Israel X: Old City Jerusalem at Night

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea
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After finishing our Masada tour, we were dropped back off in Jerusalem near our hotel around 4:30p just in time to find a good sunset spot. We head to one of many roof decks at the Mamilla. Keep in mind we have been in Jerusalem for almost 24 hours, and yet we still haven’t seen much of Jerusalem.

When we got into town the night before (after dark), we went straight to our hotel which was next to the car rental place. We were running only about 5 minutes behind, but that was enough time that the car rental workers, who were still at work, wouldn’t even look at us. Frustration. We knew we had the 7am Masada tour the next morning (the car rental place opens at 8 or 9) so we talked to the awesome staff at the Manilla hotel. They told us where to park it (the car rental place shares a parking lot with the hotel), we gave them the car keys and they walked over the car keys just as it opened in the morning. This means we weren’t charged an extra day. Thank-goodness for the Mamilla, which is a phrase we said several times on the trip!

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Here are the views from the Mamilla roof. Jerusalem has the Old City and the New City. The Old City is everything within the tall walls you can see above. The New City is everything else. The Old City is mostly zigzagging walkways and shops with homes up above. It’s also the traditional city when you think of Jerusalem. The New City (which is where most nice hotels are) is more like Tel Aviv in its newness.

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At this point I’ve barely seen Jerusalem, and Im so antsy to visit the Old City. From the Mamilla you can see the Jaffa gate entrance to the Old City. The Mamilla is along an outdoor shopping mall (like the Grove) which leads right to the Jaffa entrance (there are only a few entrances into the Old City).

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“A” is the hotel, and the Jaffa gate is located where the Christian and Armenian Quarter meet at the edge of the wall. To give you a sense of scale, the Old City is just under a mile high and a mile wide. It’s all super walkable.

 

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I was so excited to be in Jerusalem- I place I remember seeing as a kid via a church slideshow presentation when a couple people came back from a trip. After watching the sunset, I decide to venture off by myself to the Old City since we had a few hours until our dinner reservation (people eat dinner really late in Israel).

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I wandered into the Old City and headed toward the Armenian Quarter. I wandered with no itinerary, knowing that you can’t get too lost in a mile wide city filled with high walls. Eventually you’ll hit the wall, which you can follow until you hit a gate to exit. I had maps with me, but I didn’t want to head to the landmarks so I put the map away and just wandered.

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This site is right around where the Armenian and Jewish Quarter meet. This is on the Jewish side. There’s no real clear distinction between the quarters. There are main walking routes that run along the borders of the quarters, but there’s no big sign saying, “You’re in the Jewish Quarter”. There are several visual clues that tell you where you are (the clothing and religious markings).

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This photo was taken in the Jewish Quarter looking east. The hillside on the right is Mt. of Olives. On the left is Temple Mount and you can even see the top of the Western Wall.

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I headed down closer with the crowd, passing through security and metal detectors to find myself at the Western Wall. Here I was wandering and then BAM, Im at the Western Wall. It was a fun thing to stumble upon.

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You see above, the wall divides the mens and women’s side. The women’s side is much smaller. Also note that when leaving the wall, you’re not supposed to turn your back to the wall, so people walk backwards to leave the wall. It’s a little bizarre to watch, but so much about Israel so far has been about tradition and rituals, so I’m not too surprised.

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I should talk about something that happens throughout the Old City, especially to Americans. Venders are all over the Old City. It’s like the first level of every building is filled with trinket shops or food vendors and all of the owners sit at the entrance and try to get tourists to come in. I had been warned, and I’m good at ignoring cat-calling and when strangers talk to me. As a tourist you have to have a thick skin, and not engage in it. I often spoke French so that they wouldn’t harass me, although that didn’t really work. The best thing is to ignore it. Since I arrived just after sunset, the shops were beginning to close down.

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I walked through the Muslim Quarter and made my way to the Christian Quarter where I stumbled onto the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I’ll be back tomorrow in the daylight to see everything, but what a nice exploratory mission.

