Israel Part 2
Israel Part 2…
and note about my love for Tel Aviv!
I decided to write a separate note all together on Tel Aviv. It is such a magical and fascinating place, I would not do its justice, with just a paragraph in previous blog about Israel. I mentioned earlier that my parents lived and worked in Israel back in early 90’s. They lived in Jaffa. At time it was purely Arab community with cheap houses and lively community. Following in my parents’ footsteps, on my first ever trip to Tel Aviv I decided to stay in Jaffa.
It is a beautiful area with a lot of history. My room was overlooking Flea Market – a must sea when in Tel Aviv. Hundreds of vendors, stalls and shops with everything you can imagine. From vintage clothes, antiques, vinyl records, art to carpets and furniture sellers. In the evening Flea Market shuts down, but there are plenty of bars and restaurants, spilling on to the streets with their tables and lights, you are no longer sure if you are sitting in one or the other place. It all mixes up into one. Such busy nightlife with a lot of people, many places are booked days in advance. As a solo traveller though, the advantage is, you can normally get seated at the bar, as it is easier to find a single spot.
One of the places I had pleasure to eat and drink was Onza, right in heart of Flea Market alleyways. Place with fantastic vibe, great Turkish cuisine food and fabulous cocktails. I definitely recommend, but be prepared, Tel Aviv is not cheap, but you don’t just pay for food, you pay for the atmosphere and that is something else. I have not experienced life like this anywhere else in the world so far.
Old Yafo is a place full of history. One of the oldest ports in the world. Jaffa is another place where you can sign up to a free tour with Sandemans. It is definitely worth it, unless you did your research beforehand. In fact, they hire a lot of Polish origin people! My tour guide was of Polish origin. After a couple of hours of discovering Jaffa – from Clock Tower, Al Bahr Mosque, through the port and straight into Old Yafo streets filled with galleries and cafes. Cats city – Israelis love their four-legged friends and there are cats absolutely everywhere. We ended the tour at the top of the hill, next to St Peters Church. There is a bridge with all of the star signs. The Wishing Bridge with 12 embraced zodiac symbols. The legend states, that if you stare at the sea, while holding onto your zodiac, you will have your wish come true. My wish was to return to Tel Aviv, and guess what it came true.
Avi and I finally sat down and spoke for a long time about our own stories, about Poland, our family history and more. Avi, had Polish grandparents. How fabulous Polish he spoke, even though he has never been to Poland. He was fascinated by my story, as we sat chatting and overlooking Tel Aviv from the HaPisga Garden. Right next to…Polish church.
On one of the other evenings, I ventured to Kedumim Square in Jaffa, with friends that I made in Israel so far. Plenty of lovely restaurants and bars. On this occasion we settled on Greek cuisine. Kalamata restaurant has not only got an amazing food to offer, more amazing are the views. Overlooking the port and sea, is definitely a place ideal for someone going on a date. Very romantic, great food, cosy atmosphere.
This was a short trip, but since I returned to Tel Aviv few more times, further recommendations continue. Just near Jaffa there is a place called Old Train Station, which in fact back in a day was a train station. Not just any train station, but the oldest train station ever built in the middle east, dating back to 1890’. There are still train tracks there and even old carriages. The place is great to visit during day or night. With cafes, exhibits, shows and restaurants, don’t be surprised when you are not sure which place to pick. They are all great, and I am sure even locals have not managed to try all what Tel Aviv has to offer. I personally can recommend Vicky Cristina, since I have spent a great night there eating tapas style food and drinking fabulous cocktails, till early morning hours. With a massive tree in the middle of the grounds, lit with hundreds of lights, plenty of tables and really attentive staff.
I have attended few walking tours (which I usually do when travelling to different cities), but I also did a lot of discovering of the city myself. The must do while in Tel Aviv, is a couple hour walk from Old Jaffa Port down to Old Tel Aviv Port. Tel Aviv has a beautiful promenade, that connects the whole city. You can walk, you can ride a bike or an electric scooter. You will pass plenty of beaches – Banana Beach, Jerusalem Beach, Bugrashov Beach, Gordon Beach and more. Each slightly different to the previous one. You will see how the city changes – from ancient Jaffa, through modern hotels and apartment blocks, to old city architecture, run down buildings. There are people at the beach all day with friends, families, exercising or on a date. They are playing beach volleyball, playing beach football, exercising at the outdoor gym at Gordon beach, surfing and paddle boarding. Thanks to the 300 sunny days in the year this city evolves around beach life and I absolutely love it.
