Monday, January 2, 2012

Safed and Acre

A day of the Middle Ages!! We started out our morning bright and early with breakfast so that we could check out of the kibbutz and get on the road to Safed and Acre, which is right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This was our journey of the day...
We drove from point A all the way to the coast and still had time to do things both during the drive and after our arrival. We drove through the mountainous North of Israel and found our way to the old city of Safed (also known as Sfat!). As I learned from Eric, it is one of the four Holy Cities of Judaism, the other three being Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Hebron. Safed was important because it was like the base of mysticism for the Jewish community and a lot of important and powerful rabbis are buried in the cemetery there. From Safed, you can even see the Sea of Galilee and it looks much closer than it really is. It is a beautiful site to see. We mostly just drove around here because we didn't really know where we were going and it was a city with massive hills. A few times though, Rachel, Eric, and I would jump out of the car and wander through a few streets or take some pictures. The first time we got out of the car we just parked on the side of the road and Elaine, Nana, and Sam stayed while we went down the hill to see a few things. On our way back up the hill we saw a police car with its lights on and for a moment we were worried it was going  up the hill to take our car away because we didn't know if we could really park where we parked or not. It was pretty entertaining and we ran up the hill only to discover that the police were not in fact interested in our vehicle. What a relief! We then drove around some more and here are the pictures of our little adventure...

This flag says "Messiah" with a King crown on it. These men were walking in to the welfare office of the city while sporting the flag proudly throughout the streets

Safed used to be a mixed community of Arab's and Jews but in 1948 all of the Arab's were either expelled from the community or voluntarily left the city. This is an abandoned minaret still standing in the now all Jewish community. 

A cloudy day, but still barley visible is the Sea of Galilee

A wall made of old trash cans filled with rocks

evil little Hyrax! As we approached the following abandoned building, this little monster was staring us down and being evil. 

We then drove around some more and took all kinds of turns trying to find the cemetery and experienced the city a little bit and then on the very edge of town next to the highway we finally found the cemetery! Jewish cemetery's are interesting to me because they are not "normal" cemetery's with just headstones or anything. It seemed that the coffins were above ground, although they may not really be above ground. The following pictures will help describe the cemetery.

The hands on the tombstone mean that the person buried there was of high importance as a priest in the community

"Safed Blue" tombs. Some were painted while many were not. It is unclear to us why some were painted

Eric, Rachel, and I climbed up part of the hillside through the cemetery so that we could look through some of the older tombs. 

Then we got back in the car and started driving some more! Along the way, we stopped at this little mall on the side of the highway in Karmi'el...

...and food of choice that meal by Sam was MCDONALDS!! 

It tasted mostly normal, but somewhat different because there was not cheese on any of the burgers and the shakes were not as thick as they are in the states. Ordering food here was just as difficult if not harder than the previous day because the ONE guy who spoke English only spoke a few rudimentary words or phrases. I didn't even bother to try to ask for salt or anything extra because it was just too difficult. Even when they asked for my name after I ordered, the guy struggled with it as if he had never heard the name Lindsay before and it was too American for him to figure out. 

After we ate, we had to get gas but this picture just proves how difficult things are in a foreign country! It was near impossible to figure out what to do since everything is in Hebrew and very complicated. The clerk finally came out and helped him figure it out but even when she was doing what needed to be done, it took multiple steps and complicated ways of getting gas!

We then drove the rest of the way to Acre (Akko) and found our little guesthouse/hostel/hotel and got all checked in. At first we thought that the people at the desk said that the castle across the street was already closed for Shabbot, but there was some misunderstandings between language barriers and it turned out that it was still open so we were able to go and explore it for a little while. I am really loving old places like this castle and other places like Caesarea. 

Part of the Crusader castle was under construction


Then after we went through most of the castle, Rachel and I went exploring down in a tunnel.


When Rachel and I exited the tunnel we ended up in the old city of Acre and had to find our way back to the entrance of the castle to find everyone else

The garden at the entrance/exit where I experienced more staring and weird things because of my blonde hair... 2 Italian men were walking by and they were staring at me and got very close and then one of them said to me "Oh beautiful! What blonde hair and blue eyes! Mamma Mia!" Nana and I had a good laugh about this. 
Then we all wandered through the city and made our way down to the docks on the ocean. 

Restringing their nets

Playing on the rocks on the shore

This picture has two mosque's, two minarets, and a church right in the middle of them all.

We even walked through the fish market!

I love sunsets on the ocean :) They make me happy

We then went back to our hotel and relaxed for a little bit before we ventured out to find dinner... oh what an experience! It seems that when it comes to finding food here, it is the most entertaining because it is so difficult! We drove around for awhile and then finally we found this random little place on the side of the road that didn't even have a name. We went in and only the main manager spoke English. We were at our table for maybe a good 10 or 12 minutes before he came back said "We have a small problem. We have no menus in English". We just all had to laugh because we started to suspect that that would be the case. So he kindly told us a few things they had and we just ordered simple: the salad (which if you remember is NOT really salad but pita and dips and whatnot) and then the meat plate for the table which consisted of lamb, chicken, and steak. 

I thought that I had been eating steak the whole time but turns out the three mini pieces I had were actually lamb! Who would have guessed that I would have liked it hahaha 

And it apparently was somone's birthday because they turned on the music quite loud (which was in English by the way) and brought out nifty little firework type candles and sang. By the end of the meal we were all tired and ready to just be in our beds and wake up to a new morning. Just for fun, here are a couple of pictures of our little rooms...

Sam really loved the bunk beds. 
I found ESPN somehow on TV and was able to watch the last half of the Lakers/Knicks game which made me happy even though I don't really like either of the teams. Overall, it was a very busy, long, and adventurous day for all of us and I am sad that this whole trip is quickly winding down.