Thursday, 22 November 2012

Akko (Acre)

Crusader's Holy Land stronghold
Tuesday 13 November: Acre is all you'd expect of a Crusader stronghold on the shores of the Holy Land and more. The old town and port first fortified by the Knights Templar, then later by Ottoman Turks, is remarkably well preserved. For knights and pilgrims sailing from southern Europe, mostly via Cyprus, this would have been their first landfall in the Middle East and the Templar Hospitaller fortress and citadel is where they would have been welcomed.
Following 200 years of Christian rule the city fell to the Turks who, rather than demolishing the Crusader fortress, simply filled it in with earth and used the sturdy Knight's Hall pillars as foundations for their own city. Much of the old Crusader city has now been excavated and is open to view. Above the surface too, it's a wonderful place just to wander: streets & alleys, gateways, mosques, roofed walkways, towers, a lighthouse, forts, churches, market stalls or crashing waves, all just around the next corner.
My guidebook tells me that, because of the lack of accommodation, most people only visit for a day. It's worth much more and I'm staying in the newly opened IYHA Knights Templar guest house just inside the old city walls. Once again, I have a spacious US$126 room all to myself with a lavish breakfast for just US$30. The building is new, but is in keeping with it's surroundings, with the city's ancient aqueduct preserved in the guest house's open courtyards, great place to stay.
Slideshow of Akko (Acre). 

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