Spring Western adventures in Templin

DSC09538

One year ago, I celebrated the beginnging of a beautiful spring day in Templin, and 12 months after I was back in the small Brandenburg city which is the hometown of Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel for exploring the other part of the city.

DSC09543

Shortly arrived in the train station, I headed direction Westernstadt, an adventure park that promises a lot of Western-like experiences. Although there is a bus that connects the city to this area, it works only during the week and thus, I had to walk a couple of kilometers. Luckily, the weather was nice and the road was quite sure. Close to a wood deposit, a train platform was presented as a possible attraction for visitors, but there were no one to give more information about tickets and schedule. Maybe later in the year…

DSC09552

After another half an hour of walk, I stumbled upon a small antiquities shop near the road, stuffed with everything, from old family pictures to metal garden tools and furniture.

DSC09556

Nothing compares though with the view of beautiful horses enjoying too the coming of the spring. In the quietness of the place, they offered a silently moving fragment of life and beauty.

DSC09560

But what is this noise? The serenity of the previous scenery was suddenly interrupted by the broken sound of repeated shootings. Hopefully, it was no war or frozen conflict getting heated nearby, I was just approachign the destination of my travel day: Westernstadt.

DSC09566

With most part of the activities taking place open air, the Western City is usually open from April to November, between 10am and 6pm. It has a huge parking place, as the car is the easiest transportation during the weekend, when the bus is on break. I arrived shortly before closing -something went wrong with my time management the whole day – but not late enough for not seizing the local ambiance.

DSC09567

There are different experiences offered to the big and small visitors, from photo boots where you can picture yourself and your family in the specific ambiance to live shows.

DSC09568

Beautiful horses are patrolling the sandy streets of the city, friendly enough for being approached by children.

DSC09572

Once in a while, one can also learn some country dancing steps. You are in El Dorado, after all…

DSC09577

Everything I go, I was more and more getting into the local feeling. Some colourful totems at a crossroad encouraged me to explore more the place instead of going down near the lake to see admire a quiet slice of nature.

DSC09582

If I would have been a child visiting Western city, it would be hard to resist the temptation to hide in one of these tents hidden beneath bushes. DSC09585

There is also a little animal farm and an adventurous playground.DSC09591Don’t forget about the golden washing places as being in El Dorado always involved the search for some precious gold. DSC09595

Just in case, if you need to defend your treasure, you can get some special shooting training for being ready to react against your enemies, just in case…DSC09598In the saloon, the dark corners gives you intimacy and the time to think where can be the best undiscovered source of gold. As the closing time was getting closer, groups of parents and their children were heading to the exit and doors were locked behind. The silence was taking control of everything and sooner, the lack of movement will wrap perfectly the entire place.DSC09618Remnants of some communist youth activities on a wall near the Westernstadt were reminding that Templin used to be part of the red part of Germany. But right now, there is the Western spirit who won and with the new constructions being built ahead, those times will be soon only history books memories. DSC09627For me, it is about time to take the road back home, walking my portion of kilometers on the way to the train station. At mid-distance, I made a stop near a beautiful lake, that confirms the fame of Templin as the ‘pearl’ of the natural area of Uckermark. DSC09634

The huge storks hosted on the top of houses kept me company most part of the hiking. Maybe I did not spend a full day in Western style, but at least I was back in time to check how the winter finally surrended to the sunny spring. See you in one year, Templin?

Disclaimer: I was offered a free entrance to Westernstadt, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

For more pictures from Templin, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/templin-stadt/

Crossing the Channel. Another travel dream come true!