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This is the Stone of Anointing, where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. Everyone kisses the rock (although everything I read said this was a replacement rock after a fire in the church). All around Jerusalem are people waiting in line to kiss any rock that Jesus touched. I took it a step further and made-out with all of these sites (totally kidding).

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This is the Aedicule. It’s “owned” by several religions and is said to contain the Holy Sepulchre itself as well as the Angel’s Stone which was covering Jesus tomb. This is all depending on what you believe of course. Funny story, since so many religions feel like they own this church, it’s in sections where each group is responsible for maintaining their part (ex. this wall is Greek Orthadox, this closet is Roman Catholic). And in order to keep it all fair, a Muslim family owns the keys to the church. They open and close it every day. It’s the only way to make it fair for all the religions.

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My favorite part of Jeruslaum is wandering the walkways. At night it’s so quiet when the venders shut their doors. When it’s quiet and peaceful at night, it’s easier to imagine this in Jesus times.. or with Kings riding through these streets. I know that the real streets they were on are 30 feet below under many layers of buildings but its fun to imagine.

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This is just outside the Jaffa gate, just before I headed back to the Mamilla for a bath soak before dinner. You can see the Tower of David lit up.

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After the best bath I’ve ever had, we headed up to the Mamilla rooftop for dinner at their restaurant. This was clearly a special occasion restaurant. Next to us a couple got engaged. To the left of us a rock n’roll couple celebrated a birthday. And then mid meal security came through, and Tony Blair and guests took the table behind us. Tony is just to the left of my uncle in this photo. What a fun meal- it was delicious and a fun night dining with Tony 😉

Next up: We have a personal tour guide take us around Old City Jerusalem. You’ll see some duplicate photos from my night wandering, only now in sunlight.

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Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
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This post is a photo-doozie, as exploring the Masada and the Dead Sea was so picturesque I had a hard time whittling it down. Last I left off we were in a rush to get from Nazareth to Jerusalem with enough time to return the rental car. We failed in our mission, but it all worked out thanks to the fabulous staff at our hotel, the Mamilla. But more on that in my next post.

The following morning after arriving late into Jerusalem, we didn’t explore the city at all, but instead joined a 7am group trip to Masada, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea offered by Abraham Tours. My sister is a travel blogger (As Her World Turns) and she booked the day trip getting us a great discount too. This day trip was amazing and we all agreed was one of the best days of the trip. After driving all over northern Israel, it was so nice to have a tour guide (Alon, who was very funny and adorable) who took care of all the logistics of the day.

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Above is a general map of where we went this day.The city on the upper left of the map is Tel Aviv, for a sense of scale.

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We all met up by the Mamilla mall, a 5 minute walk from our hotel, which is where Alon arrived with a van at 7am. We all got in (12 of us?) and our day began. We exited Jerusalem through the time-warp tunnel. On one side of the tunnel is a bustling crowded Jerusalem, and the other end of the tunnel is desert. The photo above is from the desert side of the tunnel. You can see the wall marking the zone. Israel has a zone system which basically restricts who can go where. As an American, it didn’t affect me much. It’s meant to keep the peace by segregating groups of people (Palestinians and Israelis). It’s a hot button issue as it traps people.

Alon explained the zone system to us. I’m paraphrasing (and dumbing it down for my own understanding of it) but zone A would be where Israelis can go. Zone B is where Palestinians and Israelis can go. And Zone C is Palestine only. At each entrance to the zones are armed guards checking IDs. Since we were a van full of clearly westerners, the zone crossing was very easy. Alon said he can’t enter the third zone. As an American, I would be able to. It’s fascinating.

Our guide Alon was an orthodax jew who recently left his faith. That is fascinating to me because it is a completely different lifestyle that he grew up living and then at 35 (or 40?) decided it wasn’t for him. I can’t imagine at that age trying to learn what normal life is like for other people. In Israel especially, where almost everyone you see is orthodox and you’re seeing them lead a life that is so different.

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You know, just camels and Shepherds walking along the road. For realz?! This is a thing?!

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On the desert side of the “Time-warp Tunnel” you can see the edge of congested Jerusalem far off on the hillside. There really is a line where Jerusalem goes from city to desert.

