To-day we rode for an hour across the plain of Esdralon, and once more suffered dreadfully from the stings of the minute gnats which had annoyed us so much on our journey from Joppa to Ramla. These plagues did not leave us until we had partly ascended the mountains skirting the plain, from the summit of which we could see Nazareth, prettily built on a hill at the entrance of a fruitful valley. In the background rises the beautiful Mount Tabor.
From the time we first see Nazareth until we reach the town is a ride of an hour and a half; thus the journey from Lagun to Nazareth occupies four hours and a half, and the entire distance from Jerusalem twenty-six or twenty-seven hours.
Arrival at Nazareth—Franciscan convent—Tabarith—Mount Tabor—Lake of Gennesareth—Baths—Mount Carmel—Grotto of the prophet Elijah— Acre—The pacha’s harem—Oriental women—Their listlessness and ignorance—Sur or Tyre.
It was only nine o’clock when we reached Nazareth, and repaired to the house for strangers in the Franciscan convent, where the priests welcomed us very kindly. As soon as we had made a short survey of our rooms (which resulted in our finding them very like those at Jerusalem, both as regards appearance and arrangement), we set forth once more to visit all the remarkable places, and above all the church which contains the Grotto of Annunciation. This church, to which we were accompanied by a clergyman, was built by St. Helena, and is of no great size. In the background a staircase leads down into the grotto, where it is asserted that the Virgin Mary received the Lord’s message from the angel. Three little pillars of granite are still to be seen in this grotto. The lower part of one of these pillars was broken away by the Turks, so that it is only fastened from above. On the strength of this circumstance many have averred that the pillar hangs suspended in air! Had these men but looked beyond their noses, had they only cast their eyes upwards, they could not have had the face to preach a miracle where it is so palpable that none exists. A picture on the wall, not badly executed, represents the Annunciation. The house of the Virgin is not shewn here, because, according to the legend, an angel carried it away to Loretto in Italy. A few steps lead to another grotto, affirmed to be the residence of a neighbour of the Virgin, during whose absence she presided over the house and attended to the duties of the absent Mary.
Another grotto in the town is shewn as “the workshop of Joseph;” it has been left in its primitive state, except that a plain wooden altar has been added. Not far off we find the synagogue where our Lord taught the people, thereby exasperating the Pharisees to such a degree, that they wished to cast Him down from a rock outside the city. In conclusion we were shewn an immense block of stone on which the Saviour is said to have eaten the Passover with His disciples(!).