Skew-T Meteorologist in Kansas City

Middle East and the Balkans

Map of the full two week journey
Map of the full two week journey

After a long day of traveling from California, with several hours of exploring Frankfurt during a layover, I arrived in Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world which is considered holy to three of the largest religions in the world.

Old City of Jerusalem
Old City of Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the supposed location of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, and contains the location where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. The building, constructed in 326, is actually shared between several churches. A mosque was constructed in 1193 in a courtyard, on the site where Caliph Omar prayed 637 after accepting the surrender of the city.

Falafel platter in the Old City
Falafel platter in the Old City
Mosque of Omar, Bethlehem, West Bank
Mosque of Omar, Bethlehem, West Bank

Bethlehem is located just a few miles south of Jerusalem in the West Bank and administered by the Palestinian Authority. Manger square at the top of the hill is home to the Church of the Nativity, constructed in 327 over the traditional birthplace of Jesus. The Mosque of Omar on the other side of the square was built in 1860 on a site the Caliph Omar reportedly prayed on in 637.

Israel/West Bank border
Israel/West Bank border

The border of Israel and the West Bank is certainly a contentious one but as a United States citizen it was simple to cross. I quickly came across artwork by Banksy and others expressing opinions on the current situation.

Hagia Sofia in the rain, Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sofia in the rain, Istanbul, Turkey

Rain fell nearly the entire duration of my short stay in Turkey. The Hagia Sofia, a building constructed as a church in 537 and later a mosque, had rediculous entry lines so I opted to skip it this visit.

Latin Bridge, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Latin Bridge, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Earlier in the year was the 100th anniversary of assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the casus belli of World War I. Frendinand was shot as his motorcade drove past the Latin Bridge across the Miljacka River in Sarajevo.

Decaying, shelled buildings from the 1984 Winter Olympics
Decaying, shelled buildings from the 1984 Winter Olympics

The Bosnian War took a huge toll on the country, including a nearly four year siege of the capital city of Sarajevo. Many scars of the war remain. Visiting the remains of the infrastructure for the 1984 Winter Olympics was a highlight of the trip, despite being stopped by Srpska police and the danger of landmines in the area.

Train route from Sarajevo to Zagreb
Train route from Sarajevo to Zagreb
Bosnian and Croatian train cars
Bosnian and Croatian train cars

From Sarajevo I traveled 12 hours by train through the countryside to Zagreb, Croatia. The train was much more basic than those of western Europe, consisting of two Croatian cars and one Bosnian. There were no concessions on the long journey, smoking was permitted throughout, and the passport check at both sides of the border was not staffed by English speakers. It afforded wonderful views during daylight and an interesting contrast of the Bosnian-Croat Federation and Serbian Srpska, the two separate political entities within the country.

Zagreb Cathedral, Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb Cathedral, Zagreb, Croatia

From Zagreb I flew to Switzerland where I spent the remainder of the two week trip.