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Along the highway in this desert are many Bedouin people. They live a nomadic lifestyle where the shepherd the land and move along in clans. This is really how people really still live here. It’s not homelessness, as they have several tent structures, fires going and animals to tend. It’s more elaborate and you can see kids running around and women cleaning. It’s just so different, and I love it.

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At sea level, Alon pulled the van over for photos and so people could ride camels. It was on my list of things to do in Israel and since I figured it would be my only chance, I did it. Cross that one off my bucket list.

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As the map far above shows, we took a long drive south along the Dead Sea to get to Masada (our first destination). Along the way we drove by the Qumran in the West Bank and it’s here in the photo above where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1946-1956. Yes, you read that right. It was only 60 years ago when these zillion year old scrolls were found. And they were found by Bedouins in caves up in the mountains. Who knows, there could be so many more around Israel. It’s like going for a hike and finding THE bible. Like the first bible. So crazy.

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There’s Masada above. You can see how this mountain of land stands on it’s own and why it made such a great place for a King to vacation. If anyone was going to attempt attacking, they’ed see them coming and have plenty of warning.

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Since we were on a tour and only had a set amount of time to see the top, we opted to ride up the tram instead of the hike (which is on the right of the photo). It would have been awesome to hike it but we also wanted time at the top. We decided to ride up and hike down if there was time.

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The views from the tram were incredible.

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Higher and higher we went. You can see the Dead Sea straight ahead.

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Up at the top you feel like you’re on the edge of the earth… which was so frightening for someone like me.

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We were warned that there was lots to see at the top of Masada and we ended up taking the tram down so we could spend a majority of our time exploring the top.

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It was a maze of ruins at the top, all open air. It was fun to imagine what it would have looked like as a fortress in its prime.

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The views from every side were incredible.

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This was taken in Harrods Palace at the most northern point.

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Above you can get a sense of scale with the people in view. There were many school groups at Masada, and I imagine everyday tour groups and school groups liter the mountain. Alon said it was a common field trip activity.

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After taking the tram back down to be back at the van on time, we piled in and headed on back north to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.

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This reserve features many water falls and a short easy hike (as well as a much longer hike for people who want to make a full day out of it). The group split up and went at their own pace. Some people wore bathing suits and got into the water at each of the waterfalls.

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Personally I was more interested in the wildlife. Signs around the entrance talk about what types of animals live in the area and I really wanted to see them all.

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So I was quiet and on a hunt.

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Come on animals… peak out!

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The views were stunning and this truly was a waterfall oasis in the middle of this desert.

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Here’s my uncle by the largest and final falls on our quick hike. We looped back and met up with the group where we continued on to our last destination: the Dead Sea!

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Alon explained to us that when he was a teenager, the Dead Sea used to come up to the road, it was so high. In Alon’s lifetime, the water level has dropped dramatically. It’s a big issue in Israel.

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We stopped on the road for some photos.

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We arrived at our swimming spot, which is on the north end of the Dead Sea. I completely forgot to bring my waterproof camera (it was back at the hotel) so I didn’t get any shots of us in the water. Thankfully, my sister brought hers:

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Here we all are floating together and using the mud to make masks. Check out more of As Her World Turns photos here. It was a lot of fun floating and very difficult to get your feet lowered without it spinning you around. Also, don’t get the water near your eyes! It burns!

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After we finished up our floating, mud baths, and dried off we got in the fan and headed back to the Mamilla Mall where we had been picked up 10 hours earlier. The above photo shows the old war bunkers we drove by. This was one of the most fun days on the trip and I highly recommend Abraham Tours. Try to get Alon as a guide if you can.

Next up, we get back to Jerusalem where I venture off to explore the Old City by myself at night and we also end up having dinner next to a former Prime Minister. Pretty exciting!

Israel VIII: Nazareth

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
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We spent a little too much time in Golan Heights, so when we got to Nazareth we had to marathon it through the city. The map above shows you just how many sites there are to see here, but we drove through the city looking specifically for the Basilica of the Annunciation, which was on our “Top 10” list of Israel. We had time for only one site, so we knew it had to be the one from the “Top 10”. 

