Sunday, 11 November 2012

Israel: Tel Aviv & Jaffa

Jaffa minaret overlooks Tel Aviv
Sunday 21 October: Arriving late at Ben Gurion Airport the helpful tourist office provides me with a map of Israel and a detailed plan of Tel Aviv. It's a half-hour wait for a train to Savidor station, the most central one for the city centre, but it's easy, announcements are in both Hebrew and English. It's a pleasantly warm evening when I embark so I decide to walk the two miles or so to the seafront, I want to get a feel for the place. What strikes me most is the colourful array of business cards scattered on street corner pavements: pictures of a busty girl, a phone number and a scribble in Hebrew. I guess someone picks them up, must be fun for the street cleaners.
Monday 22: I expected to hate Tel Aviv but actually I very much like the city. It's a lively, largely secular, place spread along an idyllic Mediterranean seafront of fine sandy beaches, spotlessly clean, not busy and free to all. A stroll south along the promenade takes me to the headland of Jaffa and great views back along the high-rise backed beaches, where even the balcony of my room in Hayarkon 84 Hostel has a sea view. Behind the sea frontage the straight lines and smooth curves of the Bauhaus architecture pepper the city centre. Banned by the Nazis in Germany, this social housing style proliferated in Tel Aviv as development expanded in the 1930s and 40s.
Israel is another country where the paper currency looks like toy money. All the bank notes are the same size. The reddish 200NIS (New Israeli Shekel) note is the most valuable (about £32) and the 20NIS note the least (about £3). Shekel coins are all silver, the 10NIS coin looks more like a euro, but it's worth two (about £1.60).
Tuesday 23: In need of some supplies I walk to the city's main shopping mall, the Dizengoff Centre and, unusually for Tel Aviv, it's a non-smoking complex. However, much to my amusement, there are little glass booths on each level where as many as three crazy people can cram in to puff on a cigarette. They are so thick with smoke that I dub them 'fumeatoriums' and move on.
Thursday 25: The city Art Museum is where I first see Israeli art. It's good but I'm more seduced by the European works, much of it having escaped pre-war Germany in the 1930s. Some of the donated North American pieces appeal too.
Slideshow of Tel Aviv & Jaffa.

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