Trippin: Talk Tel Aviv to Me

The reason for the Tel Aviv trip was a birthday “surprise”. I say “surprise” because it was a secret where we are going, but I was suspecting it, and yet my gift giver knows how much I want to save and explore places on Google Maps, so I knew some days in advance where we are going. Just for the saving places sake 🙂

The flight from Berlin to Tel Aviv is about 4 hours long. We arrived on Saturday around 6PM. Saturday is the Holiest day in Israel – Shabbat, and everything stops then. By everything I mean that there isn’t even public transport till the evening (Busses Start at 7PM and the trains at 9PM). So if you arrive on Saturday and you are in a hurry, taxi will be the only option, but it is 10 times more expensive than bus/train. The bus wait was reserved for the ATM and there was only one open shop, a bakery, so rugelach was a must. Actually two. We managed to enter the bus, I really mean managed, because people are not waiting in line, rather in a circle, and when the bus is full, that’s it, the next one is in one hour. The ride was quick, due the fact that the roads were empty, and the bus stop was 5 minutes walking from our AirBnb. Our host was a great young guy that voluntarily shared some places with us. Guess what, 90% of them were already on my list. 

Shabbat – is Judaism’s day of rest and seventh day of the week.
Rugelach – chocolate filled pastry

The first food night out was reserved for Miznon, it was just 5 minutes walking from our flat. I wanted to eat the signature cauliflower dish, but since they were sold out, I had to satisfy myself with a kebab. What satisfied me the most were the bread leftovers that they were generously giving away, and the sauces on the side. That Tahini. Oh, that Tahini. I still can’t stop talking about it, even though it is more than 2 months since we are back. I had one of the best meals in my life. Next we continued walking through one of the most famous streets, Allenby, until we reached the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv, and around it there were four or five bars. The feeling was as if it is August somewhere very hot, and as if we are on summer vacation. I couldn’t wait to come back here, but our final destination was Teder.FM. A ruin bar kind of, with lots of lots of people, talking louder than the music, oversized pizzas and cocktails. It was as Germans would say: MEGA. We wouldn’t be us if we didn’t go to the the second furthest point of  interest, as per my plan. We visited Florentin, the hip area of the city, and I said we must come back during the day so that I can zigzag through every street.

First stop of day 2 and every next day was the HaCarmel Market. We were tourist-trapped and overpaid pomegranate juice, but we made sure to never repeat the mistake. Here it was all about the carbs, savory, sweet and repeat. One woman was representing her babka as the best in the world, I really have the impression, that this was the best babka in the Universe. Whoever compiled the top 10 Babka list, for sure hasn’t tried this one. The day was devoted to the most famous part of Tel Aviv, the old city Jaffa. I fell in love with it. If previously I was comparing everything to my hometown, chilled lifestyle, next to massive piles of garbage, this was something incomparable. There was the flea market, and there were 1000 food and drink spots, and I wanted to sit in all of them. This day we had a hummus in a  place recommended by a local. There were only 5 items on the menu (something that I highly appreciate), but from the first till the 10th bite my expectations were more and more unsatisfied. I realised that I enjoy hummus with a higher tahini percentage. The food was good yet my expectations were not. We ended the day walking along the beach, happy that we survived not being blown away by the wind. The night was reserved for Dizengoff street, and again I had the same urge to sit in all the possible places. We went to cocktail bar 223, no over-exaggeration one of the best cocktails we’ve ever tasted. (the competitor is the cocktail bar Hamkok in Oslo). This was a first timer of having salted white chocolate glass, or gin tonic with aquavit. The aquavit kills the regular sweetness of gin and tonic, and you could drink more and more. Another jackpot that we hit on this place was happy hour, for which we were not aware. Many bars in Tel Aviv have a happy hour between 18-20 o’clock, and the drinks are unbelievable 50% off. Searching for an iconic reuben spot, which unfortunately was permanently closed, we hit another jackpot. Roasted Cauliflower at Miznon. Speechless.

Aquavit – spirit based on grapes and potatoes produced in Scandinavia
Reuben – grilled sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, rye bread. 