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At least to get to the Basilica it meant we had to drive through Nazareth, so we did get to see the city from the car. Up until now, everywhere we visited felt predominately either Jewish or Christian and as we entered Nazareth we could tell this city was predominately Muslim by the dress code. It’s funny how in every city, the clothing “gives away” the religion of that area. 

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NY Pizza in Nazareth. We had to get a photo. 

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The streets in Nazareth are winding, hilly, and narrow. We got a little lost searching for the  Bascilica. We could see it from afar (it has a huge domed steeple) but it was hard to find the streets that would take us closer to it. Once we saw tour groups on foot, we figured we were close, parked the car and started walking. 

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I love the narrow passages throughout the older cities in Israel. It feels European with a Middle Eastern flare. It’s just not something you would find in the US. Above you can see we are getting closer to the Basilica. 

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Alas we’ve made it to the Basilica of the Annunciation. This building is a Roman Catholic place where in the Catholic faith, Mary was contacted by the angel Gabriel and told she would conceive and become Jesus’ mother. This place also sits on top of where Mary lived. I should note that different religions have their different places in Nazareth where they believed this happened. For example, there is a Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation nearby in Nazareth where they believe this took place. This was our first taste of how the religions each have their own “this happened here” landmark for the same historical story. 

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In the upper level, we could hear music being played as part of a mass. On the lower level you can see this shrine set up outside of the ruin believed to be where Mary lived. 

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The reason this building was on the “Top 10” guide was for architectural reasons (the top 10 includes sites of all religions). It really is a beautifully made building. 

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From behind an iron gate tourists like myself could see into Mary’s dwelling (depending on your faith). 

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It’s so hard to envision this space as a house, but everything was so different back then. 

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You can see they built around the ruins. 

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The photo above and below are taken on the upper level, where mass is held. When we arrived the mass was ending, so we were able to enter the upper level. 

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This building is quite large and it is one not to be missed if you’re traveling through Nazareth. 

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I love that in the design of the building, they preserved the ruins that they were building over. Later in the trip we saw Jerusalem, and how in most cases things where built right on top of the buildings below. In this case they designed the building to showcase these ruins instead of covering them up. 

In Israel political power and agenda has changed hands so many times, and when a new regime takes over, their religion becomes the most important politically and it is in their best interest to cover up historically significant buildings of the other faiths that threaten their faith. This is true of all the faiths. It’s why a historically important mosque, is also a historically important church, and also a historically important temple.

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We had to get back on the road after our short Nazareth stop in order to get the rental car back to Jerusalem by the end of their working day. On we went! The next several posts will be of Old and New Jerusalem, Masada, and the Dead Sea.

 

Israel VII: Golan Heights

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
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Off we go, leaving Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee behind as we head north into Golan Heights (A to B on the map). Our next destination was Mt. Bental, right on the edge of the UNDOF Zone in Golan Heights. Golan Heights is where Syria, Lebanon and Jordan meet Israel and has been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967 (a CIA map shows that It’s Syria, but occupied by Israel). Lets just say it’s a peaceful place but also very much an active military zone, where you don’t want to wander off the road (land mines). I was very excited to see this section of Israel, not just because of the history, but because it’s an area known for it’s wine and chocolate. Plus it’s the closest I’ve been to an active military zone, and I felt like I needed to see it.

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I was in the front passenger seat, so I was able to take some fun landscape shots from the road.

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You can see above that there are remnants of war still left behind, as well as the military academy actively training in those spaces. While on this drive we had a white UN vehicle who was behind us most of the way, headed to the United Nations zone that separates Syria and Israel to keep the peace.

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This horse was just after we missed the road to go up Mt. Bental. Which by the way, you don’t want to get lost in this area, not due to fear (as it’s not scary, the photos are proof of this) but because you really are right on the border of the UN zone which keeps Israel and Syria from attacking each other. As my sister put it “How adventurous are we feeling today?”

