Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Israel: Crusaders and Christmas

With our camp now set up in Haifa, Israel, we explored a bit of the northern part of the country.

We went to visit the Rosh HaNikra Grottoes and pretty much got hosed. They sold us entrance tickets which included a cable car to these caves by the ocean, but the cable car was out of order. So we didn't see much.

We had driven as far north as we could, though, which meant we were now at the border of Lebanon. I poked my little foot close enough to the border that I counted that as visiting the country. What a sneaky man I am.

"Beirut Express

The Haifa-Beruit railway passed through the gap in the calcareous sandstone ridge. The British army built the line in 1942 in preparation for a possible Nazi invasion from Turkey. Two tunnels were cut through the Sulam Ridge that you see before you, along a total length of some 200 m, and a bridge was built between them. The train only operated for about six years, until the outbreak of the War of Independence."

We visited the incredibly historically interesting city of Acre.

"Acre was a hugely important city during the Crusades as a maritime foothold on the Mediterranean coast of the southern Levant, and was the site of several battles, including the 1189–1191 Siege of Acre and 1291 Siege of Acre. It was the last stronghold of the Crusaders in the Holy Land prior to that final battle in 1291."

There were street cats everywhere.

We had lunch at Hummus Said which sold almost exclusively giant plates of hummus with pita bread. I don't think either of us was able to finish ours.

Luckily there were plenty of olives to go around.

Hamam al-Basha was a Turkish Bath House that has since become a museum. The interpretive video was great, and featured a bunch of dead guys sitting in heaven telling stories about the place.

I thought they did a really good job making the place come alive.

Citadel of Acre

"Under the citadel and prison of Acre, archaeological excavations revealed a complex of halls, which was built and used by the Knights Hospitaller. This complex was a part of the Hospitallers citadel, which was included in the northern defences of Acre. The complex includes six semi-joined halls, one recently excavated large hall, a dungeon, a refectory (dining room) and remains of a Gothic church."

Again here I think they did a good job of telling the place's story with an interesting and varied number of presentations.

"The Templar Tunnel

The Templars were the knights-monks (solitary soldiers). They lived in the country many years ago. The Templars were the keepers of the Temple in Jerusalem. That is why we call them by this name.

The role of the Templars was also to protect the Christians who came to the Holy Land against burglars and thieves."

We had another sort of odd dining experience at another restaurant we had been looking forward to: Uri Buri.

I think this is the second time that this has happened, but right after we sat down they handed us a copy of the chef's book and asked us if we wanted to buy it. What is wrong with you, we haven't even eaten the food yet? What makes you think I want a book about a restaurant I stepped foot into for the first time 4 minutes ago?

Also odd was the format of the meal. They had a "tasting menu" but in their head what that means is that they will just bring you random things off the normal menu, charge you full price for them, and just continue bringing plates until you ask them to stop. Which inevitably led to them sort of car salesmanly bringing out as many plates as possible to rack up your bill. The dining scene so far in Israel has really been weird I must say.

I believe this was a tiny cup of "fish or seafood soup in coconut milk, ginger, curry, basil, and coriander."

"Coquille St. Jacques: scallops in cream sauce, ginger, white wine, and seaweed"

The plate closest to my gullet was "Baby St. Peters fish in caramel with beetroot cubes". The salad was "spinach salad with citrus dressing and dried fruits."

"Shrimp and artichokes: in butter, turmeric, lemon, and black rice noodles."

"European sea bass in a sauce pan with olive oil, garlic, spicy pepper, lemon and coriander."

Lydia usually really looks forward to the dessert portion of a meal so it was pretty devastating to her when the dessert ended up being wasabi sorbet.

We had to end on a non painful dessert so we got the "kanafeh: home made kadaif strings and pistachio, served with rose and cardamon ice cream."

All of that cost us 645 Israeli New Shekels or about $170.

Since the sad demise of Babies R Us we don't really have much in the way of baby stores anywhere anymore. This is kind of sad now that we are in the market for such things and have to buy them on the internet without seeing them in person. Well other countries don't seem to be suffering from this condition.

Lydia really likes to go to these stores.

We headed back to Haifa base camp.

I obviously couldn't leave here without getting more involved with just the opulent amount of Christmas lighting this place had up.

I think this guy was selling coffee or something in the middle of traffic out of a very large thing strapped to his back.

Why is this area of Israel so hardcore for Christmas? Well I think it has a historical backing. This part of town is called the German Colony.

"The Templers, a religious Protestant sect formed in southern Germany in the 19th century, settled in Palestine at the urging of their leader, Christoph Hoffmann, in the belief that living in the Holy Land would hasten the second coming of Christ. The Templers built a colony in keeping with strict urban planning principles and introduced local industries that brought modernity to Palestine, which had long been neglected by the Ottomans. They were the first to organize regular transportation services between Jaffa, Acre and Nazareth, which also allowed for mail delivery."

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