DSC09357

I am not too much into travel buckets – my one and truly only such list has one big objective written down with several colours: See the World! – but crossing the Channel Tunnel – if possible to Pas-de-Calais – was always a secret dream of mine. Thus, when I decided to come back from London by car, I knew that this will finally happen. We left London in the afternoon spending a lot of time on the crowded streets. After around one hour and a half of safe driving, we spotted the first signs announcing the proximity with the channel.DSC09358

My dear France was only 35 minutes away from me and went very excited about the coming experience. But first, we went through the passport checking on both sides, that went very fast and without any bureaucratic problems.DSC09363In-between controls, a little stop at the shopping area, a clean area offering a lot of small souvenires shops and some basic fast food courts. DSC09366

Once the legal procedure finished, we were ready to go. I was very curious about the channel but even now, a couple of weeks after went through the experience, cannot explain clearly why. The most important fascination has to do probably with the fact that it is the largest undersea tunnel in the world, with around 38 km. long going under the sea. DSC09368The first plans for such a project were discussed as far as 1802, following the designs of the mining French engineer Albert Matthew Faner. At the time, it was aimed to serve the transportation with carriage, but till 1830, the idea of the construction of rail networks was already in sight. In 1867, on the occassion of the Exposition Universelle de Paris, Queen Victoria and Napoleon III agreed over the necessity of the channel, but the dream come true only at the end of 1990. DSC09371

Most delays were due to various financial problems and some political misunderstandings too. As for now, the channel traversation is part of the daily routine and can be done by train and car in just 30 minutes. DSC09372The process of crossing as such does not justify at all my enthusiasm and curiosity. It may be another example of attraction – my personal one – for scientific achievements that I don’t necessarily understand in their technical details and that fascinates me especially for their inhuman perfection.DSC09375The cars are entering the train platform, some of them with colourful wagons that contrast with the dirty look from inside. There are special schedules for the trains, but we were lucky to be in time and there were some space left for us. The interior is in fact a big parking place and it reminded me of the recent water crossing to Konstanz, the last summer. Except that you don’t see anything. Indoors, everything is that quiet that you might think that you actually are not moving at all. The speed is probably so high that you end up by not feeling it at all.DSC09376

After a while, the waiting is getting bored, but you are allowed to go out of your car and go on the other side of the silver doors and visit the restaurant or the restrooms. Of course I wanted to do it too – mostly disappointed that nothing special is happening during the much awaited travel experience – but after a couple of minutes I was still passing by another cars and decided that I better give up and come back to my car.DSC09378

It was an inspired choice as the traversation was done fast, in around 30 minutes. The pleasant view of Pas-de-Calais and its vineyard hills were welcoming us and I forgot all the disappointments. The worse part was to come: my decision to go back to Berlin from London by car, only because of the Channel, was worth 25 hours of driving across Europe, mostly during the night. But following the motto: Better now than ever, it was just another travel experience that you should go through it if you are really interested about what is done and going on in this world we are living.

Strawberry jam and shopping in Elstal

DSC09049

For someone used to intensively travel at least 4 times the month, this spring went surprisingly quiet. After spending some good and travel-rich months in Israel, the return to Berlin and especially its short dark days did not make me feel too good. But once the first raw of lights lightened the grey sky, I gathered all my strength and went back on the road again. In the beginning, not too far away, only around two hours away from the city, at Elstal. With my ABC ticket, I went first by bus – till the Tegeler Weg and from there by train till Elstal stop. The serious shoppers can find a better and comfier way, by booking directly the shuttle bus that goes directly from Ku’damm on the Outlet website. The offer is available on Fridays and Saturdays. If not so many people heading to the bus station leading to the shopping paradise, I would have think that I arrived in an abandoned place, as the train station was looking grey and not very welcoming.

DSC09052

More action and colours – and a huge parking place – were waiting on the other side of the Brandenburg-styled massive entrance. The outlet store is closed on most Sundays (it may sound unusual for anyone used with the intensive shopping programs, but Germans cherish their Sunday free day very much) and on Bank holidays, and open from Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm and Friday to Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm.

DSC09053

Because Elstal is mostly known as the best provider of strawberries for Berlin and Brandenburg, invitations to visit the famous farm cannot miss from this mini-shopping paradise. I plan to go there later in the day anyway but for now, let’s look for some glamour.

