Set on a hill with extesnive views of the surrounding Jezreal Valley, Tzipori is just a few miles north west of Nazareth and is the former 2nd Century BC capital of the Galillee.
Jewish, Roman and Crusader remains are to be found here, including a Roman amphitheatre, Roman villas, Crusader church. But Tzipori's crowning glory is the fabulous Roman mosaics that have been uncovered.
First, grab a map of the city in the Nazareth Cultural and Tourism Association information center, in the city center (tel. 04-6011072). Several walking tours are marked in different colors on the map.
The "Blue Route" (also called the "Mensa Christi Route") follows a narrow pedestrian lane (6126 Street) down from the suburban hills overlooking the city, down to the market at the city center. It starts on Salesian St. (5004 St.); enjoy the beautiful sweeping view, and then look for the trailhead: Near the blue-painted house no.4, enter a small blue iron gate, and you will find yourself descending one flight of steps after another, the light blue iron rail ensuring that you do not get lost and are right on the track.
You get a feel for everyday life in the back streets of Nazareth: men sitting and sipping coffee on their porch, women hanging the washing to dry, children playing, an old men carrying baskets full of goods from the market.
About two thirds of the way down you can see the Mensa Christi church on your right (see separate tip). From here onwards The pavement is newer and in better condition: This is part of the facelift Nazareth had for the year 2000, when many pilgrims came to the city and the Pope honored it with his visit. Further down along this lane you will see the Old Maronite Church. From here it is only a short way to the end of the route, when it meets the main thoroughfare of the Nazareth market.
On the way from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee you pass Kafr Kanna. This is one of the stops on the pilgrims trail. According to the Bible, Jesus attended a wedding here and turned the water into wine.
In a more quiet lane off the noisy main market street, a private house bears testimony to the decor of wealthy merchants' homes in the 19th century.
There is an entrance hall and bedrooms on both sides; in one of the bedrooms on the right, an unusual fresco ceiling has been preserved. It was painted by a local artist around 1889. Rumor has it that the artist's pay consisted of a one pound note and a bottle of Arak a day.
The colorful fresco shows ten period-landscapes of Israel, and several angels hovering above.
A family is currently living in the house; they charge NIS 10 per person, and will lead you to the fresco room. Taking photos is not allowed, therefore my photo only shows the modest exterior of the house, for easier identification.
Nazareth, like the other biblical age towns in Israel has its wealth of hidden beauty, it is hidden in its back streets, those places where the tour guides do not take the tourist buses because they are too far from the stores they want you to purchase from...take your time, or rather take THE time to just wander around the old streets, who knows you may find a door that Rabbi HaNassi or Jesus walked through ....
The Basilica of the Annunciation shows in its modern, upper part some very specially designed glass-windows.Unlike those painted by Marc Chagall in the Hadassah-Synagogue (Hadassah Medical Center ) of Jerusalem, they follow the old style of a lead-and-glass-mosaique.Most of the stained glass windows were donated to the church by several foreign countries.
Starting on 12.12, Nazareth begins its winter festivities. Tens of thousands of people flock to the central square, Spring Square (Kikar Hamaayan in Hebrew) to watch the central stage, which this year included performances by various singers, and the Hebrew University Symphony Orchestra. At 20:00 the huge Christmas tree was lit up, to the accompanyment first of a huge cheer, then to the release of hundreds of balloons, and then to a fantastic fireworks display. Some people were dressed up as Santa, there was a unicycle rider in the crowd, people on stilts, and the atmosphere was extremely festive. The festivities go on until 19.12, after which there's a respite until the big Christmas parade on 24.12.
After the fireworks were over, we found a cab driver who agreed to drive us around several neighborhoods to see private people's Christmas decorations. He also opened the new Maronite church at the top of the city (Nazareth is built on a hill) for us, and showed us around. This tour was well worth the NIS 70 showing on the meter when we arrived at our hotel.
This Mini Mosque (called Shehab a-Din mosque) lying just beside the Basilica of The annunciation is a controversial one. Apparently, some radical islamic elements wanted to build a mosque beside the basilica of the annunciation in 1997 as they claimed that the site is where the one of the Sons of Saladdin was buried and there were large protest in 2001 opposing it and the construction was demolished in 2003, but the structure again was rebuilt silently in 2008, with nary a protest. You can is it as it lies just beside the main road going up to the Basilica of the Annunciation.
Watching sunsets atop a mountain or a high place like a hill is simply breathtaking and if you happen to be in Nazareth while seeing the Sun Set, then you would enjoy the magnificent view and you can also take a picture of this post card perfect moment.
Sunset pictures with the mountains and the valley views below are simply spectacular
In June 2008 a brandnew, private project has been started in Israel, that will bring hundreds, maybe thousands of visitors and pilgrims into the country. It could become a "Way of St James of the Middle East."
The JESUS TRAIL is a 40-mile (65 km) hiking path through the region where Jesus ministered and an alternative to bus tours that stop only at the known holy sites.The excellent preparation and -logistics for the trail, offered by the trails website is nearly incredible and most impressive!
There is even a Google-Earth file with the route to download as well as GPS coordinates and a list of accomodations and restaurants.
Since the trail is not yet marked, travelers can hire a tour guide, download GPS from Jesustrail.com or pick up trail maps at tourist sites. The path is meant to be hiked in four days. Pilgrims can sleep near the start of the trail in Nazareth, the town Jesus lived in as a boy, and travel each day to the start of a section. Or they can stay at the occasional guest house offered by kibbutzim and Arab communities or carry tents with them.
The usual itinerary looks like as follows:
Day 1: Begin walking the Jesus Trail from Nazareth, visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Old City Market, Mensa Christi Church, and the ancient Greco-Roman city of Zippori, ending in the town of Kfar Cana.
Day 2: Kfar Cana to Golani (12 km): Visit the Cana wedding churches and spend the day hiking through olive groves and forests surrounding Kfar Cana.
Day 3: Golani to Arbel (19 km): Walk up to the Horns of Hattin National Park and decend to Nebi Shu’eib, a Druze monastery near an ancient spring. Walk across the Arbel Valley, visit an ancient synagogue near Moshav Arbel, ending up on Arbel Cliffs for the sunset.
Day 4: Arbel to Capernaum (21 km): Hike down the Arbel Cliffs on the Israel National Trail, past the cliff fortress and through fruit orchards around the Sea of Galilee. Visit Tabgha, St. Peter’s Primacy, Mount of Beatitudes and Capernaum.