The Original Carmel
Haifa Travel Blog› entry 2 of 4 › view all entries
So I'm from California and my Grandparents live in Carmel, CA. This place is the Orignal Carmel, the center of the city being dominated by the mountain of that name. Its funny being from the US, we have such different senses of space and distance from Europeans and Mediterranians. For me, a mountain has got to be at least 3000 feet tall and should have snow on it for at least part of the year. But over here, anything taller than a house is a "mountain".
I can see why they call Carmel, CA that. Its kinda similar in the way its very green, surrounded by water and a very spiritual place. However, Haifa is a real city (unlike carmel, ca) and is complete with a full fishing/shipping port and a lively urban downtown. Which isnt really a downtown since its on the top of a mountain, but you get the idea.
I stayed at the Port Inn which was a wonderful hostel located near the port (duh). And so everything in the entire city is uphill from there. It makes the walk home simple. Its also near the areas of the city where (i'm guessing) most of the muslims live, since there were things open on Rosh Hashanah. The fireworks after the holiday were so much fun. All these little kids running around throwing them at eachother and at me. And then anyone over the age of 30 being a bit jittery about all the "bang bang" noises.
I did a nice walk on my first day there from the hostel down to the point and up to the monestary of Stella Maris. Its a relatively short walk, but its a steep hill. And its hot, so you drink alot of water. The monestary was cool, but like most other christian tourism spots, full of tourbus italians or spaniards singing religious songs. This monestary was the first time it seemed appropirate and not in the way of Jewish/Muslim life.
From the monestary I walked past the Bahai Gardens. I've come to think that the Bahai are like the mormon's of the middle east. However, the Bahai have a better sense to come to a beautiful green city than to settle in the middle of a salt flat. If the mormons had been here they probably would have gone south to the Negev and stayed in some hot frying pan of a colony. Whereas the Bahai have this beautiful Garden to commemorate their founder. Its so meticulously tended to that it makes professional gardens in England or the US look like childs play. Its no real overwhelming experience but it was a nice way to spend a part of the afternoon.
The top of the Carmel is the nice neighborhood. The good hotels, cafes and clubs are up here. It was very touristy I thought so I kept walking. After that I got lost walking down the Carmel and ended up walking through real neighborhoods. Its a mostly western country is something I realized doing that. Some of the tracts of homes look like they could be in Southern California or Italy just as easily. And they have their own Big Box (home depot/IKEA style) store zone at the north edge of the city.
Back into the real city after that excursion brought me back to the hostel and I was washed out for the rest of the evening. The next day I shared a taxi with a fellow traveler to the nice beaches on the west coast of the city. Those are the good beaches. They are wide and white sand and without the rocks you have to deal with on the beaches on the north shore. Pretty simple to get there and a good place to spend the day. I kinda zoned out on the beach and burned though. Wear sunscreen.