Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are continuing to share their journey with us from aboard the 2016 Holland World Cruise. Previously they shared the experience of navigating the Panama Canal, sailing the Pacific in to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong,Vietnam,Thailand, Dubai, Jordan and beginning the Mediterranean with Israel.HAIFA
Haifa is Israel’s third largest city. We’ve walked fairly extensively here, including through the famous Bahai Gardens. So it was nice to head out of town for a scenic drive with our Cruise Specialists guests toward Caesarea, the ancient port city built by Herod the Great and named after his Roman Patron, Augustus Caesar.
It was destroyed in the 13th century but the impressive remnants make for an interesting walk. Some of the original mosaics and stones remain. Only partly excavated, there is an amphitheater, aqueducts, and some of the original stone streets. Our second major stop was at Acre or Akko, sometimes called the Crusaders Kingdom. It’s an underground city which was once the headquarters of the Knights of St John. The great Crusader Halls have vaulted ceilings and a distinctive medieval feeling. There is even a long and narrow passage thought to be an escape tunnel, which we were able to walk through. Lots of walking and lots of steps made for a tiring, but exciting day.
Many Guests from the ship, including us, made the 1.5 hour bus ride into Jerusalem to visit the places that are sacred to Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
We escorted a group of 24 for a full-day tour that included a drive to the Mount of Olives for a panoramic view of old Jerusalem. It’s beautiful up there. Then we drove around the Old City for a view of the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations.
Our walking tour, lasting about 2.5 hours, took us through the Jaffa Gate, along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to the Western Wall, and through the old fashioned bazaars. We passed through both the Jewish and Arab Quarters which are distinctively different. We were there on Sunday, along with many thousands of others, trying to negotiate the narrow, dark, and sometimes slippery passageways and stairs.Lunch was at a lovely restaurant inside the Israel Museum. The ambiance here was wonderful and again the food, plentiful and delicious. We also spent some time at the museum, where we visited the Shrine of the Book. This is a special building where the Dead Sea Scrolls are exhibited. There is also a scale model of Old Jerusalem, covering about a city block square, from the days of Julius Caesar. Our guide was great and very well versed in history and customs. Most of us probably got more information than we could handle!
Two days in Israel is not enough to even scratch the surface. We’ve been fortunate in the last few years to visit several times and see some other places like the Dead Sea and the Fortress of Masada, but there is lots more. Guess we’ll have to come back.