When you get to the Old Tel Aviv Port, it is another great place to…eat! Yes, more great bars and restaurants. Also, few night clubs for those loving night life and wanting to return later on – probably about midnight, as that is when all the great parties start. I had pleasure to get to the party at one of them, to sip few cocktails and shots - Light becomes a very crowded place. I am not surprised, such great club, right next to the beach, great music, alcohol is flowing all night – Israelis know how to party. I got to experience it first hand thanks to my good connections, in this case club manager Oran. Thank you my dear friend 😉 – he would not let me finish this blog without mentioning him hahaha.
The boardwalk takes you through the worldwide known brands shops. What I enjoy most, is the little farmers market like area, right at the end of the port. With some fantastic stalls, fresh food produces like fruit, vegetables, hummus, olives, cheeses to great falafels, and organic smoothies.
Within the city itself, a must do is walk down Rothschild Boulevard. You could start at the bottom of Neve Tzedek quite an avant-garde area of the city, with a lot of artists, fashion boutiques, crafts stores and stylish bistros and cafes. Make sure to stop in one of them, grab a table outside and do some people watching while enjoying sunny weather. From there you are only short walk away to famous Rothschild. Beware of cyclists and scooter riders, unless you are one of them. It is an integrated part of Tel Aviv. With how busy roads are and crazy traffic, bikes and scooters are one of the best forms of communication. If you still prefer to commute with four wheels make sure you download yourself an application Gett – local Uber like service. Parking is just impossible in Tel Aviv, so I would not recommend hiring a car. Bus links are really good and cheap too.
Going back to Rothschild – it is the best place to get fashion inspiration. Israelis have a fantastic sense of style. Very relaxed but fashionable at the time. Full of modern and vintage style combinations. To be honest you could wear anything in Tel Aviv and no one would judge you. It is all about the individuality. Plenty of bars, restaurants, cafes around. Just off Rothschild, on Allenby, opposite the Great Synagogue is one of the most hipster bars (to a simple European like me 😉) – Port Sa’id. Great food, great vibe, drinks, very relaxed atmosphere and open till late. So, everything that makes a place successful in Israel you would think? Next to Port Sa’id some other great restaurants, personally I had a pleasure of eating dinner at Santa Katarina. Mediterranean cuisine, lovely staff – I can certainly recommend shish kebabs, egg plant salad and you have to try lovely Israeli wine!
From Rothschild you are only really a walk away from many other must sees. Meir Garden, Bialik House, Carmel Market, Nachalat Binyamin Market (arts and crafts market), Bauhaus Centre, Habima Square, Dizengoff Centre and Square, Tel Aviv Museum of Art and more. All of those places tell a different story. Tel Aviv is one of the main Bauhaus style architecture destinations. In between the modern skyscrapers and eclectic villas, there are more than 4000 structures in that old style. You just need to grab a camera and go on the city walk.
Meir Park is a great place to rest, in between a shade of many trees, beautiful pond, lie down on a sun chair and grab a book from a small mobile library. At weekends locals can come and adopt a dog here, as local dog shelters arrange an adoption day at this park. I did mention already how much Israelis love their animals.
Shuk HaCarmel and Nachalat Binyamin Market are both places to wander from early morning. Feel the smell of local food, buy fresh fruit and vegetable, experience the busy life of locals but don’t be surprised at night, to see leftover food and cockroaches running in between them. This is how the real life at markets looks like. At the latter one you can pick from many crafts stores, find some fantastic souvenirs, art or just an inspiration.
What I love most about Tel Aviv is the freedom. Freedom to be who you want to be. This is one of the most liberal cities I have been too. With a very big LGBT community, organising biggest Pride Parade in the world each year. People here are proud, they are loud, they are mix of all nations – I have met people originating from Poland, Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil, Canada, USA and more! They are a closed nation though, with such painful but long history, I can see why they do not want to let just anyone live in their country. It is also very expensive country, full of bureaucracy. Getting to know this place better and having pleasure to made friends, it allowed me to understand more about the complexity of Israel, its tradition, religion, politics and day to day life. I do have a very special place for Tel Aviv in my heart. Maybe it was due to my parents having planted roots here 25 years ago, maybe due to my own journey through this country and city? What I know is I am going back there very soon, and am sure I will have more to report on – after all I still have not managed to discover it all.
Make sure you consider this as a place to visit, don’t be afraid, don’t listen to scary news – Israel is a beautiful country, with a lot of culture and history, great food (oh yes, I forgot to mention – BEST ice cream in the world on Dizengoff Street – Otello yummie), great night life, beautiful beaches and lots of sun.
For a list of my favourite Tel Aviv Top Spots click on button below - with restaurants, bars, cafes, breakfast places and other must sees in Tel Aviv, as there is just too many to list on a single blog.
For now enjoy!