Day 18: Subway and Sfeeha

Trip Start May 19, 2009
Trip End Jun 16, 2009

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Friday, June 5, 2009

(Day 18, Haifa, Friday) I'm sure after a few years, endless days of sun and heat could get boring or hard to endure. For now, being from Seattle, it will do. Moreover, there was a nice strong breeze to take the edge off the heat. We set off after breakfast along the promenade that runs behind our hotel (with great views of the city and harbor below us) just down the road to the top end of the famous Baha'i gardens which run in a wide swath down the hill and surround the golden dome of the shrine. Together, they are probably the foremost symbol of Haifa. Turns out we needed to join a tour to see much of the gardens, but the timing was wrong, so we walked down the hill to another gate so we could get to see some of the gardens on our own. They were lovely and well tended, a mix of bright flowers and varieties of cactus. We also got a glimpse inside the shrine entryway, having missed the mid-morning cutoff for full access.

We descended the hill some more, through Arab residential neighborhoods, down long flights of stairs, past schoolkids at play, laundry hanging out windows, and satellite dishes and water tanks. We got another good view of the shrine and gardens, this time from the very bottom looking up the hill. We walked through the German Colony neighborhood, now full of upscale restaurants in stone architecture from a hundred years ago.

We decided to take the "subway" back up the hill. It's described as the Middle East's only (or at least first) subway, but it's basically an underground funicular, running in a nearly straight line past its six stops. The cars seats and door entries are level, but the rest of the cars are diagonal, so there are stairs running through them as you walk from one end to another. Anyway, up we went, getting out at the end of the line, not far from our hotel. We agreed to skip our drive to neighboring Akko (Acre), in favor of taking the afternoon off and relaxing. On the short walk back, I happened to notice an Israeli music store I had heard good things about, and luckily it was open for another two hours, til 3:00 (closing early on Friday before Shabbat begins at sundown is quite common). I used the full two hours to poke around, listen to CDs, and make my purchases, while Kevin went on to the hotel. Eventually, I caught up and sat in the lobby with him and our laptops (thus the three blog entries on Friday).

At dusk, we took a walk down to the local Cinematheque to see what was playing. As it turns out, not much: there was a private screening of a film in Russian just then, and the late show of "Revolutionary Road" was sold out (we have seen it anyway). We took the car and the GPS and headed to the German Colony again for dinner. It was quite the hopping place, with loud outdoor Russian karaoke, a nice hotel, much outdoor dining at a variety of restaurants, and endless traffic (and cars parked at crazy angles). We ate at Douzan, which we had found in our guidebook, a French-Arabic place decorated with clocks and bookcases and framed family pictures from a long time ago. For a change, we sat inside and had a great meal, including sfeeha, a local appetizer.

Deciding against staying up til midnight when a certain club was supposed to have a gay night, we drove around the hill instead hoping to find this supposed gay-friendly cafe. The GPS got us to the address, on a narrow residential street, but the place was not to be found, and the phone was not in service. Oh well. Back to the hotel, and flipping through the many channels (Hebrew, but also Arabic, Russian, German, French, and Hungarian), settling on "90210" (the new series), for a change sparing Kevin the incomprehensible Hebrew stuff I've been watching.
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weekilter on

The Carmelit!
Glad you had an opportunity to ride the Carmelit! It was not in service for many years. I think it was French built many years ago.

When my parents lived in Yerushalayim the apartment house they lived in also had a shabat elevator that automatically traveled to every other floor. Their place wasn't far from the Israel Museum. My sister also lived for a time in the Rehavia neighborhood.

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