Tag Archives: beach

Best of Israel – Part I

Whenever I come to Israel, which is about once a year, I tend to go to the same places. Some out of habit, some because of friends and family living there, some because I just like them so much. Over the years, I’ve come to refer to these places as my “stations of the cross”. This is in parallel with theĀ  14 stations of the cross in Jerusalem, the “points of interest” on the route Jesus supposedly walked on the Via Dolorosa, carrying the cross to the place of his execution.

  1. The Temple Mount
    No visit to Israel is complete without it. I usually get no further than the Western Wall, as a visit to the Temple Mount itself involves an early rise, a long wait and an extensive security check. But it should go without saying that if there’s one place that can not be missed in Israel, it is this one. A tour of the Western Wall Tunnel is highly recommended.

    Everybody visits The Wall

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  2. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
    I’m not a Christian, but I doubt a visit to the holiest place in Christendom would leave anyone without a lasting impression. The place is a maze of passages, halls and tunnels, dimly lit by candles and filled with smoke, singing and rituals at any time of day. The notorious Immovable Ladder symbolizes the state of confusion religion can lead to. My favourite spot of the Church is the Ethiopian monastery on the roof – just trying to find it is a sport on its own.
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    The Immovable Ladder

    The Immovable Ladder

    The Ethiopian monastery

    The Ethiopian rooftop monastery

  3. The Old City Walls Promenade
    The medieval walls of the Old City of Jerusalem can be walked almost along their entire length. The total ~4 km hike is actually quite challenging as it involves climbing up and down ladders and squeezing through narrow passages. From the height of the walls, you get a unique perspective into the Old City and its surroundings, and can get an intimate look into how this dense, congested (physically and spiritually) city lives and breathes.
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  4. Israel Museum
    This huge institution in Jerusalem is worth visiting if only to see for yourself the Dead Sea Scrolls. The museum is full of treasures, depicting the ancient and modern history of Israel and its neighbours, presenting classic and modern art, preserving and presenting Jewish heritage and so on. Besides the Scrolls, my personal favourites are the copper and gold treasures from the Chalcolithic period and the interior of the Paramaribo synagogue.

    The Shrine of the Book, in the Israel Museum, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are preserved

    The Shrine of the Book, in the Israel Museum, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are preserved

  5. Tel Aviv beach
    In sharp contrast to the devotion and piousness of Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv beach line combines the best of Miami and California, with a Mediterranean flavour to it. It is one of Israel’s biggest treasures and a unique selling point, as depicted in countless commercials. For me, what makes this beach so much fun is the mix of people on it. The elderly locals come up early for their morning coffee, the touristsĀ  bake in the sun during the day, the party people come out at night. Bikini’s and bourkini’s share the waves, the gay beach is next to the religious beach, where men and women come on different days. Best part is of course the drum jam sessions on Dolphinarium Beach, on Friday afternoons.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNk8kgdtRGE
  6. Dr. Saadya
    Every Israeli is sure he/she knows the best falafel place in the country. This one is my pick. More than “just” falafel, its a symbol of Tel Aviv and its turmoil. Its a warm city, that lives on the streets. Dr. Saadya falafel is on King George Street, one of the main drags in town, connecting the upper class Northern neighbourhoods to the Carmel Market. Whenever I am around, I always come in for a falafel, a strong coffee, and some small talk with the owner and the regular customers, as the flow of people is rushing up and down the street.

  7. Caesarea
    The Romans left a wealth of heritage across Israel, and Caesarea is the most prominent example of Roman legacy. Its sunken harbour still holds numerous treasures, as witnessed by recent discoveries of thousands of Fatimid era golden coins and late Roman bronze cargo. Imagine discovering a hoard of gold on your regular snorkelling swim! The fit visitors can hike into town along a challenging track, following the course of the aqueduct all the way from the water source in the hills. The hike is like a tour of history, stretching all the way back to the Neolithic period.

    Not every underwater wreck in Caesaria's harbour is an ancient treasure

    Not every underwater wreck in Caesarea’s harbour is an ancient treasure

    Caesaria overview

    Caesaria overview

    Walls and moat of Crusader Caesaria

    Walls and moat of Crusader Caesarea

To be continued…

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Europe is hot – the signs of summer

A sunny day, at last

In small European countries it can be hard to tell whether its summer. If you judge by the weather, then some countries, like Greece, have summer from April to October. Others, like Norway, may have one or two weeks of summer and in some years none at all. In the small European country I live in, summer weather has finally arrived this week. It is not here to stay though – by this weekend the hot and sunny spell will be over. Enjoy it while it lasts is the motto. So I took a swim in the sea. I was the only one on the whole beach who was swimming. Its called the North Sea for a reason. When I moved to Europe, my mom asked me whether I was swimming often. I said “mom, the sea is cold. Its Europe you know”. She was not convinced. “But the Gulf Stream” she said, “is a warm current”. It is. 10 degrees in the winter and no less than 18 in the summer. Significant shrinkage guaranteed all year round.

The North Sea beach is not so crowded on a Sunday

To know whether its summer yet, you have to pay attention. As I was cycling home from work last week, I noticed something unusual. The streets were filled with skaters of all sorts. Suddenly I knew – it was the Wednesday Night Skate – a sign of summer.

Wednesday Night Skate – a sure sign of summer

Another sign of summer are the boats that crowd the waterways. Just as European countries, boats come in all shapes and sizes, and different states of luxury. They do have one thing in common – bridges have to be raised to let them pass. If it wasn’t for the summer state of traffic, the jams would have been huge.

A small European boat

A sure sign of summer is the quiet office. Since my office is at a university, it is even more quiet. Its so empty is rather spooky. And I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against students, and I enjoy teaching them. But its so much calmer on the campus in the summer.

Summer campus

Where are all the students?

The last and most definitive sign of summer are the BBQ’s. Its not Australia here, you can’t just start grilling all year round. You’ll get moist. When the temperatures finally do get into the comfort zone and the skies clear, the grills are lit and small European parks look like a battle zone. I’m a vegetarian, so if you ask me, they smell like a battle zone, too. No one’s asking me though.

Summer in Europe – smokin’ hot!

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Filed under cycling, Europe, Small European things, Work