Day 8: Rosh Hanikrah, Montfort Castle

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

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Where I stayed
Pivko Village/Kibbutz Cabri (Kabri)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

We're picking up where we left off yesterday and going to Rosh Hanikrah (also spelled Rosh Haniqra) this morning.  These are the grottoes that both Harvey and I remember from our first visit to Israel.   Rosh Hanikrah is on the border with Lebanon so you see signs about the border crossing.   We park our car in the parking lot and see a heavy military presence with soldiers and armored vehicles.  We walk past the omnipresent group of students up the hill, just investigating and looking around and guess what, we walk up to the border crossing!  We figure out that we must have missed the entrance for the grottoes, so we retrace our steps and find the cable car entrance.  There are large signs so the average person can't miss it.  After a few minute cable car ride, we enter into the grotto tunnels.  They're dark and slippery, so we hold on to the railings and follow the path towards the thundering sound of water whooshing into the mountain's grottos.  It was just so cool!  We adjust our camera's ISO and try many different approaches to getting the camera settings to handle the difficult lighting.  I don't think any photo can really capture and express the beautiful color of the water, the sounds and the sensation of being in the underground passage.  I have in big letters in my notepad to write TRAVEL ALERT!  As you are approaching the end of the passage there is a break in the overhead of the cavern.  You get the feeling that you are on a balcony.  Do not pause to take pictures here.  Quickly proceed through the outside area and re-enter the passage.  Why you ask?  It is here that birds have some metal grating to perch on, and these grates are just above where we walk!  Harvey paused to take a photo, and he got crapped on his shirt.  You can only guess what he said to that!   Something like...I hate birds!  Thinking quickly, he went to the men's room, took off his shirt and rinsed it in the sink.  It was a good thing that we're traveling with very lightweight, easily hand washable shirts. The personal intention for the day is "smile and laugh".  Here is our opportunity to practice!

After completing our first passage through the grottos we go to see the film about the history of Rosh Hanikrah.  As you get off the cable car the attendant will give you the schedule of the film in various languages.  Amazingly, we are the only people viewing the film in English.  As we leave the film area the hordes of students are lined up to enter.

We had gone through the grottos a little faster than we would have preferred because we wanted to see the film.  So we decide to revisit the grottos for more pictures.  When we get to the bird section I stop to take some pictures and guess what?  No you are wrong.  Harvey quickly reminds me of the risk I was taking and I escape the awful fate he had experienced.  About 2 seconds after I moved, the bombardment began.  I swear that this is a game for the birds.  It is like target practice.  Because he had taken the time to save me, Harvey was still on the wrong side of the target range.  He waits for the enemy to reload and makes a mad dash to safety.  Of course this is photographically documented.

We return to our car and drive on a little side road that runs parallel to the main road leading away from the site.  Note that this little road does not show on the driving map, but it is a real neat road (you can see it from the parking lot of Rosh Haniqra).  We park, walk to the Mediterranean, fill our hands with water and splash our faces.  On this trip, we are visiting four bodies of water: the Mediterranean, the Kinneret, the Dead Sea, and the Red Sea.   This is our first!
At this spot, there are fishermen, a family bathing in the sea, and another wedding photo session in process.  We strike up a conversation with another big lens, camera toting guy who is from northern Sweden in Lapland and is a professional wedding photographer!  He's touring around in a scooter.  But the big find on this spot is that across the street is the "Holiday Village" that we stayed at 37 years ago!  It's still there!

Back in the car, we make our way towards Montfort Castle.  This was part of our original plan to see the western Galilee today.  We stop for lunch in the town of Mi'Ilya.  The person who helps us order had lived for a few years in Canada, but he decided to return home because all of his family and friends are here in Mi'Ilya.  We ask him for directions to the local church as well as to Montfort.  I want to see the church; the head of the church is a leader in the dialog between Israeli Jews, Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Arabs.  Also the view from the rooftop is supposedly breathtaking.  I had read that this town is comprised of Lebanese-Catholic residents and have the highest per capita income of all Israeli Arabs and of any minority group in Israel.  The Church of the Lady was built in the 17th century on the ruins of a crusader fortress.  Maybe on our next visit to Israel, we'll call ahead to arrange a visit to the church (054-539-6777) or a guided tour of Mi'Ilya (offered by Amnon Gofer at 054-654-9191). Note, I do not remember where I got this contact information!

