I had a 15-hour overnight layover in Istanbul, and all I had to show for it were these pictures.
I had the awesome pleasure of getting to join a group of fellow travelers and adventurers through the Monsoon Diaries. I fondly refer to them as the "framily". I met up with the framily in Helsinki, Finland on what was the end of half of their trip through Scandinavia and the Baltics. We had a short but fabulous time together. One of the memorable adventures we had together was to Soumenlinna Island. Soumenlinna was an old Finnish fortress that had been used to try to combat the Russians many years ago. Today, the island is a popular site for tourists and locals alike. There are spots for relaxing, a beach, places to have picnics, cute cafes and museums.
This album chronicles some of our adventures, including my getting lost from the tribe in the Shire but fortuitously rejoining them upon departure from the island.
To get to and from Soumenlinna, one needs a boat...or should be a very, very strong long distance swimmer. There are ferries that leave Market Square in Helsinki proper regularly, and it is only 15 minutes from there to the island.
West meets Eastern Europe meets Northern Europe in terms of architecture.
Beatitudes in Kinneret/Galilee
The word, beatitude, has its origin from the Latin word for happiness. Many years ago, Jesus spoke to a crowd in Galilee about the beatitudes, and this speech or sermon became known as the Sermon on the Mount. Presently, there is a church that claims to be built on the very location that Jesus held his sermon.
I was able to join my bestie and her colleagues on a day trip to Galilee (or Kinneret), Tiberius and a Baha'i site. Whilst in the area, we visited the Church of Beatitudes and swam in the Sea of Galilee (a.k.a. Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret or Lake Tiberias). It was hot (>35C) but the water was welcoming. In true wonderful Israeli style, some folks were perched on plastic chairs in the shallow water and others enjoyed the comfort of rafts (read here: air mattresses). It was a fabulous time.
Here are some pictures of the day trip. In those swimming photos (sample below), there is a lone raft as its occupants were tipped over by the waves.
Meteor Sprinkles in +972
I was connected to a friend of a friend in Israel. I felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend. He and I became fast friends and had quite the adventure and discussion as he took me on a midnight tour of northern Israel, and together, we watched meteor sprinkles (I hesitate to call them showers) under the Israeli sky. More details about our adventures and his work can be found on the +972 website under part 6 of the "Seven Nights" series.
Heaven on Earth & Akko
The Baha'i Gardens in Haifa and Akko are among the most beautiful places I have been in the world, especially the Akko/Bahji Gardens. When you first see the gardens, even from a distance, they stand out from the rest of the landscape. There is a holy presence, and rightfully so, as the gardens surround Baha'i holy sites. I was taken on a tour of both gardens and provided with a history that connects the two sites -- which face one another across the Haifa Bay. The gardens are meticulously maintained. Many hours of hard labor go not only in to maintaining the gardens, but also logistics and innovation (for plants to use in the desert). My deepest gratitude goes out to those who help keep these slices of heaven on Earth amazing.
May these pictures of the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa and Bahji provide you with a taste of the extra-ordinary. There are also some pictures of the Old Town of Akko and one or two Baha'i locations therein, as well. A small sample of the photos are below.
Not all of the photo credits are mine. M.N. and random, kind strangers are also responsible for some of the pictures.
My bestie and I basically went to Lebanon when we visited the beach town of Naharriya. It was in Naharriya that I came to appreciate Israeli ingenuity -- plastic chairs are perfect for sitting in shallow water and appreciating the waves and lounging! Who would have thought? Now, I will practice what I have learnt more regularly.
The photo credits are not all mine, they include M.N. and a random waitress.
Jerusalem was a bust...so I went to Tel Aviv instead.
I was all set to go to Jerusalem. I had my phone, some snacks and water, a general itinerary (conducive to Nadi-ness) and a scarf to cover up at religious sites. I boarded the train with minutes to spare and was on my way. I transferred to a Jerusalem-bound train in Tel Aviv and was feeling good.
As we neared Jerusalem, an old man joined me in my little four-person 'booth'. With me not speaking Hebrew and him not speaking English but wanting to talk, it made for a comical exchange for on-lookers. I made out that he wanted me to take photos of him...so I did that for a bit.
Shortly after departing Bet Shemet, the train came to a stop. I was not sure what exactly happened but made out from the Hebrew-only announcement that the train would have to return to Bet Shemet. In broken English, the old man told me we would wait for another train. That was fine by me, although the temperatures were starting to climb. While I tried to avoid the old man who had resorted to petting me as we waited, I observed my fellow passengers more closely. There were tourists, like me, young Israelis in the service and large families or multiple families traveling together.
I was relieved when the second train arrived. While I could not shed the old man, I pretended to fall asleep and that seemed to have him stop asking me to be his personal photographer or pet. We sat across from two young girls who were headed to the mall. Just as we were about to reach the outskirts of Jerusalem, the train, again, stopped! I conjectured that the train was experiencing the same problems as the first train. We waited and after a while, the train slowly made its way back to Bet Shemet.
At that point, I learned that no more trains would be headed to Jerusalem, but that the transportation service was providing buses instead. It was now the afternoon, I had left Haifa early in the morning. Even if the bus made it through the Jerusalem traffic in good time, I would maybe only see one site. Fortunately, my friend (with whom I was staying) recommended I go to Tel Aviv instead. And that I did, and it was splendid (<--photos). I guess Jerusalem will be waiting for me next time.
Guy: What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Me: I dunno. I don't really see the things that I do as crazy or ridiculous...but other people might.
Guy: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I'm not sure. I guess I mean that the risks I take, I don't see them as being crazy. BUT something cool, and I guess, daring, that I've done recently is skydive.
Guy: What?! Really?!
Me: Yes, here's the proof.
I have officially dubbed myself a Museum Queen. As I've grown older, I have come to appreciate museums more and more. In Haifa, I was in Museum-utopia! There is a consortium of six museums in the city proper and other museums are scattered throughout the greater Haifa area. I was able to visit four of the six museums in the consortium and the museum at the University of Haifa. Each museum had its own focus. One of my favorites was the Haifa Museum of Art. It had a blend of modern and performance installations and was curated well. The Tikotin (Japanese Art), Mane-Katz and Hermann Struck Museums were intimate -- with the latter two included in my favorites, and the Hecht Museum (at the University of Haifa) had fascinating information and displays on archaeological finds from both land and water. The Hecht, while located some 20 minutes outside of Haifa proper, is well worth the travel.
As noted in the food post, both the Mane-Katz and Haifa Museum of Art cafes are worth checking out!
I am like a breeze -- you can find me...