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I loved visiting Golan Heights and the views from Mt. Bental (above) are amazing. There’s a great sandwich shop at the top of the mountain, as well as old war bunkers from the Six Day War and incredible views.

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Here’s the view across to Syria. You can see the white buildings on the left are UN buildings.

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There are also large creative metal sculptures around the top of the mountain.

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We went down into the maze of bunkers underground in the mountain. We were following a family who had a tour guide, so it was handy listening into the history he was explaining. There isn’t much up here explaining the history (at least not in English).

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It’s wild to think this was once used by military personal to view Syria during war.

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This is in the bunker, with a narrow opening to see (and my guess- shoot) at Syria.

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After our meal and exploring the mountain, we had to retrace our steps south west to visit Nazareth. On our way back through Golan, we saw more and more ruins from a war that was only 60 years ago.

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Everywhere we went in Golan Heights, there were “tank crossing” signs, and military personnel passing us. On our way back south, we decided to stop and take pictures of these tanks near the side of the road. We thought the were inactive old tanks, so we thought it would be okay to see them closer. Just to the left of this photo, in a lower ditch where several soldiers with large guns. This was a reminder that even though it’s calm and quiet, we were still very much in an active military zone. These are not old tanks, but new tanks that are ready to go.

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We exited Golan Heights behind a large truck with a tank on it. I highly recommend visiting Golan Heights. The history and beautifully unique landscape made this place one of my favorite sites along the entire trip. But alas, we were behind schedule and still had to visit Nazareth and travel into Jerusalem by 6pm (to return the car). On we went! Next up: Nazareth!

Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
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In my last post we were leaving Akko and driving in the dark to Tiberias, which is the largest “city” around The Sea of Galilee. When we arrived that night we were hungry and hoping to just check into the hotel, drop luggage and grab dinner. We had been warned that Tiberias was like the Reno of Israel, and now I get it.

When booking our hotel in Tiberias we decided to go for something more rustic instead of the giant hotels with tour buses out front. We stayed at the Pilgrims Residence which seemed like a nice alternative to one of the giant hotels that surround it. We learned quickly that where we were staying did not have a parking lot, so we parked down the street and explored until we found the hotel. We had to ring the doorbell (it’s a locked hotel) which was a minute long hymn loudly echoing through the place. It was a cash only hotel (so we had to do a late night Israeli atm run) and everything was priced in US dollars (given the exchange rate, it meant things were more expensive than they seemed). It looks like an old castle-esque building which added to the eeriness of this place. It’s also a religious establishment so the other guests were nuns and clergy members in their robes. It was like being in a Scooby Doo episode. There were lots of religious artwork, and I was watching to see if the Jesus eyes in paintings would follow us around the room. I decided not to unpack incase ghosts chased us out in the middle of the night- I’d be ready to run. We ate dinner at the restaurant below the hotel, which also had an eerie feeling to it. Thankfully we ordered some meze and drank wine. This night was a very memorable experience, as there was even more oddness I won’t get into here.

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The next morning we enjoyed the included breakfast at the same restaurant where we had dinner the night before. Then we went on a hunt to find real coffee (many places serve instant turkish-style coffee with grounds, so we had to hunt to find “real” coffee). The views from our hotel were pretty amazing, as the photo above is from the roof terrace of the hotel.

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We walked along the water in Tiberias, which the night before had been busy with vendors selling goods and tourists exploring. At 10am this same spot was completely desolate. Such a change from the night.

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So quiet and peaceful. This is Galilee where Jesus walked on water.

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This place was so strange, we had to snap photos with the place. Well at least we have the stories from it.

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We had lots to see today, as this was the most ground to cover in one day for the whole trip. We hit the road going north along the west side of the Sea of Galilee.

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We were driving and saw 6 or 7 tour buses pulled over by an old church and thought- we should probably stop here. We aren’t super religious but did want to see some of the “biggie” spots from the bible, but hadn’t done too much research into this. Thankfully seeing the tour buses was a good marker. We were at the Church of Multiplication (or Church of Loaves and Fishes). This is this area where Jesus fed the 5,000 (turning not much food into a lot of food).

