Trip Report – Israel 2011
- United #90: Newark, NJ (EWR) to Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV)
- Tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem
- Tour of Caesarea, Rosh HaNikra, and Acre
- Tour of Petra
- Tel Aviv
- Grand Beach Hotel Review
- United #91: Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV) to Newark, NJ (EWR)
- United #311: Newark, NJ (EWR) to Denver, CO (DEN)
- United #403: Denver, CO (DEN) to Orange County, CA (SNA)
Part 4 – Tour of Caesarea, Rosh HaNikra, and Acre
It was another early start today. I’m on vacation yet I have been getting up earlier than what I usually do for work. I will only have one day to sleep in, but even that won’t be that much extra sleep. It turned out that I had the same driver-guide as yesterday, Ozzy. I was lucky enough to hear his same jokes for a second time. I have to wonder if these guides have roughly the same script for each tour. Overall, he was a decent tour guide although he spent too much time talking on his cell phone while driving the vehicle rather than addressing the 15 people that were on the tour. This problems seems to be everywhere as customer service gets put on the backburner when a cell phone rings.
The first stop on today’s tour was the ruins at Caesarea which reached its height during the reign of King Herod. The ruins that have been excavated include a roman amphitheater, portions of Herod’s palace, and a Herculaneum. The amphitheater has been restored partially and is used for events throughout the year. The view from the seats at sunset would have to be amazing. Unfortunately, the weather report on my iPhone lied and we had a cloudy and rainy day instead of a clear and sunny day. Herod’s palace was built out into the water and the square filled with water was his pool.
We continued heading north away from Tel Aviv and about an hour’s drive away from the city we reached Haifa. The city of Haifa is partially located on Mount Carmel, or in Hebrew “God’s vineyard”. Elijah’s cave was here and the Carmelite religious order was founded here. We did not go to visit the monastery or the Grotto of Elijah unfortunately. We did however drive up to near the top of the hill and had a great panoramic view of the city and the Bahá'í Gardens. The gardens have a series of nine terraces going down to the Temple and then another 9 to the base of the hill. A tour of the gardens was available although it would take 1.5 hours so we couldn’t do it. The wide boulevard at the bottom of the gardens was the central point for the German Templars who settled here. Many of the buildings along the street have German design influence including some Bauhaus elements.
So far I think that Haifa is the best city I’ve been to in Israel. The look and scale of the city just felt right for me. It definitely has a European feel. I loved the buildings terraced up the hills, the architectural style of the buildings, and the neighborhoods we went through. The use of repeat building designs and a similar kit of parts helps to create a great cohesive cityscape. One of the standout elements in Haifa is a tower which partially resembles the large sale of a yacht which houses the headquarters of a major shipping company.
Acre/Akko located near the port of Jaffa was one of the major Crusader strongholds and much of the fortress remains today. The city walls are nearly intact due to their sheer size and the fortress remnants are all underground, below the city which has changed from the Crusaders to the Bedouins to the Turks and then to the British. We were taken into a shop while we waited to enter into the ruins and instead of hanging out inside too long I went outside to pet a very loud and friendly kitty. She wanted so much attention that when I stopped petting her she swatted at my arm or pant leg. Much of the housing, halls, and training rooms for the Crusaders were built underground to hide their true numbers from their enemies. The halls and rectory were very cavernous and represented one of the first uses of the hanging arches in buildings. An aqueduct was also built underground which doubly served as an escape route if needed. We walked through the water tunnels and it was a very tight fit for me. The height of the space in parts was no more than 5’.
|Kitty! She was friendly, she's just mad I didn't open the door right away.|
Lunch was at a small restaurant in the old part of Akko and was a family style meal. We were able to enjoy as much as we wanted of hummus, falafel, kebab, shawarma, pita, and various fixings to add as we needed. The hummus was a little under seasoned for me. It was a little runny and just tasted bland. I may just have become used to Fresh & Easy’s version. The kebab was excellent. The meat was juicy, well-seasoned, and was a perfect consistency. Once I added on some hummus, tomato, cucumber, and red cabbage it was perfect after spending the morning walking around. The lemonade with mint was a refreshing drink as well.
|The Lunch Spread|
After lunch we continued north along the Mediterranean towards Lebanon. The further north we drove the worse the rain got. We reached our final destination, Rosh HaNikra, which is right along the border with Lebanon. The border isn’t crossable and we just looked at the gates with all of the barbed wire. I was a little surprised that the border was only a two hour drive from Tel Aviv and that the other borders are that far or less. I guess I didn’t appreciate how small of a country Israel is. Rosh HaNikra is an amazing rock outcropping along the coast and the main highlight are the caves below which are only accessible via cable car.
|Border with Lebanon|
|I don't know what it says - but the pictures are pretty.|
The decent to the cave level was quick and we hurried inside to avoid the rain. We weren’t really told what we would see in the caves only that we might get wet – and that was true. The waves have weathered down the stone and created pockets and passageways for water to rush through. The main opening is a larger cave which allows water to rush in with each wave and then try to push into a small hole and cave beyond. As the water rushes in and out of each cave, it will occasionally synchronize and then a splash and large boom go through the opening spraying water everywhere after the impact of waves going in opposite directions. I took a video of what happens. Unfortunately I wasn’t filming when the biggest wave came in and sprayed water all over us. I only got hit on my legs badly but one girl in the group was wet from head to toe.
|Rosh HaNikra Caves|
The passageways circle around to where you can see additional openings and caves where the water has pushed through. I think one of the amazing parts of this experience was that you could hear each wave impacting as it reverberated through the caves, but you could also feel it as the air pressure increases with the impact. Your ears feel the pressure difference and even your whole body with a strong wave. Once you leave the cave system there are amazing views down the coast and out to the Mediterranean Sea. There is a spot where you walk across a bridge at the lookout of the coast. Above that bridge is a covering to keep the bird crap from the nest pigeons overhead from landing on you. But, apparently if you do get pooped on it is good luck. An outcropping called the “Elephant’s Leg” created a perfect backdrop for a photo of the coast. At this point the rain finally stopped and we could see the sun again. Hopefully the weather forecast for tomorrow of clear skies will come through.
|Elephant Leg Rock|
|The View South|
I managed to take a quick nap in the van on the drive back to Tel Aviv despite the guy behind me talking on his cell phone the whole drive. Once back to the room I fixed some dinner with groceries I bought at the local store and got ready to watch the world championship dart finals. It will be a relaxing night to night, and an early one. My alarm goes off at 4:30am to start my adventure to Petra and Aqaba.