Thursday, April 3, 2008

Haifa and the Bahai Shrine and Gardens

view from outside our hotel
Day 2~ A breakfast in Israel is like none other. At the De La Mer Hotel in Tel Aviv we wandered downstairs and went into the breakfast room. You have an assortment of salads and slaws, fresh veggies chopped and covered in a light mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Pastries and cakes and many rolls and artisian style breads. There were platters of cheeses, most I had never heard of, aside from the really salty ones most were good. .. Fred and Rebecca arrived and joined us for breakfast.. Once we had had our fill we wandered down to the Carmel market.. Busy and hectic and rich in vibrant colors.
A view of the market

Display of Veggies
Much like your typical flea market in America it was loaded with all sorts of Trinkets and garments,We wandered the seemingly endless alley and enjoyed the vivid red colors of the strawberries and dried fruits. Bin after Bin we passed loaded with pastries of all sorts.. The aroma was intoxicating. This market as with most of the markets is very popular and crowded place especially right before Shabbat. Filled with bellowing shouts of GOOD SHABBOS ( happy sabbath) and people hurrying about grabbing this or that for their dinners and weekend meals. We explored the market for a while longer and eventually headed back to the hotel.
Michael our tour guide was waiting for us, so was Rami our driver.. we loaded up the van and started our exploration of Haifa , we toured Yaffa and saw the excavations still going on . we walked up cobblestone and limestone walkways.. I saw my very first mosque and heard the call to prayer. We saw St. Peters Greek Orthodox Church and walked up a hill and saw a view that was as magnificent as all the views we would see through out our adventure. The Mediteranian glistened in the hazy sunshine as its gentle waves lapped at the shores of Tel Aviv. Even in the heavy haze of the day the beauty was evident. We would go Independence Museum and hear a recording of Ben Gurion announcing Israel's statehood much to the chagrin of it's neighbors. We would sit in the same room where this announcement was made.. and just for a second we were transfered back in time. Announcing statehood.
When one looks at Israel on a map it is so tiny a whisper between worlds. yet when you explore this sweet and tough country its expanse and depth becomes very inspiring. We had a fun lunch .. and it was interesting to see just how much one could pack into a pita with out making a huge mess. They like to load them with everything including fries. We eventually wound our way to the Gallery hotel in Haifa. Our hotel was not in one of the hotspots of town.. So finding a resturant in walking distance was not possible. We took a cab to the German Colony and walked the streets... We watched the young eclectic mix of religous and secular people . From our vantage we could see the steps of the Bahai gardens. lit dramatically at night . Near our hotel winding down the alley ways are wonderful little markets , Fruits and cheeses galore, fresh pita bread, meats of all types and pastries fill these busy markets. When I asked a Russian woman if she spoke English , She called Yakov over because he spoke english. people were eager to be helpful and very friendly . One of our favorite evenings in Haifa was going to the market and purchasing oranges, and roast beef , hummus and pita bread.. we had a picnic in our hotel room that evening.. with the delicacies we had found in the market nearby. When you are traversing through the shopping areas it is easy to say the city is very unkept and it seemed to be low income near where we were .. but you would never know any hardships by looking at the faces of this crowded city. People rushing back and forth, always a friendly smile, no matter what. The view from right outside our hotel made me chuckle.. here is an optical shop ( I work in for a optometrist) The evening wound down and day 3 would bring us to the Bahai Shrine and Gardens,

view from the gardens , starting our 700 step journey down.

a view from one of the lower points looking up at the gardens

How to describe this perfectly manicured garden is very difficult so here is a link with further details. The pristine buildings are white in a city where off white is a very popular color. During our journey through the gardens a group of Israeli soldiers, a sight that would be come all too familiar like breathing. We took pictures of them as we would do many times through out our travels of Israel.

Following the gardens we visited the Meir Shfeya youth Aliyah village , There is an article about their winery in the latest issue of Hadassah magazine... Meir Shfeya caters to children from all backgrounds.Together they can learn about everything from music to agriculture creating wine...We visited Ceserea ( prior to our visit at Meir Shfeya) too and saw the ruins there. the expanse of bathes where wonderful to look at. and to think with out the use of cranes or power tools, all this was built ... More info on Israel and once again the day wound down into a pleasant evening. The adventure continues ...

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