DSC09058

The outlet village as such looks like a small white-clean villate in Brandenburg. It is Friday afternoon, but the streets are not roaming with shopper as I encountered during my short stop to the Bicester Village two years ago. The discount season is not yet open, but there are some important offers, the most tempted for me being the one offered by Home&Cook. Overall, expect to find a moderate offer of brands – adidas, NOA NOA, Samsonite, Libeskind Berlin, Fossil, Desigual, True Religion, WMF, Escada. The visitors are relatively quiet and do shop modestly. Nike Factory seems to be a main destination for many tourists, at the moment, the busiest spot in the outlet, with customers chatting fast in Turkish, Russian or various Nordic languages.

DSC09060

The foodie offer is limited, but in process of expanding, with a big Marche Superstore. There is a big Asian flavoured buffet – elegantly designed – and a Nordsee restaurant, and many kiosks offering pancakes, traditional bretzel and beers. There is also a babysitting station, and little kids cars can be rented for 2 Euro the hour. The musical background echoing the entire village makes the visit special. DSC09082

As for me, I rather prefer the company of the San Franscisco Coffee Company and its clean bio flavours. A bit surprising to find this genuine slice of America here, but I am satisfied with the offer of various muffins and flap jacks, plus the coffee flavours.

DSC09085

Time is running fast, as usual, and I am decided to see the strawberry farm too. I am taking the regular bus back to the train station, waiting for my next connection in the opposite direction. With some free time to wait, I adventure into a short spring walk into the forest around trying not to bother the many bikers enjoying the beginning of the summer on two rows.

DSC09090

Near the farm, quiet little poney are having their outdoor lunch.

DSC09097

The Elstal Strawberry farm shows a busier side than the outlet. Parents with many kids and visitors from Berlin are coming here for some entertainment or fresh shopping. The strawberry season is not open yet, but there are enough attractions that may compensate this absence. It was created in 1921, and it part of a larger network that includes locations in Rügen too.

DSC09111

The good news is that the previous harvest was pretty good, as kilos of strawberries are waiting to be smashed into jam in huge bath tubes fixed on a red and white mosaique.

DSC09114

But although red and strawberry inspired products – from alcoholic drinks to various sweets and vinegar – there are also other interesting things to see around, such as the wooden shelves with cup teas and tea pots elegantly displayed till the end of the ceiling.

DSC09118

Special porcelain specific for the Brandenburg area brings my mind back to reality, out of the pinky reddish bubble created by the intensive smell of strawberry marmalade in the making.

DSC09125

Outside the darkish shopping entrance, there is more action and freedom. Everything seems to be tailored to make the children happy, from the truck carts, the little safari and the easy lessons teaching the kids how to make bread on stone (a skill that seems to be learned to German kids from an early age it seems).DSC09129

In another part of the small village, you can also start having your own taste of adventure and if you grew up without enjoying spectacular descents from the top of a hill, it is never too late to try it now.DSC09134

There are also small exhibitions, explaining how to make honey or labyrinths to put on trial your orientation skills. Most places are open for children birthdays celebrations and in most cases – if you ignore the intensive smell of cowshed – educational lessons about the life at the countryside are offered in a creative, non-intrusive way.

DSC09170

As many of the kids will discover themselves, living in the middle of the nature, surrounded by various animals is not that easy, especially when stubborn goats seem to ask you something you don’t understand. But, you can at least try to alternate between city parks and countryside adventures. Living in Berlin offers often such opportunities that I promise to consider more seriously in the next months.

For more pictures from Elstal, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/elstal/

36 Hours in London

DSC09219

Whatever the reason, an unexpected trip to London, one of my favourite cities in the world, is a joyful occurence. Shortly arrived at my usual headquarters in Golders Green, I switch to fast speed and head to Victoria Station. The massive architecture that every time seems to show me new dimensions of power and creativity that are not easy to find in Berlin.

DSC09223

Talking about Berlin, another important difference with the city hosting me now is the weather. There is a common place to complain about the ‘bad’ weather in London meaning that not too many experienced the constant low temperatures in Berlin. As my short trip to London does include a lot of walking an no specific indoor activities – not even a small museum or exhibition – I use my time in between meetings enjoying the hot sun of the London spring.

