delos Greek Mythology a UNESCO World Heritage Site

You can tour the Delos with a half day tour from Mykonos, take a sailing boat to Delos and several other surrounding islands, or take a private shore excursion and get to your cruise ship back on time. It is up to you, but I would venture to say it would be well worth your time if you love history, nature and Greek Mythology.

I would highly recommend getting the audio tour and a map of the place. There are signs to tell you about the different sites on the Island of Delos. Most signs are in both Greek & English, giving a brief and limited explanation of this island and its inhabitants.

As Always…..Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See YOU on the Flip Side. 


Where to Stay Near Delos:

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House of the Virgin Mary, A Little Known Christian Shrine in Turkey



Shrine of the Virgin Mary in Turkey

Shrine of the Virgin Mary in Turkey

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When visiting Ephesus during our Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, my family and I were able to stop by the Shrine of the Virgin Mary. I didn’t expect the place to be so humble, nor see all the prayers on the wall, or people drinking from what they believed to be a Holy Spring. So let me help educate you on this Christian Shrine, so you can enjoy it a little more when you visit on your Ephesus Excursion.

Shrine of the Virgin Mary - Ephesus Excursion

Is It Really The House Of the Virgin Mary?

There are several evidences that contribute to believers claiming this is truly the Home of the Virgin Mary

1- In nearby Ephesus, there is a presence of the tomb of St John of Ephesus. He was a known, and close, companion of the Virgin Mary.

2- The presence of the first Basilica of the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the Ecumenical Council of 431 AD was held in Ephesus in this Basilica for the definition of the dogma of the Divine Motherhood of Mary. In this council they wrote, “….after his arrival to Ephesus, where John the Theologian and the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God….”

3- Lastly, the Orthodox villagers of nearby Kirkince were believed to be descendants of the Christians that lived in Ephesus. They passed from generation to generation the belief of the Dormition of Mary in this place. They have kept this tradition alive through the annual pilgrimage of the 15th of August.

History of the Shrine of Virgin Mary

The Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary, is believed to be the House of the Virgin Mary is actually in Turkey, its about 26 km (34 min drive) from Ephesus/Kusudasi Port, located on Mount Koressos (or Mount Nightingale).

Typically tour guides can take you from the port to the shrine, where hundreds of both Christian/Catholic & Islamic pilgrims alike come to see the house where Mary spent her last days.

Built in the 4th Century AD, a church, combining her house and grave have been built there. There are two areas within the church for both Christians to worship, and Muslims to worship as well. I thought this was very thoughtful, to allow two religions to worship in their own way and own time.

The Sacred Water

Just next to that you will find the Sacred Fountain of the “Water of Mary”, where some believe that this water has powerful healing properties, and can aid in fertility. Be forewarned it is quite salty, but all are welcome to drink it, make sure to bring your own cup or water bottle if you would like to try any.

The water at the Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary is actually to also have been a small stream that flowed into the home, like most traditional homes of that time, that is to believed to have flowed in the same room as where the Virgin Mary use to sleep within the home, which is why some believe in its healing properties.

Shrine of the Virgin Mary - Ephesus Excursion

The Shrine

Just outside this church you find a wall covered in cloth, I thought it was handkerchiefs to wipe tears away and for a moment mistook it for the Wailing Wall (which is actually in Israel). But this is actually called the ‘Wishing Wall’, where you can come and place a piece of cloth with a prayer on it, hoping that the Virgin Mary will supplicate your cause to God on your behalf.

I think seeing all the hopes, dreams, wishes, and prayers from pilgrims all over the world placed on this wall made me sad in a way. There is a lot going on in this world, and that which is most painful often happens inside the home.

To have an area like this, where I think even writing your wishes/hopes/prayers down, can be therapeutic in a way. I stared at this wall for quite some time, feeling like I was intruding on someone’s private life if I touched any of the prayer cloths. Instead just stood back and observed those putting their prayer cloths on the wishing wall, the way that you could feel the people here pouring their heart into it, it gives this place a very special feeling.

This Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary, although has never been pronounced as an official site of the Virgin Mary, has received 3 different Papal blessings.

Many times Christian pilgramage sites are passed down through generations by word of mouth. So if you ever visit Israel on a Pilgramage, you will hear ‘actual site’ vs ‘traditional site’ of events happening. But to have the heavily isolated villagers of Kirkince deem this place the Panaya Kapulu, or the “Doorway to the Virgin” does make you think that it could very well be a holy site.

Shrine of the Virgin Mary - Ephesus Excursion

Restoration of the Shrine

The Chapel we see today was rebuilt upon the original foundations of the home of the Virgin Mary and appears to date back to the 1st and 4th Centuries. The last restoration on this small dwelling took place in 1951.

The Feeling of This Christian Shrine

I let my mind wander and think that someone who lived during the time of Christ was here, and indeed may have been the Virgin Mary. There was a peaceful feeling inside, despite all the tourists, and a sense of reverance for a woman who has been revered and worshiped for thousands of years.

The drive to this place might take some time, but seeing all the worshipers, the quiet peace in this place combined to make a trip here well worth it to me.


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Where to Stay in Ephesus

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For more articles like this, read:

Hagia Sophia, a journal for centuries past in Turkey
Journey through Nazareth and Jezreel Valley in Israel

Connecting With My Dutch Ancestors

Connecting With My Dutch Ancestors

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I remember my Grandmother would always talk about Olliebollen, SinterKlass, and would put Oranges in the toes of our stockings at Christmas time. I have been a lot of places in this world, and was able to see Scotland last year; another ancestral home. This year I decided to visit the Netherlands to trace my Dutch Ancestors and find out what kind of genetics I could call my own. 

Visiting the Netherlands

Amsterdam has been calling my name for over a year now; almost like it is beckoning me to come home. I decided to go this year for my Birthday, and find my way to Appledoorn, and walk the street where my Great Grandfather use to walk as a child.

I doubt that his home will still be there, and people are already teasing me about needing to do a urine test for drugs when I get back. Amsterdam is more than that though, its a calling in my blood, that says that although I’m American, I have the strength of the ancestry that comes before me. The sad part is, I don’t really know much of its history, only the history of my Grandfather and what he told me.

Taking Pride in my Dutch Ancestory

There is a part of me that is sad about going, in a way, I think its because I haven’t connected with this part of my ancestry & carried on more of the traditions of Holland (aka the Netherlands now). I hope to give this as a gift to myself, to remind me of the strong stock that I come from. I honestly have only met 2 Dutch people in my life, so it will be interesting to see how much of me I see reflected in that culture.

My non-american friends are always suprised by how Americans can’t seem to call themselves ‘American’ when people ask where they are from. I don’t know why, maybe it is because when your a part of something ancient and old it makes you feel stronger in some way. 

Maybe it is the political climate, or things that have happened in our country that some people may be afraid of, I don’t really know.

What I do know, is that when we seek out the stories of those who have gone before us – there is a power and pride that goes into knowing your lineage. If you have never had your ancestral genetics tested, I highly recommend it. For some people, especially for those who have been adopted, it can really change your outlook. It helps you feel like you belong to something greater than yourself. 

It motivates you to carry on the story that the people before you started. Allows you to share joy, stories of triumph and have pride in those stories. It helps me have a sense of confidence knowing that I can do just as much as they did, if not more with my life. 

Search Out Your Ancestors

Who are your ancestors? Where do they come from? How did they live? Who did they love? What trials within the country did your ancestors overcome? How will you carry their legacy? Will it give you strength to draw from, knowing where your people have come from, to help propel you to where you want to go? Will you find a place where you feel like YOU belong?

These are questions I think are important for anyone to ask themselves. If you don’t know where your line comes from, go to ancestory.com & order a DNA test. It will likely knock your socks off once you see the results, but once you do…..research what makes you who you are today & then go and see where it is you and your DNA have come from.