Day 7: Old Akko (Acre, Acco)

Trip Start May 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 17, 2008

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Where I stayed
Pivko Village/Kibbutz Cabri (Kabri)

Flag of Israel  ,
Thursday, May 22, 2008

After breakfast in our zimmer, we meet our host, Gaddy.  We take care of our registration for our stay at Pivko Village/Kibbutz Cabri and review his suggestions for places to see in these next two days.  Gaddy also gives us a brief overview of the kibbutz, which has 45 members and 1,000 residents.  I'm not sure how this works but did not ask for details.  They are diversified in avocados, bananas, chickens, design and manufacturing of aircraft parts, an etching printmaking workshop, the Adelina restaurant and these zimmers.  Gaddy gives us his cell phone number in case we need to reach him for any reason.  It was very nice of him.

Our intention today is to visit Old Akko and Rosh Hanikrah.   My personal intention, since this is Thursday, is "Everything Flows".    Indeed, there is plenty of opportunity to realize this as the day enfolds!  

The kibbutz is only 15 minutes from Old Akko, so we are quickly in the vicinity, looking for a parking space.  As navigator, I find myself looking at the map in the Fodors guide and reading their driving directions and also looking at the street signs!  Yikes!  There are lots of cars around that know exactly where they are going and then there is us.  We make two passes through Old Akko, circling around and back again, before we find a free parking lot on Weizmann Street, across the street from the Visitor's Center (This seems preferable to street parking where you pay via machine and the instructions are in Hebrew).  At first it appears that there is only one space remaining in the parking lot and it is so tight that even with Harvey's maneuvering skills, it is a challenge.  I notice a car pulling out of another space, jump out of our car, run over to the space and claim the space!  Of course Harvey parks in a different spot that opens up so I end up standing in an empty parking space.  We are now set for the day.  The name of the parking area is the Knights parking lot, just the one suggested by Fodors! 

Following Fodors advice, we wander about, looking for the stairway to the ramparts of the Old City walls.   A street vendor squeezing fresh orange juice catches Harvey's eye.  Being from Florida, we love fresh orange juice and we haven't had any since we've been in Israel.  A golden opportunity for only 10 shekels!  Should we have bargained?  

Now with some refreshment, we redirect ourselves to finding the stairway to the ramparts.  We decide to follow the wall and we finally find the stairs.  As we walk up the stairs, we once again reflect on how old these stones are and yes, here we are in Israel!   As we reach the top of the ramparts, the area is full of young school kids and their adult escorts.  It takes only a few minutes before a group of young girls come up to Harvey wanting to have their photos taken!  With lots of smiles on everyone's faces, we take their pictures and show them what they look like in the photo.  There seem to be a lot of school groups traveling this time of year.  And being a tourist carrying a camera clearly in site, and a smile on your face, is a sure way to meet them! 

After the students leave, we continue to walk the ramparts and read the information signposts, which are in Hebrew, Arabic and English.  At one signpost, we start a conversation with a man with a dictionary in his hand.  He is visiting his sister from the Ukraine and speaks Russian and some English.  His dictionary looks well worn.  He asks, as so many have, who we think is going to be president.  Harvey answers Medviedev and we all laugh!
We see a group of adult tourists coming out of an area on the ramparts, so we walk in that direction.   They are departing from a museum and we decide to check it out.  At the entrance, we learn that the museum opened just 5 months ago.  Before leaving the US, I had looked at the Frommers and Fodor's websites to see if there were any updates to their guidebooks and evidently this new museum hasn't been added into their update yet.  We're very glad that we stumbled upon it!  It's called the Ethnography Center of Acre and The Galilee or Treasures of the Wall for short.  You can check out their website at   The museum is in a renovated section of the ramparts and serves as a beautiful display area for objects illustrating the arts and crafts of The Galilee.  There is a moving story about the people who were involved in building this private collection.   There is an admission fee.  However, we learn later in the day that if you're going to get the complete ticket package for the Old Akko sites, then the admission to this museum is included!  Had we known, we could have saved 30 NIS!

We walk over to the El-Jazzar Mosque and admire the beautiful architecture.   Our next stop is the visitor's center for the underground Crusader city.   On our way there, we pass another orange juice vendor.  We order one but Harvey ends taking a liking to the guy so we end up with two.  We are his first customers in 4 hours.  He spoke 6 or 8 languages and has a great sales line.  After we left he started getting some other customers.  So you don't have to worry about him.  He has a great spot and we keep going past him during the day and each time we pass we have another talk.  We pass a nut vendor and we buy some pistachios with honey.   Just yummy!    Harvey comments that he really wants to enjoy this trip and wants to try things like this.  At the ticket counter, we get the combo admission ticket that includes the complete Akko package of all the Crusader sites and the Turkish Bath, as well as Rosh Hanikrah, saving 16 shekels each.  Of course we had spent an extra 15 shekels each because this ticket includes the Treasures of the Wall that we had already visited. Definitely get this complete Akko package, because the Turkish bath, which is included, was just great and shouldn't be missed!