DSC09226

The perfectly white cubicle houses in the Kensington area makes me feel a spy in a huge lego town. This feeling is amplified also by the emptiness of the streets, as it seems at this time of the day everyone is even taking a well-deserved siesta or just working hard to pay the loans for these beautiful locations.

DSC09230

The parks offer a more dynamic side of the London life, many offering chaise-longues and green scenery to read a book or enjoy the lunch break.

DSC09237

Near Buckingam Palace, tourists – like me, and maybe you too, my reader – are intensively busy to spot their photographic memories of the trip.

DSC09248

As for me, I am looking for some different royal views, paying a short visit at the local Ritz Hotel, whose soothing piano music makes you feel you are visiting a real palace.

DSC09266

I may not have enough time and peace of mind to dedicate extra time of this trip to an exhibition or a museum, but at least I have the inspiration to stop in the yards of the Burlington House. Time for another open lesson in architecture.

DSC09270

The view of some pleasant small Japanese cookies at Minamoto Kitchoan diversified the list of things seen and smelled in London this time. The pastel colours of the shop and the open smile of the vendors made me feel sorry for not being in the mood for some Asian purchase this time.

DSC09272

Every time I visit London I should see this building near Oxford Street. One day, I hope to be brave enough and discover it properly.

DSC09279

China Town is a place I haven’t visited in London for over 10 years. This time, I want to get lost in the emprorium of senses and colours and authentic cuisine. It is afternoon and I can easily find enough open, half-empty restaurants. When I was there the last time, in was late afternoon and we had to wait some good minutes till having our right to delicious Asian bites. DSC09282

London markets, including in Chinatown, are very well known for their diversity of tasty fresh products and I take the opportunity for some healthy supplies for my trip back to Berlin.

DSC09286

The simple idea to return, after realizing that I will miss so many beautiful streets and buildings and foods, makes me sad. But I keep going and taking pictures, this is my antidote to travel sadness.

DSC09287

As usual, I am trying to see the full half of the glass and I am making mental lists of the activities my next trip to London should include. Her Majesty’s Theater is obviously part of the plan.

DSC09290

The always busy Piccadilly Circus offers everything you need to make your afternoon special: classical and modern art, street music, fresh water and even a lot of people ready to talk and help tourists losts or charmed in London.

DSC09291

There is even a dynosaur’s metal skeleton…

DSC09311

The brave squirrels that cut my way in the Green Park, seems to love flowers as much as I do so it is partly forgiven for the impoliteness. Not too much impressed by humans, it offers long photo opportunities and maybe also a squirrel’s smile.DSC09318

On the other side of the river, the Golden Eye is watching silently.

DSC09320

And so does the Tower of London.

DSC09326

In the shadows of so many historical landmarks, young dancers are practising their hobby on the river’s bank. After so many hours of walking, I decide to stop for more than 10 minutes, watching the gracious steps and almost perfect coordination of the pairs.

DSC09329

This is the beautiful view that I left behind. Another point on my to-do-list for the next time: take a trip on the old Thames.

DSC09334

I have no idea why the time run away that fast, but I am feeling like going fast down the rabbit’s hole. The same hole where Alice in Wonderland got caught. The beautiful porcelain celebrating the 150-year young book reminds me the sophistication yet plaifulness of the British spirit.

DSC09345

The next day, I am decided to revisit and find some new places in the quiet Golders Green.

DSC09348

Every time I am in London I am extensively exploring the diversity of kosher restaurants. This time, I can only take a look around to see if some new things are launched – there is a new Indian restaurant that I hope it will be there for the next time. Taking the advantage of the beautiful weather, I cannot resist the invitation to have a last icecream at SoYo before saying ‘good bye’ to London. I previously reviewed this place, that did not impressed me from the point of the view of the service. Some years after, the situation did not change, but at least after waiting way too much, the icecream is good enough to make myself smiling to the sun.

