The question should not be why to visit Tel Aviv, rather — why not to visit Tel Aviv. Most of the people’s reactions to Israel, especially in Eastern Europe is – “its dangerous” …”war zone”…”women join army, that must be weird”..and so on. But then I heard a couple of great stories and how amazing this country is and I decided to give it a chance and booked a direct ticket with Austrian Airlines from Vienna. Patrik and I traveled on the April 27th for nice and long 8 days and 9 nights. There are two types of travelers – “the lie on the beach all day” and “the thrill seekers”. While I consider myself the part of the first group, once in a while I stand up from the beach towel, shake the sand off and go to explore something. So while in Israel we also visited Jerusalem, probably the most bizarre city in the world and Jaffa, the worlds oldest port. I have learned pretty interesting and fascinating stuff about this country so let’s start because your next booking might be just Israel and I really wish it was.
First and foremost I really appreciate Austrian Airlines with their services. I am have been traveling for about 15 years now and it was not always for leisure or holidays. Mostly it was for tennis and it taught me how important is to spend a couple of extra money for having on-time baggage, nice staff, fair baggage allowance (sorry Ryanair, that’s not you), top-notch service and tasty onboard food. The price of this flight was around 200 Euros which is a really fair price. After arrival, we took a taxi instead of really well organized public transportation because we arrived around 1 am on Friday which means during Shabbat. Shabbat is the most important ritual observance in Judaism and it is a day of rest and celebration that begins on Friday at sunset and ends on the following evening after nightfall.
However, as I learned, Shabbat is about enjoying the time without electronics, spending it with your family, reading, playing with your dogs, eating great food, playing board games, walking on a beach and foremost, just to letting yourself stop and reflect on your life. (*Fun fact: Did you know that only humans have the ability to reflect on themselves? No other species could step outside of themselves and look at their days, actions, thoughts, etc. How about to really use it? LOL.) I loved the idea of Shabbat so much that I was even thinking to practice it myself, since I would appreciate a bit of time without electronics and just let myself “be”. Great stuff. My boyfriend and I have booked a lovely apartment through Airbnb probably a month before arrival. That should be enough, but feel free to book it sooner. The good ones go really fast. So we booked this place and I would recommend it to someone who is looking for something with a great location near the beach, nice cafes and other cool places with a reasonable price for Tel Aviv. It’s not a high end or anything like that so if you like your towels to be changed every day, then look somewhere else but Erez is a cool guy with good recommendations for local places to eat and drink.
THE BEACHES WHERE IT ALL HAPPENS
We really wanted to visit a city where we can just enjoy the beach and sunbathe until we are baked AF. Done and done. The beaches in Tel Aviv are the epicenter of social life in the city. The huge promenade is full of runners and the beachfront is full of romantic restaurants and bars. We really appreciated the whole vibe and we discovered a magic of Matkot. The national beach sport of every Israeli. Oh and don’t fool yourself, this is not just running around with wooden rackets at the beach. This sport has its beauty in hitting the ball as hard as you can. The best practice is to use carbon rackets which cost around 200 Euros but its totally worth it. Being a former tennis player I really appreciate the rules – no rules, no net, no faults, the only thing to think about is to not to let the ball fall on the ground. Really great game. The beach is well equipped with showers, water fountains, and bars every couple of meters. It does not really matter at which beach you will bake yourself, all of them are great. However, we really enjoyed the one in front of DAN hotel. The access to the beach is free, but you could rent the sunbeds for a couple of euros a day. It’s not expensive. The beer is. More specifically it’s 10 euros a small beer so you better go to groceries and buy a six pack there, but it won’t be much better. Alcohol overall is pretty expensive in Tel Aviv. It could get easily to 15 to 20 euros a cocktail or a shot.