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This alter has a rock under it, which is supposedly the original rock alter where Jesus placed the bread. This adorable little church is clearly new compared to that rock, but the tile work is significant because it’s from the 5th century and the earliest known examples of figured pavement in the holy land. You can see the bread and fish design in front of the alter. I’m glad we stopped in here since it was adorable and it was also a story I remembered from my childhood Sunday Church School.

Just up the hill from here is the Church of the Beatitudes, which we could see it’s dome from the road. Given our tight schedule we didn’t stop in here. This hillside is where Jesus spoke to the Beatitudes, which we saw from the road. Maybe we missed out, but I was so excited to see the next section of Israel: Golan Heights. That’s my next post!

 

Israel V: Acre (Akko)

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
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After seeing Haifa, we headed north to Acre (or Akko as it’s also called). We were in a rush so we didn’t have time to really research the town. We figured we would get there and figure it out. Sure enough we followed “Templar Tunnel” signs and historic landmark signs until we ended up in the Old City. We knew we were in the right place.

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We parked along the coast in the Old Town and could tell we were on the outer edge of a maze of buildings only reachable on foot. So we got out and just wandered as the sun set.

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After being in Tel Aviv (a modern city) and then the ruins of Caesarea (super duper old city), it was great to see a middle ground. This is a very old but livable city an our first taste of what we thought ISrael would be like. This is a small taste of what Jerusalem ended up being like, although we hadn’t been to Jerusalem yet.

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I’ll admit, it was a little eerie, as there were no shops and no tourists in this maze of old buildings and walkways (above is my uncle). It felt like we could have been mugged at any moment, but we weren’t and it was very cool so I’m glad we explored here.

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As we wandered around this maze of a town, we stumbled on the Templars Tunnel. It was about to close, so we rushed through it although it ended up being just a quick tunnel. So we actually looped back and did it twice. If you go to Acre, it doesn’t take long to do so don’t budget a lot of time for it. It was also 15 NIS (so like $5).

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Once we finished the tunnel, we continued on our winding walk through this old city. Occasionally a light would be on and we’d get to see the insides of these old stone Jesus-time looking buildings. It’s hard to imagine what living in these places would be like.

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Once we found our way out of the maze and were back on a driving road along the coast, of the Old City, we explored more well-lit areas and stumbled upon St. John’s Church.

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It’s just such a different way of life here, I find it fascinating.

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While exploring we found ourselves on rooftops.

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I really enjoyed seeing Acre at sunset and recommend it. While it felt a tad unsafe, it was so much fun to explore the walkways and just wander through the maze. Exploring is fun 🙂

We left Acre and decided to drive to Tiberias (where our hotel was for the night) and get dinner there. HERE‘s the map of our drive. Doing this drive after dark was unfortunate because we couldn’t see the landscape in the dark. In my next post I’ll show you Tiberias (aka the Reno of Israel, as we’d been warned).

Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv

It’s one of my New Year resolutions to be up to date with my blog and so here I am finally sharing my Israel+Istanbul trip. Since there’s just so much to share, I’ve broken it down into many posts by area and in trip order. Email me if you are heading there and have questions because there’s so much more info than what I’m able to talk about here. Enjoy!

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The photo above was taken at the Kitson shop at LAX while I waited for my flight to Newark. It was a festive send off. I flew from LAX to Newark where I met up with my uncle David and his friend Brian (who lives in Tel Aviv) and we all continued to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, arriving at 4pm Israeli time.

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Here we are in Newark getting ready to board our plane (Left: me and Uncle David. Right: me and Brian). I should mention that in Newark’s international terminal, they require an extra pat down and security scan before you can enter the Israel gate. It’s funny because none of the other gates require this, but it does make us all feel very safe. So much security.

After going through passport control (which took no time at all) we taxied on to Brian’s place and then to the Tel Aviv Hilton where we spent the next 3 nights.

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Above is the view from our balcony. The Hilton’s right on the Mediterranean and sits at an excellent spot along a walking path/boardwalk that runs along the coast.