Driving through Mi'Ilya, we cannot find the church...and time is moving along, so we follow the directions for Montfort Castle.  We had been told at lunch that you could drive within 50 meters of Montfort and that all we had to do was drive straight through town and we would come to it.  Well, we keep driving straight and when the road starts going downhill, we figure we have missed it, because a castle is typically on a promontory for security purposes.  We take our first possible turn, which appears to lead to something of an industrial nature, but with no one around.  We turn around and as we are coming back on to the main dirt road, we see another car approaching!  We catch their attention and both our cars stop; the woman in the back seat speaks enough English to explain that we had passed it quite a ways back!  So, this time we drive slowly and discover a tiny sign for "Montfort".  You can't miss it.  We take a picture of it so if you go this way, you'll be on the look out for it.  Turn at this itsy, bitsy sign; go a little further on the dirt road and you'll find a large area to park your car.  There is only one walking path that goes downhill, so follow that for about 40 minutes and you will get to Montfort Castle!  It's a worthwhile hike with beautiful views.  The trees on the countryside are so green that I ask Harvey several times, how many shades of green do you see on the mountain?  We pass through some interesting rock formations and visually appealing trees whose bark are peeling.  There are enough remaining ruins to easily visualize the castle and how strategic a position it controlled.  Across the valley you can see busloads of people who have walked 50 feet from the bus to a viewing platform so that they can see the castle without having to hike in.  There is a much longer hiking approach from across the valley and we could see some people on that path.  It really highlighted that the defenders could see the enemy approaching.  We just take some pictures of the invaders.  The return trip is mostly up hill and I am pleased to report to my cardio trainer that all the pre-trip preparation was a success!  No major huffing and puffing!

We return to our Lebanese restaurant from last night and then come back to Kibbutz Kabri to enjoy our Jacuzzi as the sun sets.  I have never understood why some nights the setting sun appears so large, but tonight is one of those and it is a big orange ball.  As we soak our muscles in the bubbling hot water, we think once again how special it is to be here in Israel.  A fitting way to end another special day!

This is our last of three nights at Pivko Village at Kibbutz Kabri.  Perhaps this is the appropriate time to make some comments about these accommodations.  The zimmer is located just east of Nahariya, about 15 minutes to Akko or Rosh Hanikrah. We chose it because it would be a quiet location to spend the nights, yet allow for local day trips.  Breakfast is not included, but there is a grocery store within the kibbutz and I thought that would be an interesting experience for us.  In addition to the location, the extra space of a zimmer and the views clinched the choice.  You can check out the website for photos and more information:   Let me say first, that Pivko Village is for an independent type traveler.  When we first arrived, there was no one around so we went up to the Adelina Restaurant and they made a phone call for us.  The one bedroom, one living room with kitchenette zimmer is attached to another like zimmer.  The shared wall can be retracted so the common living area can be shared.  If you are traveling as a family or with another couple, then you could take the full zimmer and it would work out great, because you could be together and also have privacy when you wanted it.  As a couple, the dividing wall was closed.  This worked fine our first night when no one was occupying the other side.  However, on the second night we could hear conversations and their television, so we lost the sense of privacy that we like.  That being said, Gaddy our host was very helpful on the first day, sitting with us and giving recommendations for our days.  They also provided a homemade chocolate bobka-like cake one day, a dozen plums and some spa lotions for me, and cordial for Harvey from another local kibbutz.    You are fairly isolated at this zimmer.  Since there is no lobby or communal breakfast you do not have much contact with anyone.  Unless you eat at Adelina, the Kibbutz's fancy restaurant, you have to drive about 15 minutes to the closest alternatives.  We ate at Adelina one night.  The food and service were great, but it had a limited menu and was not the sort of place we wanted to eat at every night.
Click here for today's photos!
A note about the music on today's web gallery:
The second piece is called The Old Castle.  It is played by one of the great Jazz Guitarists named Johnny Smith.  It is a very unusual piece for Smith, but it seemed to go with our visit to Montefort Castle.  When I remembered another piece by Smith it seemed obvious that it should be included because it goes with Marge's' efforts on this journal.  It is called "I Could Write a Book".
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