We left home sometime early or mid-afternoon for the airport. We said our goodbyes to our family and headed toward the gate for our flight. It took us 7-8 hours to get to Rome and about 3 more to Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv. Since it was the holidays and a Sunday afternoon, we were stuck in serious northbound traffic. Some few hours later, we arrived at our little, cosy AirBnB in Haifa. The travel was, of course, fun but Israel had much more in store for the three of us.
One of the first places we went to was Jerusalem, the beautiful old city. I had been there before, and it was still just as amazing as the first time. The first thing we did there was not too surprising. We went to get some kanafa, a Middle Eastern dish made of cheese and a sweet and crumbly coating on top*. Very tasty. Then after our pit stop, we ventured through the narrow market streets, heading toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We had stopped to take some pictures and appreciate the exterior. And then the sound of Church bells filled our ears as we entered (which made the experience even better). Gorgeous art work, objects, and more filled the various levels of the Church.
*If you're looking for one of the best and friendliest places to have kanafa in Jerusalem, from the Damascus gate, take the first right and the restaurant will be blue and tiled and open (taking up two stalls).
Later on during the trip we went to the Baha’i Gardens in Akko. Like Jerusalem, I had been there before but it is a stunning place. The moment I walked into the garden, I felt at peace. It was gorgeous, very calming and aesthetically pleasing. Of course we had to take pictures (and knowing me I took lots of “artsy” photos). We walked through the gardens admiring the (extremely) well taken care of greenery and other plants. We had spent maybe half hour to an hour at the gardens, then left to explore more of the ancient prison town by the Mediterranean Sea. We went into the old city and walked around for a bit then decided to get some food at a cafe with a FANTASTIC view of the water (and not to mention the food was delicious)*. After the delicious meal, we walked to the walls that separated the town from the sea; we continued onward down to the beach and did some awesome parkour and adventuring. Then we left Akko--leaving behind the sea and sunset.
*Speaking of Akko, one amazing place to grab a bite is Cafe Neto in Akko, which has a gorgeous view of the water (you are right on the water if you sit outside... literally) and the food is delicious as well as their shakes and smoothies. Another great place to eat is Rothschild which is not in Akko but in Nahariya. It is a nice and quiet restaurant right on the boardwalk. From the welcoming atmosphere to the good eats, Rothschild is probably one of my favorite restaurants in Israel so far -- it is right up there with the Cafe Cafe restaurants which always have great food, friendly service and a cool atmosphere.
We also spent some time in Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, but more exciting was our road trip to Masada and the Dead Sea. The whole experience felt like I was in a movie. The music playing in the car, long desert roads, and my favorite part... CAMELS. This was like nothing I had experienced before. The drive was long but worth it. As we got closer to Masada, immense dunes and canyons came into view. As we continued to twist and turn down the road, we came upon a (very random) oasis. We decided to stop by and see what it was. And this is where the camels come in. There was a camel riding area (but we unfortunately weren’t able to ride the camels). We later found out that it was a Bedouin inn. After our brief pit stop, we continued to Masada. Once we arrived, we “trekked” up the stairs and reached the old ruins. Not only was Masada beautiful, but the story of the community who chose to 'make themselves extinct' (to put it in a not as graphic way) was truly interesting. We walked around, took pictures and spent several moments looking at the extraordinary views that included the Dead Sea flats.
After Masada, we drove onward to the Dead Sea. I had no idea what to expect, especially given the views of the area from the top of Masada. As we drove into the area, we kept reading the sea level markers with excitement and feeling ourselves descending downward for kilometers on end. Once we approached the same level with the water, all we could were hotels, more hotels, and the water. We had bought some Dead Sea mud from a nearby shop to lather on ourselves before getting into the water, as it was supposed to be good for the skin and protective (it felt pretty nice as well). When I took my first step into the salty water, it felt normal. It wasn't until I had immersed all of my body (except my head) that I started to feel different. All my body wanted to do was float. So I let it be and laughed while doing so. The only hard part was getting back upright without getting the salty water getting into my eyes or mouth, especially given the warning to avoid it on my face or in my eyes or mouth at all costs. Boy did I fail. One drop of water splashed into my eye and I immediately felt the burning. And some water also found its way into my mouth which was not fun either as it was so bitter and sour -- like nothing I had ever tasted or want to taste again. So I was led to the shower as I kept my eye closed. I took a few minutes to desalinate myself and then I hopped (figuratively) back into the water to float some more and enjoy the experience with my family and friends. Overall, Masada and the Dead Sea were unforgettable experiences.
My friends always ask why I go to Israel when I could go anywhere else in the world, and all I tell them is that (besides having family friends there), "If you have the chance to go you should..." Israel will forever have my heart, that much I know.
Written by edk | Lovingly edited by nnk
All photos are copyrighted to edk, rc, nnk and n.a. (2017). Please ask before using or reproducing any elements or photos used and linked to in this post; any use should be attributed appropriately.
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.
Haifa is all hills. If a friend lives two streets away, it is not a fun jaunt or stroll to their house. It may be a mountain climbing adventure! I promise you, if you live in Haifa and walk around, there is no need for Kanye's workout plan. Jogging? More like a feigned attempted motion forward. Oh...and throw some stair workouts in there. Okay, maybe I had fun with the stairs, but...when I decided to walk from Ben Gurion up the mountain, it was no joke, especially with the heat. I have never perspired so much in my life. [Partial evidence to the left.]
Here is a link to a collection of photos I took of the stairs and hills in Haifa. I frequented the stairs regularly despite having a car. Sometimes, it is just better to experience the world on foot...or in a really cool stepped metro! [Interesting fact, Haifa has one of the shortest metros, called the Carmelit, and it climbs and descends Mount Carmel. Photos of the Carmelit are included in the link as it includes, yes, stairs!]
I am like a breeze -- you can find me...