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After meeting up with my sister Erica (travel blogger As Her World Turns) at the hotel, we all took an advil pm and crashed. The next morning we set out  to meet up with Brian’s partner Andy (also living in Tel Aviv) at Carmel Market. On our way we walked along the water even seeing this Agam faced hotel on the left. Yaacov Agam is a colorful artist and sculptor who has work featured throughout the city.

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On our way to Carmel Market, we took a route through Dizengoff Square where a weekly flea market was taking place.

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In the center of Dizengoff Square is another Agam piece. This square is also surrounded by Bauhaus architecture and the Bauhaus Center is right off of this plaza. Visit this center!! They have a cute gift shop but also offer a Bauhaus walking tour of the neighborhood. It was worth doing. More on that in my next Israel post.

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Oh yes, we continued on to Carmel Market passing some new beautiful homes and also some in ruins. It’s such a varied city, and yet all the buildings are various shades of white.

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Above is Magen David Square on Allenby and a central location just north of Carmel Market. Carmel Market is like a mini Grand Bazaar (like in Istanbul-more on that in my Istanbul posts). Lots of people, tons of stalls and lots of yelling/haggling. Tuesdays and Fridays are big market days where everyone gets their food for the weekend (Shabbat), as Tel Aviv shuts down on Friday night to Saturday night.

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We met Andy here and he guided us through the stalls. Since it was Friday it was one of the busiest market days and a prime time to people watch.

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There were plenty of people to watch as each alley we walked down seemed to have more and more people.

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As a door lover, I can tell you Tel Aviv had some amazing old wooden doors. The graffiti in Israel was also so unique and all over. You’ll see lots of  graffiti throughout the images in my Israel posts.

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Carmel Market has an arts and crafts section, a clothing section, and then they busiest area: food. Even the food is broken down into alley ways by the types of food they sell. The meat/fish alley was the smelliest.

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There were so many people going by (and of course I’m guarding my bag against pickpockets), so it was difficult taking pictures here. I managed to get close enough to these vendors to get images without people cutting in front of me. We had our taste of the market and worked our way out and back over to the beach front.

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Fun graffiti, am I right? This above would be a Bauhaus Jack Daniels.

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Back along the water we decided to walk north up the boardwalk.

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You can see that the boardwalk is actually very busy, with lots of people out  exercising. The next morning I was shocked that at 8am on a Saturday (Shabbat!) it seemed like the whole city was out jogging/speed walking. I mean people of all ages. I was very impressed. Anyway, back to our Friday adventure. See the people on the left in the photo. They are playing a loud paddle ball type game called Matkot. It’s very popular here and makes a very loud sound that is echoed along the waterfront.

Also note the wood fence on the upper left of the image. This is the south wall of the religious beach. It’s the only beach that separates men from women. For example, Monday Wednesday Friday might be female days and Tuesday Thursday Sunday might be male days. So this beach is completely fenced off and private.

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We continued along north as the sun was setting. The Promenade leads to a revitalized area called the Tel Aviv Port. This area clearly was a warehouse neighborhood that has been made over into a giant walking area filled with hip restaurants and fun stores. This is a great place to catch the sunset (as you can see below).

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The photo above is deceiving, because the walkway had lots of people on it doing laps and families with children playing.

For dinner our first night we met up with Andy and Brian to get a pre-dinner drink at their favorite spot. Unfortunately we were too early and ended up cabbing over to a cute wine bar called Jajo Vino near where we had dinner reservations in their neighborhood of Neve Tzedek (it’s like the Brooklyn of Tel Aviv- hip, filled with history and up and coming).

After a delicious dinner at the adorable Suzana we went to the best gelato place in town: Anita Cafe “La Mamma del Gelato”. It’s so good they have two locations across the street from each other to handle all their customers. It’s amazing and Andy and Brian’s favorite place in the city for a tasty treat.

I would say this is a pretty packed first day of vacation as we spent it walking all over the city. Turns out every day would be equally as packed, but it meant we got to see SO much. Up next, Israel II: Jafa!