If Walls Could Talk

If Walls Could Talk

Nestled just thirteen feet from the Israeli separation wall stands anonymous British artist Banksy’s largest and most controversial political testament yet, The Walled Off Hotel. The hotel opened earlier this month on the West Bank in Jerusalem and is a temporary and self-financed project of the famous artist.

Its creation marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a letter sent from Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, stating that Palestine has become “a national home for the Jewish people”. This document was the cause of considerable controversy and backlash whose eventual outcome lead to the wall that currently divides the nation of Palestine with the state of Israel.
With the wall blocking much of the sunlight, it’s “the worst view of any hotel in the world,” said Banksy, which very much seems to be his point. Whilst the hotel view and its location forces guests to face the harsh reality that the Palestinians have to had to endure, the interior confronts the various political facets of the situation whilst incorporating many of the first world elements of a hotel that we seemingly take for granted.

Piano Bar - The Walled Off Hotel

Piano Bar – The Walled Off Hotel

The three-story hotel offers hostel-like accommodations as well as 9 private rooms and suites ranging anywhere from $30 to $965 a night. The more budget friendly rooms resemble military barracks with iron bunk beds and cold concrete walls. The suites are lavishly adorned and decorated, of course, with Banksy’s signature political art pieces. The rest of the hotel resembles an gentleman’s club from era of colonial Britain, complete with a tea room serving high tea in fine china, a museum dedicated to telling the story of the declaration and the wall, and even a piano bar which served as the focal point for the The Walled Off Hotel’s grand opening celebration which included the special guest Sir Elton John, alongside an art gallery filled with local artists’ work. After Banksy commissioned the project, it became an entirely independent local business, with none of its profits going back to its creator.

Banksy Art for Private Room - Uncrate.com

Banksy Art for Private Room – Uncrate.com

The Walled Off Hotel isn’t meant to offer guests the typical “vacation” experience, but rather to expose them to the realities of middle-eastern conflict. Although it’s not the most economically thriving part of town, several restaurants, shops, and bars surround the hotel, which Banksy assures is safe for tourists as well as locals.
Banksy hopes for the Palestinian-staffed hotel to keep its doors open until the end of the centennial year so plan your visit soon for this unquestionably inspiring and thought provoking experience.

To learn more about the West Bank, join Zay Harding as he explores Holy Lands in our Globe Trekker Series Holy Lands Jerusalem: The West Bank

www.pilotguides.com/tv-shows/globe-trekker/series-14/globe-trekker-holy-lands-jerusalem-the-west-bank/

The Walled off Hotel
182 Caritas Street
Bethlehem, Palestine
www.banksy.co.uk/index.html

Written by Savannah Chinelli, intern for Pilot Productions HQ in London

High hopes for Saint Helena’s airport up in the air

High hopes for Saint Helena's airport up in the air

please note, we were sent this update from the Saint Helena government authorities:

St Helena Airport has been certified by Air Safety Support International, is open and operational.  In fact, there are currently two private charter aircraft parked on the Apron at St Helena Airport.

It has not yet been possible to commence scheduled commercial air services to the Island.  However, operations at St Helena Airport are underway and consist primarily of one-off charter flights.  21 flights have successfully landed so far at St Helena Airport including three vital medevac flights.

On 7 December 2016, St Helena Government released a tender for air services for a three year period to provide the best possible air service for the Island.  This tender process will determine the timeline of the commencement of regularly scheduled commercial flights to the Island.  The Royal Mail Ship service has been extended to guarantee access to the Island in the interim.

***

On Saint Helena, the tiny island  in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean where Napoleon died and was buried, the four  thousand residents celebrated when the British government gave the final go ahead to the construction  of an airport on the island.

After lobbying for the airport for decades, residents were jubilant when the airport finally opened in 2016, the Government having spent more than 400 million dollars on the project.

The frequent high winds prevent aircraft’s from landing, which was the main cause of the extensive delay. However, the project persevered because of the islands isolation, with nowhere else for planes to land; the nearest airport to Saint Helena being Ascension Island, nearly two thousand miles away

Unfortunately, all fears  have now been realised and the airport has been closed much to the frustration of the residents and the embarassment of the authorities and Government now accused of lavishing hundreds of millions on a ”white elephant”.

