Just got back to Jerusalem from Haifa last night. Haifa was beautiful, and the Bahai Gardens tour was enjoyable. Couch Surfing continues to go well, as I had a great time with the people I stayed with in Haifa. They're friends with the CS community in Haifa, and we all spent some time together over coffee and later at a party. Good people. Now back in Jerusalem, I'm staying at the same CS apt. I was at before, and am happy to be so centrally located, and with pleasant hosts.
More on Haifa: it's a port city, and the Bahai Gardens overlook the water, so some really beautiful views. I was there over Shabbat, during which much of the country shuts down, so I didn't go out too much on Sat. Fri. though, I left the apt. early and picked up some pastries, then headed over to the home of a family friend for a very pleasant breakfast and an informative interview. After breakfast and coffee, the Rodeh's dropped me off at the entrance to the Bahai Gardens, and we said goodbye.
The gardens themselves are part of a large monument to one of the Bahai prophets, whose remains are buried under the building with the golden dome (currently under construction) which you'll see in the pictures. With 9 terraces above the monument and 9 below, including some 700+ steps from top to bottom, the walk took a lot out of me, especially as the English language tour started at 12 noon. It's a holy site to the Bahai religion, so one has to dress modestly to go on the tour. This means shoulders covered, and no short-shorts or mini-skirts. One of the women ahead of me had on a tank top, so I offered her the extra shirt I had in my camera bag. She's the one w/a white hat and a blonde pony-tail w/a red t-shirt around her shoulders in one of the pictures. Yes, I bought the touristy "Coca-Cola in Hebrew" t-shirt. A really neat tour.
A bit about the mundane - Israel, especially Jerusalem, reminds me of Michigan, as everywhere you look, something is either being built, or is under construction. Jaffa Rd., one of the main streets in Jerusalem is torn up now due to construction of a new light-rail system. Jessica, one of the flat-mates of the CSer I'm staying with in Jerusalem, made the following comparison: Jaffa road now is like if Market St. (in Philadelphia, at points a 5 lane rd.) was narrowed to one lane, and they cut ten feet off the sidewalks on both sides. When you're stuck behind someone walking slowly, you're really stuck. Fortunately, I've been able to take my time, and not get as stressed out about being stuck behind "slow-walkers" as I would in Philadelphia.
Hard to believe I've only got a week left before I fly back to Philadelphia. So much more to do and see.
View from one of the upper terraces in the Bahai Gardens
View of the dome and of the woman wearing my other t-shirt
Me with the gardens in the background