DSC09351

That was all for this time. I am ready, but not happy, to go back to Berlin, feeling anxious about when will it be the next time to see London again. Meanwhile, I keep repeating to myself that it is up to us to make our travel dreams come true.

For more photos from London, including from previous tips, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/london/

Afternoon tea chez King David Hotel in Jerusalem

DSCN0372

King David Hotel in Jerusalem is a legendary luxury destination not only in Israel, but in the entire region whose style hardly changed since it was created in 1931,  by the Jewish-Egyptian family Mosseri. What changes though is the style of the kitchen and the new gourmet influences brought here by French cooking experts that moved in the country in the last years.

DSCN0374

I visited the hotel back in January, a relatively quiet season compared with the busy activity you may notice right now till the end of September. Besides the usual customers of the hotel, there is hardly any personality that visited Jerusalem, from Michael Douglas to King Juan Carlos, that was not the guest of the hotel.

DSCN0384

With such an impressive list of guests, the standards were and will always be high at King David. The delicate changes operated regularly in the menu are aimed to offer the best possible experiences to the guests. In the lobby, little pieces of French gourmet art are a proof of the latest changes of the Jerusalem’s high class cuisine. This is where the complex standards of kosher cooking are embraced by the creative spirit of the French cuisine. A very successful meeting, my eyes and smell dare to say.

DSCN0431

Besides the intensive sightseeing and its part of story telling that I am shared – minutes before returning in the lobby was just chatting with one of the oldest employees of the hotel about how the bar mitzva party of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zetta Jones was celebrated here – I am here also for some special gourmet experiences. For instance, to try the relatively new – one year and a half ago only – afternoon tea menu. As for now, we have: English preciousness, French creativity and kosher delicacies. What can I get out of it? Till everything is ready, I am tempted with orange juice and a red beet and apple juice that took my breath away and brought back all the energies spent in intesive sightseeings in and around the city. The sweetness of the apple and the earth smell of the red beet are exactly portioned to produce a completely new and delicious result.

DSCN0435

While I am sipping my Lemon Grass Cream infusion, the brioches are arriving. The fulfilling smell of freshly baked pastry, ready to be tasted in the company of butter and strawberry jam. Wish I can spend every day tasting such mouth melting pieces of art.

DSCN0438

But there is much more to come. The 3-layered plates are each carrying some new foodie works of art. Small pieces of smoked caramelised salmon with soy sauce and traces of yolk, a high end selection of cheeses, among which my favourite goat cheese, Camembert and Gruyere, freshly produced in the North of Israel, with blueberries and slowly roasted tomatoes. Although I love the cheeses a lot, the caramelised salmon is just perfect, with the delicate fried fish covered in moderate sweetness. To be eaten only in small unforgettable bites. Since I am back in Berlin, I am obsessively trying to recreate the recipe, bust probably it will not happen before taking some special gourmet French classes.

DSCN0442

But the afternoon tea is not done yet. After the puffy pastry, and the gourmet bites, it follows the sweet part of the menu. It seems that the classical three-tiered plates are here replaced at King David by three-course meals. As everything in the menu, don’t expect abundance, but high style. The soft dough of the scones is aromated with raisins, rhum and vanilla, and accompanied by fresh sour cream at the room temperature and the fine tarts are complimentary to the simple freshness of the fruits.

When I finally have to leave this island of culinary wellness, I knew that the memory of so many special tastes will follow me for a long time. I was right and the remedy is to find the fastest way to be back soon. Where else can I find such a beautiful mixture of apple and red beet?

Disclaimer: I was the guest of King David Hotel for a special afternoon spent discovering the hotel (a dedicated post coming up soon), but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Review: The Market Courtyard-Jerusalem Suites: your home far away from home

DSCN0336Nachlaot is one of the nicest neighbourhoods of the busy Jerusalem, with its traditional small houses, quiet parks where people can meet to talk the latest news or play some chess or shesh besh, small green streets and local synagogues. During the sunny days, the old buildings are wrapped into the light and made you forget which century you are living in. I passed along HaCarmel street many times before, but never had the reason to stop for more and read its messages. It is close to the famous Mahane Yehuda Market and the flea market from Agrippa Street, but also from the Central Station and the Light Rail. The friendliness of the people and the colours of the streets invited me to stay more and this is what I did before checking my apartment at the Market Courtyard -Jerusalem Suites.

