Well today is day two in Israel and I’m happy to say we were staying slightly closer to home and away from any potentially dodgy boarders.
The ship is docked in the large port of Haifa. It is a modern city and seems to be home to a large port and industrial area. There were ferries, naval boats and also other cruise ships docked in the large very well laid out harbour.
Today the plan was to get a panoramic view of Haifa before moving onto the small town on Acre.
Haifa is surrounded on three sides by mountains and the other side is ocean, it was populated later in time precisely due to its difficult location however now not only does the city sit in the valley between these mountains and the ocean but also runs up the side of the mountain. We had a fantastic view of the city from the top of this mountain and were able to fully appreciate not only the city but just how busy a harbour it was with large ships seemingly backed up waiting for access.
We were also lucky to get access to the Ba’hai Gardens, a set of terraced gardens extending from the top all the way down the mountain. This is as close to the hanging gardens as we will ever get and we were lucky enough to be able to access the top two levels of this area which are strictly controlled by guards. The gardens are not only perfectly manicured but also designed using exact measurements so while the design of each terrace is different, each has the same overall dimensions. The place is full of white marble, perfectly cut lawns, hedges and palm trees. I have to admit Ben and I are not all that into gardens, but I have to say this was the exception to the rule and I could have spent much longer admiring not only the design but also the overall view.
Next it’s onto Acre, a small Crusader town it was occupied by not only the English crusaders but also the French, Spanish and many other nations. Each nation had their own “quarter” of the city and this would have been their first stop on their crusades through the “holy land”. When the Ottomans overran this city the crusaders were forced to leave and the Ottomans levelled the city and rebuilt in their own architectural style. However it was discovered that instead of pulling the city down they buried it and built on top of it. There has been a huge archaeological effort to excavate these old ruins meaning the original city now sits underground of the working city. This city is now a great tourist attraction allowing us to wander through the giant halls, the small secret tunnels and even and underground river where the crusaders used to access the harbour. Such a fantastic day exploring this mostly forgotten era Ben and I both have said we will need to return.
Then we explored the markets, ate nougat, turkish delight and nuts covered in honey or caramel in giant slabs, we ate falafel and hummus until we were sick and enjoyed being a part of the vibrant local market culture.
Then a quick walk around the walls of the city before making our way back to the boat.
The small city of Acre was so very different to the cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. It had a quaint fishing town vibe but had more history in one street than Australia has as a whole. This is our last day in Israel and in the two days we have spent here instead of giving us an overview of a country for me it really just gave me a reason to return. I don’t think two weeks is long enough in this country let alone two days. Its one of those places that is no undervalued as a tourist destination I can only hope that I can return before it loses the charm that makes it special.