Before starting the tour of the Crusader sites, we decide to have lunch at Hummus Sayid.  This is the restaurant that was recommended by the woman at the Maritime Museum in Haifa.  We depart the visitor center area and walk toward the Mosque, figuring we will ask directions, since we don't have an address.  We wind our way through narrow alleys, and after several left and right turns, we think we are lost.  We are beginning to wonder if we will ever find it, but at some point we ask a young man who is sitting on a bench.  He gets up, waves his hands as if to say, follow me.  He takes us through some winding alleys directly to Hummus Sayid and says something to the people at the restaurant who greet us.  We are so thankful and appreciative of his guidance!   At first I was a little nervous following a stranger in a strange place.  But Harvey is going, so I had to follow. The restaurant is a hub bub of activity, with no menu, offering three different types of hummus.  The waiter speaks some English and describes the options.  When I comment that I would really like to try two different types of hummus, but we want only one serving (they look really large), he offers to put two half portions in one bowl!  The hummus that I like best is the one with whole chick peas and garlic within the warm hummus.  It was the best hummus we ever had!  Will this start a war of where to go for the best hummus in Israel?  Is hummus in Israel like pizza in the U.S. in that each place you go, it has a different taste?   What are the "must try" hummus places in the Galilee, Eilat and Jerusalem?   Oh yes, if you go to Hummus Sayid, get there well before 2 PM, which is when we understand it closes.    Check out our photos, because we didn't see a sign on the front of the will help to get a visual on what the place looks like!  Or, look for a young guy sitting on a bench.  You'll see his photo among the Akko images.

After lunch, we start our tour of the Crusader sites, with the ear set audio dialog that is included in the price.  The ruins are very impressive, and I know I keep repeating myself, but it is such a kick to see and touch things that are so old!  The highlight of the sites is the Turkish bath.  The movie's dialog is anything but dull and the audio phone dialog as you tour the baths make the area come alive and give us a feeling for the life and times.  A must see.
As we exit the Turkish bath, we visit the Templar Tunnel and then the port area.  We see the Uri Buri seafood restaurant that has been highly recommended, but we just aren't hungry.  By the water, we see another bride being photographed; the month of May must be a very popular time to get married.  It seems we see at least one bride and groom being photographed each day!  We had only planned on a half day in Akko, and it is now after 5 PM! Before we knew it, the day had passed!  Rosh Hanikrah will need to wait until tomorrow.

By now, we figure that we will start back to our car and drive to a Lebanese restaurant that Gaddy had told us about.  By the time we would get there, we would be ready to eat.  As we make our way through the alleys to our car, once again we see Harvey's sense of direction in the works.  If I say left, he says right.  We go to the right and we seem to be getting closer to the car.  Yes, I have lost my sense of direction among the twists and turns of the alleys!  We are both surprised when we see signs for the synagogue which we had tried to find earlier in the day, and which no one could direct us to.  It is at the end of a small unmarked alley with no clear signage from the street.  We take several pictures to help others find the spot.  We are even more surprised when we get to the front door and find that it is actually open!  Well barely open.  The rabbi is just about to close up but I think that he is so happy someone was able to find the synagogue that he shows us around for a few minutes.  We see a very old torah on deerskin which we photograph; we also learn that there is a yeshiva in town.  Harvey's Hebrew continues to improve, because he either understands what the man is telling us or made it up.  It was time to leave.  We wait in the alley because we want to get a picture of the rabbi as he leaves.  As he comes out he tries unsuccessfully to engage some of his Muslim neighbors in banter.  Emerging from the alley, Harvey is surrounded by another group of young girls who want their pictures taken.  Unable to resist any young female Harvey obliges and before you know it there is a crowd of boys and girls.  The rabbi joins in as well.  One girl is so insistent that she even convinces her hesitant mother to get in a picture.

To end a glorious day, we eat at the Lebanese Arazim restaurant in Shlomi ( 04-9875244.  If you're looking for Shlomi on a map, it is east of Rosh Hanikrah, on Route 899 just west of Haniyah junction.  Some maps spell is "Shelomi".  For the second time today, someone guides us to the location.  This time, we stop at a gas station and someone says that we should just follow him in his car and he will take us to the place!  Just incredible helpfulness.  The waitress is the daughter of the owner, who moved to Israel from Lebanon.    We order an inclusive meal that has 9 different salads (2 humus, 1 tahini, 1 lentil, 1 rice, and vegetable salads), schnitzel and lamb kabobs, baklava and coffee. This restaurant is very informal and not fancy at all, but offers fresh ingredients with flavorful seasonings.  We take our left overs home and eat them for breakfast the next morning.  And we liked it so much, we plan to return for the next evening's dinner!

Journaling comment: this daily journal has morphed into a collaborative effort by both Harvey and I!  During the day, I write cryptic notes on a small notepad to trigger my memory when I start writing.  With so many experiences each day, I need the on-the-spot references to enable me to recreate the feelings on the screen of my mind a few days later when the actual writing of the journal is being done!  I write passages and pass the laptop to Harvey so he can edit and add things from his perspective.  It always amazes me that we experience the same things yet see them so differently. So although this journal is written in the first person, it's become a joint effort in much the same way our 37 years of marriage has been.    
Click here for today's photos!
A note about the music on today's web gallery:
We wanted to represent both the Islamic and Crusader aspects of Akko.  The music consists of two recordings.  The first is a call to prayer.  The second is a Medieval Drum Dance.
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