DSCN0344

Once I was given the key, some small details about entering the courtyard and the house and some codes – everything looked very safe – , I am free to discover my residence for the rest of the day and the night. My apartment has a big living room, a bathroom, a bedroom that gives into the interior yard, a kitchen and a balcony where I am thinking to spend as much time as possible.

DSCN0346

The bathroom is spacious enough, with a bathtube, a priviledge that is not easy to have, either in apartments or hotel rooms in Jerusalem. Hot water is available round the day and everything looks white and clean.

DSCN0347

The kitchen is provided with minimal amenities: a fridge, a microwave, coffee machine, coffee and sugar. It is enough space to give you inspiration to cook a family meal and the vicinity to the Machane Yehuda offers more than an opportunity to make yourself, your family and children feel like home. As the table in the living room can be enlarged and made bigger, you can also have a big meal, eventually with your new friends.

DSCN0348

The decorations are minimal, but with good taste, especially the old black-and-white pictures from the old city or the posters about art exhibitions. The furniture is custom made, with serious brown and red pillows that brings more life into the room.

DSCN0349

The residences are tailored for short, medium and long stay, as you can rent them for the day, week, month and even year. It works very well for couples, single travellers longing for the feeling of being at home, families with or without children. The wireless works very well and there is TV and air condition too. Well-written and interesting books about Jerusalem and history of Israel are inviting you to plan more wisely the next legs of the trip.

DSCN0350

The bedroom reminded me a bit of a bungallow, and as in the rest of the house, the details are minimal, offering enough space for moving and thinking freely. Who needs too much furniture when you are on vacation? The closet is big enough to accommodate different wardrobe needs. Mine gave to the courtyard and was quiet for this time of the year – beginning of January.

DSCN0352

The Market Courtyard (or the Hatzar Hashuk, in Hebrew) is a historical building, preserved and reinvented as an apartment building, keeping in mind the traditional elements of the Jerusalem architecture. Its internal courtyard leads to a 3-storey building, each new and provided with modern facilities. Every residence offers a different view of Jerusalem: either the Nachlaot or the marketplace bustle. If you are lucky enough to stay at the top floors, you can even have a view of the Israel Museum, the road to Gilo, or the Supreme Court Building.

DSCN0355

My balcony offered a view over Nachlaot, without too many people outside during the day, but apparently with its own secret life during the night. In the middle of the night, a guitar player and singer in the park, made me think about some local Romeo and Juliet story, and these thoughts kept me busy enough for not trying to bother the solo concert. The balconies are big enough to allow you spending a good part of the morning there and if you want to better understand this city and its people, this seems to be a good standpoint to start with.

DSCN0356

The courtyard offers a fascinated view, and its interior yard offers opportunities to the guests to meet and, who knows, to plan some trips together. The green plants hanging fhe balconies give an air of familiarity and friendliness. The main construction was originally built in 1886, and was part of the larger efforts to bring more Jewish population outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The old stones of the courtyard can be a reminder of the old and many untold histories.

DSCN0359

When it was about time to go to my next destination, I had the feeling that I have to leave a place that I was just starting to become too familiar with to abandon without regrets. The Nachlaot and the secrets kept into the courtyard were calling me back. I wonder if the guitar musician still singing in the park?

For more insights from this accommodation, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/the-market-courtyard-jerusalem-suites/

Disclaimer: I was offered a one-night stay at the Market Courtyard – Jerusalem Suites, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Friday afternoon walking in Jaffa

DSCN0698It is Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv, and for a short while, the life is slowing down, but just for a couple of hours. Everyone is getting ready to join the usual family gatherings of the evening, marking the start of Shabbat, the day of rest. There ae even less tourists on the streets, so quiet now that you can hear the waves of the sea nearby. For me, this is the perfect time to go back to Jaffa, walking slowly on the beach till I reach the area of the port, with its coquette shops hidden between ship repairing garages.