Our day 3 was reserved for Jerusalem. It is a short train ride from Tel Aviv, the ticket is 6eur per person, and the student discount is only valid for students from Israeli Universities. I would just say that expectations versus reality were again something that had a lot of influence on my overall experience and impression about the city. I was expecting to see the calmest city I’ve been in, yet reaching the central market, you don’t know who shouts louder, and which stand is more diverse or which car honks more. Then, going through the modern part of the city, my hometown impression came back, until we reached one open mall where things started to get more calm. Fast forward one orange juice, we arrived at the gates of the old town, where I was expecting the same quietness, I must learn to “reconstruct” my expectations. I was aware there would be a lot of security, but didn’t expect so much souvenirs, so much merchandise. I was expecting more food, more local staff in the allies, and less bling bling Frozen and Minion t-shirts.

However, arriving at the Wailing Wall changes everything, you can hear the silence and the wailing, mixed feelings I must say, but nice to see. My highlight of the Jerusalem trip was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it was unlike any religious  temple I’ve seen before. You are walking in a circle and it feels like a museum or a gallery, but better. Another highlight was seeing the people praying, at every spot, at any time, with all of the “tools”. Then, hummus and pomegranate juice stop it was, and off to search for the Austrian Hospice to see the Blue Mosque (Dome of the Rock) from a rooftop. Entering the Dome of the Rock is only permitted to Muslims. But what is a search for a final destination without stopping for a cheese kunefe? Always share it, it is too sweet and one can’t eat one on their own. The view from the Austrian Hospice was amazing, it costs 5 Shekel and it was totally worth it. I think that from here for the first time I could get a picture in my mind of how Jerusalem looks, and it was the first place where I thought how the city seems silent.

The way back was smooth as well, there are trains every 30 minutes between the 2 cities. After a quick siesta, I had the meal of my life. I could definitely put that on the things you should try before you are 30, and every next day after. We went to the “Magician” – Ha Kosem, the most famous falafel joint in Tel Aviv. I ordered the Hummus Shawarma plate and that was it. I could have skipped the shawarma, because I was full from all the food before. Luckily I didn’t, and that was it, the hummus of my dreams. I am so happy I didn’t end up in a hospital for overstuffing myself. As a side dish they serve aubergine, but it was unlike any other aubergine, I do not even eat aubergine, this was like the zucchini that my mom fries in summer, and sorry but there is no better acknowledgement than that. The magician also has a book On the hummus Route. While I was waiting in line, I was going through its pages, it is amazing, so someone is getting it soon. Either me or someone close. Did I mention that while you are in line a basket of falafel goes from the first to the last person in line and back. So no wonder how everyone is overstaffed.

The midnight hour was welcomed with the two of us and hundreds more people in Port Said with Malabi, and Rose, and aquavit and more tasty and not so tasty strong cocktails. 

One more day to go we are again starting with Babka, then continuing on the way to Neve Tzedek the artistic neighbourhood, with stop over in a small bakery, and then through the old train station which serves as exhibition space we reach Florentin. My zigzag wishes from day one are coming true. The area is much more crowded during the night, but spending daily hours is worth as well, because you can admire all the street art. Food wise this day was for fish kebab and fermented juice, then we stood in line in a place that did not have a name written on, but the line of locals was longer and longer every night. It was a fast food store offering just 3 dishes, one of them kebab, and its statement was the mango sauce. Nice, but Miznon bought me 3 times on this trip. Word of the trip overstaffed.

That is why I didn’t want to have anything for breakfast the next day, just a cappuccino. And a long long walk on the beach. And just when I thought wow I will finish a trip without running anywhere, actually calmly reading a book on the beach, the universe showed me that you can never run away from your true self (no matter how old you get), and you will always run for the airport bus, because of that one last time you had to taste the Zatar omelette with tahini in Miznon.

Did I like it, I loved it, and understood why my companion 🙂 keeps on returning here. Food wise I do not know if i have been in a better place than here, vibe wise as well, ok maybe spanish cities are in line with the city. Sightseeing wise, maybe it is not the destination for it, but I can’t wait to be back.

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