For the time being, residents and visitors to Saint Helena must continue to travel to the island  the way they have for hundreds of years – by the Royal Mail ship, Saint Helena, which leaves Capetown, in South Africa, every three weeks, the whole trip taking five days.

Now authorities and aircraft companies are trying to agree to plans allowing smaller aircraft, less affected by the winds to use the airport. However it is not  clear whether this will be an economically viable option.

Zay with St Helena's giant tortoise

Zay with St Helena’s giant tortoise

Check out Globe Trekker’s episode on St Helena in which Zay Harding embarks on a five day voyage from Cape Town on the last authentic British Royal Mail Ship to St Helena and checks out the sites  including Longwood House, where  Napoleon lived and died, the tomb where he was buried, the capital, Jamestown….. and the  controversial airport site.

Tough Trains India with Zay Harding

Tough Trains India with Zay Harding

It’s the third leg of our Tough Trains series – we’ve tackled Bolivia with Zay Harding, travelling from Brazil’s Pantanal to the Pacific coast of Chile bringing you snapshots from some of the most beautiful terrain in South America. Then we faced sub-zero temperatures from Moscow to Siberia on Russia’s Ice Train.  Our journey continues in the heart of India, as we go in search of India’s most crowded Trains! 

India is famous for its extensive railway system, and its 40,000 miles of railway track cut through some of the most densely populated cities.  At least 1,000 people die when they fall from crowded coaches, when trains collide or coaches derail. We travel across northern India, crossing from Nepal and heading west to the border with Pakistan.

Check out Zay Harding’s photo diary taken on the road while filming India’s toughest railways:

You in Delhi, now, Boy!! #globetrekker #toughtrains #india #delhi #herewegoagain

You in Delhi, now, Boy!! #globetrekker #toughtrains #india #delhi #herewegoagain

 

The ornamental Indian Muslim quarters of Lucknow

The ornamental Indian Muslim quarters of Lucknow

India has a great shared heritage of Hindus and Muslims. This is an IndianMuslim gate in Lucknow

India has a great shared heritage of Hindus and Muslims. This is an Indian-Muslim gate in Lucknow

 

Lucknow has some fantastic colonial architecture sprinkled throughout the city. #globetrekker

Lucknow has some fantastic colonial architecture sprinkled throughout the city. #toughtrains #india #lucknow

 

We drew quite a crowd in Motihari, India.  Most of these folk have never seen a film crew in action!

We drew quite a crowd in Motihari, India. Most of these folk have never seen a film crew in action!

A Rickshaw Driver in Motihari.  Typically, he has no shoes on. #ToughTrains #India #Motihari

A Rickshaw Driver in Motihari. Typically, he has no shoes on. #ToughTrains #India #Motihari

 

Awesome colours and smells at the Spice Market!

Awesome colours and smells at the Spice Market!

 

The state of #Bihar has almost 104 Million people roaming it's streets on any given day. Intersections are madness. Traffic slowly trudges along. I feel like #whereswaldo? #globetrekker #toughtrains #india

The state of #Bihar has almost 104 Million people roaming it’s streets on any given day. Intersections are madness. Traffic slowly trudges along. I feel like #whereswaldo? #globetrekker #toughtrains #india

 

A sweet moment I noticed on one of my train journeys -- I looked down from my upper deck and saw everyone below was passed out. #globetrekker #toughtrains #india

A sweet moment I noticed on one of my train journeys — I looked down from my upper deck and saw everyone below was passed out. #globetrekker #toughtrains #india

 

Two joyful #Sadhus invited me over for hot #chai as I waited for my train. #globetrekker #toughtrains #himalayas #india

Two joyful #Sadhus invited me over for hot #chai as I waited for my train. #globetrekker #toughtrains #himalayas #india

This little Indian boy was so cute. He followed us around the train station all day as we filmed and never stopped smiling the whole time. #adorable #globetrekker #toughtrains #muzaffarur #bihar #india

This little Indian boy was so sweet. He followed us around the train station all day as we filmed and never stopped smiling the whole time. #toughtrains #muzaffarur #bihar #india

Exploring Russia’s Ice Trains with Zay Harding

Exploring Russia's Ice Trains with Zay Harding

It’s the second leg of our Tough Trains series – we’ve tackled Bolivia with Zay Harding, travelling from Brazil’s Pantanal to the Pacific coast of Chile bringing you snapshots from some of the most beautiful terrain in South America taking in the local Llamas, the majesty of the Andes and more.