DSCN0699Especially in this moment, when there are not too many tourists and the shops are getting ready to close, the streets usually crowded with visitors can reveal their mysteries and stories, testimonies of the long and rich centuries of history.DSCN0702Compared to other historical places, here in Israel or elsewhere in Europe, you don’t have the ovewhelming feeling of being in a museum of human history. The human presence integrated the rich past into through the colouful windows and the green alleys that spring from the millenial cobblestones.DSCN0703Beyond each massive door mysterious stories seem to hide in their well locked wooden boxes. But right now, I can only hear my steps on the stones and the sound of intensive preparations in the kitchens.DSCN0708Either there are private houses, art galleris or antiques shops, you feel invited not to buy, but to stay, hear stories and eventually take a decision while admiring the streets, with a glass of fresh lemonade or a big cup of hot black Turkish coffee in the front of you. DSCN0709Every time I visit this part of Israel, considered as one of the oldest in the region, I feel that there are always so many things that I want to learn about: about the three different religions coexisting here, and the various religious symbols can be noticed on the streets outside the old city, about the history of architecture of the country, about its nature and beautiful trees, about its old and new traditions, visible in the variety of art styles dispayed in the many art galleries. DSCN0713Like in the old city of Jerusalem, there are so many short streets and houses that are so close that you can mistake them as part of the one and only block of buildings.DSCN0719Besides the art galleries and antiquities shops, another important landmark in the area is Ilana Goor Museum, hosting an interesting collection of works, that can be eventually introduced by the artist herself who is often there talking with the visitors. DSCN0720But today, I rather want to feel free, taking the advantage of a sunny December afternoon and walk as much as I can, together with my friend which wants to learn so much about the art, history and the controversies associated with the region. But when you walk these old streets and you see everything with your own eyes, you don’t need any more to get your sources from the biased media.DSCN0721The art courageously dispayed on the antiques walls make me feel less guilty for not visiting too many art galleries this time. Only one every ten minutes. DSCN0727The artists and the gallery owners are there not only to help you take the right decision, but also to tell their and other people’ stories. The beautiful pieces of jewellery from Yemen or Morocco are especially beautiful, displaying old crafts for ever lost in Europe. At one antiquities shop that is about to close, I am showed different Seder plates brought from Jews home from all over the world. My favourite is one made shortly after the creation of the State of Israel, provided with a little machine that sings for a couple of minutes Hatikva, the national anthem talking about hopes and love for freedom.  DSCN0730For me, nothing can represent better the spirit of this place than the 1993 work of Ran Morin – Oranger Suspendu ( in English, Hanging Orange Tree). Made of steel, artificial stone and orange tree, it can be read as a narrative about strength and resilience, that needs to fight against unexpected artificial problems but tempered and helped by the given natural destiny. This piece of art is considered one of the top photographic attractions of this area, so during the busy week expect to wait a bit in line till you will be able to take your selfie here. Morin, who lives in Israel, is the author of several full-sized living trees.DSCN0735While my mind is thinking maybe too much for this time of the week, the streets are getting empty and I feel somehow compelled to find our way outside the area, maybe going back to Tel Aviv for the Friday evening meal with a view over the sea. DSCN0739

The streets are getting cleaned and the tables are ready to be set. The quiet stones are ready to hear more family stories. DSCN0746Accoding to the Biblical story, Jaffa was the location from which Jonah set sail before his encounter with the whale. A massive statue of a whale by Ilana Goor reminds the visitors about this reference. Another story says that the famous cedars used in building Solomon’s Temple were shipped to the Jaffa port.DSCN0751Right now, the port is quiet and the touristic restaurants serving fish dishes and the tasty local versions of Mediterranean food are ready to open. Far away, but still very close, I can see the lights of the beautiful city with its sky scrapers and creative high tech industry. This is the moment when past and present meet and I am happy to be here and hear this story of hope and resilience.