Below is a journal of my first weekend in Israel where I explore Haifa.
Weekend 1, DAY 1 – “Shabbat Shalom”, Haifa.
I woke up at 7.30 am and got ready for breakfast. Here, people actually believe in the philosophy of eating breakfast like a King. Typical Israeli B’fast comprises of eggs, cheese and different variety of breads. Raymond and I befriended the waiter who told us that the jams were homemade and told us to try them & they were delicious indeed. He also made Omelette for us when we told him that we like eggs. We learnt Hebrew word for ‘Thank You” – “thodha” from him. Interacting with him was a good experience.
We went to our room and slept like crazy. We were a lot sleep deprived due to the jet lag. We woke up at around 12.30 PM for lunch. We both didn’t want to wake up but we didn’t want the team to wait for us so we got ready quickly. We went to the Burger place nearby, which I observed to be completely empty at 12.45 PM. The waitresses were really sweet to us, initially they brought a menu in Hebrew but later gave us an English version. Best thing about Israel is that most of the people speak English. Luckily we didn’t have to use hand gesture anywhere. We ordered burgers, the veg burger were awful but the non-veg burgers were good as per my team. I observed that by the time we were leaving the place, it got full that indicates that Israelis prefer to eat their lunch late, around 1.30 PM.
At 2PM, we met our student guide, ALEX, who was an architecture student at the Technion University. Funny, intellectual and friendly are the words that come to my mind when I think about him. He took us to Carmel centre Metro station. The subway was inclined 45°.The subway network was unique as it had only 7 stops, as he told us. Haifa is a topological place in a hilly region. It took lot of effort to build that metro. It is definitely an engineering marvel, building a train track at 45 degree inclination can’t be easy. As he was telling us the story, a person came and told him in Hebrew that it’s closing time. Alex told us about the Jewish tradition of ‘shabath’ where everything closes early on Friday evening till Saturday. Hence, Israel weekends on Friday and Saturday.
Then he took us to the highest point of Haifa, providing a view of the Mediterranean Sea. It was one of the most blissful views, I have ever seen. Different shades of blue reflecting the sun rays. He also told us about the British blunder of making a port, which blocked water front line. Then, he pointed out different part of Haifa such as German colony and ministry area. Then he showed us mountains across which we could see Syria and Lebanon. This made us realize how closely Israel shares its borders with its neighbour. In terms of demography, Israel is of the same size as that of New Jersey.
While we were walking towards Baha’i Garden, he showed us many war memorials & told us story about different wars such as 71, Lebanese war 1 and 2. Also gave us lot of cultural introspect, told us about their land schemes, compulsory military training, different architectural style and history of Israel.
We reached Baha’i garden. We couldn’t go inside as it was closed due to rain & slippery stairs. He told us stories of the Baha’i religion, its founder Bob (that means gate) and his son who spread the faith after his death. The garden is one of the most well maintained gardens in the world and offered a spectacular view. The gardens are linked by a set of stairs flanked by twin streams of running water cascading down the mountainside through the steps and terrace bridges.We got to know about different ideas and views of the Bohemian religion.
Then we went to Carmel church, Mercedes told us Biblical significance of each symbol on the gate of the church. It was 5.30 PM and it was getting dark outside plus it was really cold outside so we decided to go to a drink coffee but instead we ended up in bar where we tasted wine from Golam Height region in Israel. The region has volcanic soil and high bauxite content. As Alex joked “we are drinking gunpowder” & I would say it was one of the most tasty gun powder drink, I ever drank.
After enjoying our drink, we got to know Alex better through his personal stories. He told us about how he proposed his wife near a freezing lake in Chicago (It was a cute story), the different countries he traveled, his views & travel experiences.
He told us an interesting fact that Israelis love hiking & most of them after their military duty take a year off for hiking. He went to Chile for hiking after his training. We really bonded with him over the drinks. On a lighter side, most of the Israeli’s travel to North India as it’s cheaper and good quality of cannabis.
Than at 7, we left for dinner at Asian fusion restaurant ‘Giraffe’ where we met Head of Technion International Affair, Arial, an amazing person and an avid traveler. He said he has traveled almost all the continents in the world and more than 51 countries. On Monday, he would be traveling to China. He gave us quite an insight into the Chinese culture, his INSEAD experiences, hiking experiences in Nepal, India, Latin America. The sushi and noodles we had for dinner were amazing. We had a great time there. At 9.00 pm, we left for our hotel.
After we reach our hotel, we played “card against humanity”. This game helped me know the funny and quirky side of my teammates. It was fun. Now its 12.45 AM, time to go to bed.