Can anything good come out of Nazareth? That was the question, and the answer was a definite yes.
We started the day off at Yarnit, in which the river Jordan meets the Sea of Galilee, and, according to Mark, this is the place of Jesus' baptism. We watched as a group of Brazilian Greek Orthodox folks (!) were baptized, along with a group of Protestant Indonesians, and a Russian Orthodox for the heck of it (3 or 4). It is wonderful to watch everyone rent their robe and descend the stairs and ramps to the greenish water of the Jordan, full immersed, and holding their noses as they are dunked.
After that we headed through Tiberias to Nazareth. Once we successfully parked our car (don't ask), we made our way to the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation, which is split in two parts. The bottom floor has the grotto where Mary was told by Gabriel she was to have a baby. The top half is modern veneration point for the world, revering the memories of this momentous news, all in 1960s architecture, e.g., cement and glass, with little wood. We tried to see a Herodian ruin at the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, but they wouldn't let us in because they were all booked.
We then went to the Greek Orthodox Chapel where they celebrate the annunciation, where Mary received the word that she was to give birth to Jesus by the running stream, but they were closed because of a funeral, in which we got caught up in the procession to the cemetery. While the Chapel was closed (with running water inside), the procession was something to behold.
We then made it to the Cactus room, in which they have the ruins of the old Roman Baths, and then the Mahroum Sweet shop for kanafeh and baklava!
We made it back to the Pilgerhaus by 7 for a fun dinner, full from a great day of touching and seeing and tasting and experiencing the rush of modern life amid the holy places of faith.
Salaam and Shalom, Brett