Our next stop is Russia’s Ice Trains!

Russia’s trains travel along 85,500km of track, crossing 11 time zones.  In the cold and often brutal Russian winters, these trains persist against the freezing weather, travelling into Siberia and beyond.  We travel from the capital city of Moscow and head north to Stalin’s cruellest and most ambitious project – the Rail-Road of Death – before ending on the world’s most northern railway.  With average temperatures around -20/-30 degrees and ice at every turn, there’s nothing easy about Russian trains.

Check out Zay’s Globe Trekker photo diary taken on the road while filming Russia’s Ice Trains:

@globetrekker A quick stopover in #Moscow and I'm off to #Siberia. Should be there in 3 hours.

@globetrekker A quick stopover in #Moscow and I’m off to #Siberia. Should be there in 3 hours.

 

Looking over Russia's famous Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest train line in the world! #globetrekker #TSR #tyumen #siberia #russia #prettyamazing

Looking over Russia’s famous Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest train line in the world! #globetrekker #TSR #tyumen #siberia #russia #prettyamazing

 

Simple shot from out my window. I feel like I'm in an #AnselAdams picture. #GloriousDay #tyumen #siberia #russia #globetrekker

Simple shot from out my window. I feel like I’m in an #AnselAdams picture. #GloriousDay #tyumen #siberia #russia #globetrekker

 

Walkway up to the beautiful #TobolskKremlin and #StSophiaAssumptionCathedral #tobolsk #siberia #globetrekker #russia #friggincold

Walkway up to the beautiful #TobolskKremlin and #StSophiaAssumptionCathedral #tobolsk #siberia #globetrekker #russia #friggincold

 

 

@globetrekker #Tobolsk is the historical capital of #Siberia, built at the confluence of 2 rivers that stay frozen NINE months of the year! I saw MAC-TRUCKS driving across the ice today! #crazycold

@globetrekker #Tobolsk is the historical capital of #Siberia, built at the confluence of 2 rivers that stay frozen NINE months of the year! I saw MAC-TRUCKS driving across the ice today! #crazycold

 

 

Saw these cute homemade Siberian Cat dolls sitting in a cafe window. Almost thought they were real! #catsofinstagram #siberia #russia #craftycats

Saw these cute homemade Siberian Cat dolls sitting in a cafe window. Almost thought they were real! #catsofinstagram #siberia #russia #craftycats

 

It just started snowing! I swear I feel like I'm in a winter wonderland dream here!

It just started snowing! I swear I feel like I’m in a winter wonderland dream here!

 

@globetrekker With special permission, after a 26 hour train ride north into the Arctic, I have arrived at one of Russia's biggest gas fields. It is WAY colder than it looks here! #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

@globetrekker With special permission, after a 26 hour train ride north into the Arctic, I have arrived at one of Russia’s biggest gas fields. It is WAY colder than it looks here! #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

 

Back in the 1960's this was the very site that the first exploratory drilling hole struck an OCEAN of GAS!!! Still today, 90% of Russia's gas supply comes from this finding. #globetrekker #toughtrains #gasfields #russia

Back in the 1960’s this was the very site that the first exploratory drilling hole struck an OCEAN of GAS!!! Still today, 90% of Russia’s gas supply comes from this finding. #globetrekker #toughtrains #gasfields #russia

 

Snow plow trains run 24/7 so passenger trains such as this one can run regardless the extreme weather. BTW, it's -20 C (-4 F). No problem! #globetrekker #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

Snow plow trains run 24/7 so passenger trains such as this one can run regardless the extreme weather. BTW, it’s -20 C (-4 F). No problem! #globetrekker #toughtrains #russia #crazycold