Saturday, November 30, 2013

Israel: a mix between the expected and the unexpected

I can't believe it has been more than a week since I came back from the Holy Land.I still miss it and want to go back there to see all the places I haven't seen yet.And trust me, 4 days is a ridiculously short amount of time to spend there.

Why 4 days ,you ask? Firstly,I'm a student and secondly,I'm a student :) In other words,staying for a shorter amount of time means spending less money(at least it should) and I also went on this trip during the academic year(yes, I skip classes quite a lot-that's what happens when you don't like what you're studying)

So,if you ever wanted to travel to Israel but thought "It's too expensive!" or "I'm gonna die in  a terrorist attack!" ,think again because none of it is true if you find a cheap flight and avoid eye contact with strange looking men on the street so you don't get unwanted attention (common sense,right?).

I am of course writing this from a young woman's perspective, but anyone can take something from my positive experience in Israel.
How much did I pay for my trip?

I flew with WizzAir ,a Hungarian low cost company, which I consider to be one of the cheapest ,most reliable airlines,with a wide range of travel destinations to choose from  (and no,they did not pay me to say that). I booked the tickets 2 months in advance and payed almost 70 euros for a round trip.Oh...and my route was Bucharest Otopeni- Tel Aviv Ben Gurion :)

What other costs did my trip imply?
Well,I used Couchsurfing to find accommodation and great people to host me and hang out with . My entire perspective on traveling has changed since using this amazing site to find friendly,awesome,lovely people (again, I wasn't bribed by the site or the awesome,lovely people to say that).
Of course,I payed for train tickets and bus tickets to and from Jerusalem -everything was about 66 shekels (19 dollars/14 euros) .
The rest depends on how much you want to go out,eat in fancy restaurants or attend I don't know what music gigs.

Israeli customs? !

Not cool, bro ,not cool. If it's your first time in Israel and you're using Couchsurfing to find accommodation they might give you a funny look and ask you tons and tons of question before giving you a visa. Also, when you leave the country ,your luggage will get checked.As in "let's take everything  out and make you pack your bag again" kind of checked. Jolly good times at the airport. Other than that, everything's great .

What did I eat? Can I recommend any dishes?
Oooh..wait for it...falafel! What were you expecting?It's tasty, cheap and probably not that healthy.Still better than McDonald's .

Tip: If the guy selling falafel asks you if you like spicy and your first instinct is to say "no",say "no" .Otherwise you might have to drink lots of water after that.

Also, Tahini sauce is cool. And you should try a freshly made juice in one of the many markets in Israel.Make sure you get a not so usual combination like the passion fruit-banana-forgot the other one that I tried at shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv.Also expect to pay for it as much as you would pay for your train ticket from Tel Aviv HaHagana to Ben Gurion aiport.

Tel Aviv vs.Jerusalem

With an equal amount of time spent in both of the cities, I can make a very subjective comparison.
If you're more religious,you'll love Jerusalem. If you're not religious,you'll love Jerusalem anyway.
If you love getting a tan in November,you'll love Tel Aviv. If you like to party ,you'll love Tel Aviv even more.If you're more the religious type than the "get drunk and forget where I live" type, get on a bus and go to Jerusalem.

What did I see in Jerusalem in 2 days?
The Old City-have no idea how much of it.I got lost there every time.More specifically- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre ,Via Dolorosa-or at least a part of it , a lot of market vendors,the Wailing Wall
The Garden of Ghetsimani and the Church of Agony,The Church of Mary's Tomb - It took me forever to get there by foot and with a shitty map.
Mamilla, some parts of the city center, an awesome place where you could see the city from above(oh wait,there were a lot of such places)
I also saw some pubs and walked along Jaffa street quite a lot.
What did I see in Tel Aviv in 2 days?

The beach.The Old City-awesome tour guide by the way. Some parts of the city center. More beach.
Shuk HaCarmel. A really awesome ice cream place.More beach. I also walked from the HaCarmel area to HaHagana train station at 5 in the morning.Not advisable for women to do on their own, but allows you to see a different face of the otherwise bustling, lively Tel Aviv.

Would I go back?

Where's that plane ticket? Gimme it! I'm free tomorrow :) I can stay for a few weeks..or months.

What did I miss?
The Dead Sea, Haifa, Bethlehem ,Nazareth, some hiking...oh,I need to make a list .

Advice for anyone planning on going to the Holy Land?
Be patient and polite at customs. If you're a young lady traveling by herself, cover yourself. And don't look at men unless you want a creepy pseudo- date with them.
Try some local food and meet with locals to have a truly awesome experience.

Pictures?

Why yes of course.

Wailing Wall

 Stairs leading to the Wailing Wall
Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Mount of Olives
Garden of Ghetsimani

Neighborhood in Jerusalem

The beach in Tel Aviv
"Flying" orange tree,Tel Aviv- Jafo 

Nice contrast between the old and the new


Another tip : Don't take selfies when you're lost,tired and hungry
There is so much more to say about Israel but you have to go on your own and experience for yourself. Israel is not an exotic destination for rich,adventurous people. Ok,maybe you have to be  a little bit adventurous...but admit it,your personality has that side too :)

Happy travels!
Mihaela

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