Once we got a tan we wished for, we decided to explore the culture and the local beauty. Jaffa is only a few minutes walk from Tel Aviv and it was recommended to us as a place to get a guided tour. We booked a free guided tour from Sandeman’s. Its tips based and we really enjoyed it. The guy, called Eric told us how the city of Jaffa was the gate for all people who were traveling to Jerusalem and many people risked their lives on their journey and other inside stories of this city. Jaffa with its unique, old-world atmosphere is completely different than the rest of Tel Aviv. It’s a wonderful place to visit, during the day or night, but not at noon, which was, of course, our case. It was so hot that we could even not move. However, we get to see the vibrant multiethnic community of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. It was once conquered by Napoleon, and its a very popular place for all archeologists out there. Decades ago, Israeli artists were awarded studios and residences in the small cobbled streets of Jaffa’s Old City so even now its full of artists and their creations. One of them is famous for hanging orange tree sculpture by environmental artist Ran Morin. Its suppose to represent the present times and how humanity is disconnected from nature. We, humans, are still flourishing and getting advanced but at some point, we lost the connection from nature and our roots and we become lost. I really loved this metaphor. So true.
Technically I am Christian, but I don’t practice it. I did not know anything about this city. All I knew was its a biblical city and it’s nice to visit. Little did I know about the spirituality and facts that make this city so bizarre. It’s sacred to three different communities that have to live with each other here. Jews, Muslims, and Christians, all at once. Isn’t it amazing? They all have their own sacred places they go to pray to. Jews have their Western Wall (sometimes called the Wailing Wall, or the Kotel, the Hebrew word for wall) and are one of the last remaining walls of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The Dome of The Rock is for Muslims. And Christians have their Church of the Holy Sepulchre and is believed to be the site of the Golgotha ( Calvary) where Jesus was historically crucified. The church has long been a major pilgrimage center for Christians all around the world.
My question is how these three religions could live next to each other? Other great stuff I have learned was the stories behind the orthodox Jewish clothing. Why do they wear the suits and hats all the time? The mentality is that in a Jews everyday life, he or she is always observed by God, especially during prayer, which to Jews, serves as a meeting, a one on one with God. Also, its because they must be appropriately dressed once the Messiah will come. The curls along their faces are there because they meant to represent the “frame”. Frame in the sense that face is a creation of god and it shall not be touched by the knife and that’s why the long beards as well. Some jews never shaved in their life. Their faces should be frames and those curls should do the job. Interesting right?
They are many many facts about the Jewish culture and religion that left me in astonishment and I am glad that I could hear and see it all. While we have visited the Jerusalem there was a race Giro Ditalia so that was an interesting thing to see as well. Its a world known cycling race and we got super lucky to see Peter Sagan.
FOOD AND OTHER TIPS
In Tel Aviv, the dining options are endless, whether you’re after the best hummus or a perfectly cooked Mediterranean seafood dish. The prices in Israel are definitely not low. Prices for food in shops are probably higher than in any other central European or even some western countries. I would even say its pretty expensive. The currency is called NIS or the New Israeli Shekel and 1 NIS is equivalent to 0,25 euros. Prices of the beers might be 40 shekels, chips 20 shekels, a
solid meal in a restaurant is around 80 shekels and so on. So it’s a bit overpriced. But its definitely worth it so why not to go for it. Tel Aviv is very well known for its food tourism and culinary. Locals love to eat, drink and eat some more. There are different quarters and each of them has something unique. Here is an overview of fee places in different quarters you should visit while in Tel Aviv.
Port Said, KIKI, Hakovshim and other great places
Port said is a place in Rothschild where locals eat. Cool locals. Those locals who were early adopters of Instagram and blogging. This great place is near Allenby street. The restaurant is always full of hip people and you might think you are in the middle of some sort of underground art party. The place is outside, its usually very full and the vibe is unbelievable. Also a great beer and service. Don’t forget to tip people in Tel Aviv. It’s very similar to American system where you are obliged to tip the personnel by at least 15 percent. Other great places to visit are KIKI, Hakovshim, Carmel Market, Fruit Bar, Pepos Burekas, and many others that we haven’t visited 🙂
I was really surprised how Americanized Tel Aviv is and I would say that the majority of expats are Americans. I really loved that because I truly miss my fab California.:) This city has everything and by everything, I really do mean everything. From the amazing food to the very unique and warm people this city has it all.