Getting Lost in Tel Aviv!

by - 3:19 PM

The iconic Israeli flag, you see it everywhere
Why yes, I am finally in Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps! Instead of giving in to jetlag, I decided I’d put on my ipanema sandals and get walking. I love exploring new places and seeing what life is like for the people who make these places their home. The first thing I did was take a long stroll along the Mediterranean coast – it was absolutely beautiful. The sunshine here gives you a lovely tan, and doesn’t burn like the harsh Australian sun. I love it! It’s a balmy, warm breeze and at times a twinge of oppressive humidity due to the Mediterranean summer heat. But coming from Melbourne’s windy, wet and cold winter, I am thoroughly relishing this!

Very cool, old-fashioned European Bauhaus style buildings
I didn’t take a map with me. I decided to just walk wherever I felt like continuing to walk, and just listen for the effervescent noises of this busy city. It’s so great that my hostel happens to be only a block away from Jerusalem Beach, and from there, you can pretty much walk north or south and find amazing beaches throughout the whole stretch of Tel Aviv’s coast. It really seems like nobody is working at all in summer, because everyone appears to be chilling at the beach! I guess when the weather is warm, Tel Avivim (or Tel Avivians) flock in droves to the city’s beaches. Noisy, hipster teens appear to be the prevalent group hanging round these beaches, especially Jerusalem and Banana Beach. It’s all good fun, and I just love observing what life’s like here for ordinary Tel Avivians! 

The ages old port city of Jaffa in the distance - where Jonah famously sailed off
I kept walking and ended up stumbling upon the infamous Allenby Street where I  found the equally infamous Carmel Market. One would find aromatic spices, vegetables, fruits, olives and all kinds of bread all laid out by various stalls. It also had a myriad of clothing shops, jewellery stands and every other thing you could possibly want to get for a bargain (I found it reminiscent of Malaysia’s pasar malam or night markets). I didn’t buy anything just yet. I had my camera in hand and just observed for any good moments or angles to shoot. Ultimately, what I love about traveling is being able to just take in the sights and sounds and smells of a place utterly foreign to me. It’s such a refreshing way to live! 

The eclectic sights and smells of Ha-Carmel Market
As I allowed myself to get lost along the streets of Tel Aviv, I realized that I am finding Israel to be truly a unique country in a class of its own. Tel Aviv itself is made of an unusual fusion of both old and new, modern and old-fashioned, contemporary and traditional. And I’ve got to admit, it’s leaving me rather confused! One moment you find architecture or public transport that impresses you, another moment you see the chaotic tangle of electrical wires (that appear to have been installed years and years ago) and buildings with peeling paint alongside dusty streets. I believe this is where I passed through Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus White City – where the buildings are simply structured with horizontal lines, curved corners, cute little balconies, vertical windows and a complete absence of ornamentation. These 4000 or so buildings in total have been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site (2003) as Tel Aviv has more sleek Bauhaus buildings than any other city in the world! 

And everywhere I walk, there seems to be the incessant sound of cars and buses and mini taxis (sherut) all honking at each other simultaneously! It’s as if the vehicles themselves are talking with each other. I think it’s become a way of driving, and a way of life over here. It’s a noisy, chaotic city.

Thankfully, I kept walking on, not knowing where I was headed, but that’s when I stumbled upon the cozy little European-Bohemian suburb of the southern city centre known as Neve Tzedek – which means ‘Oasis of Justice’ (according to my Lonely Planet book, which I really like the sound of!). Neve Tzedek is probably the most historic part of the city, as it is where the first buildings were built a century ago on Rothschild Boulevard when the State of Israel was formed in 1948. It’s quaint blue French-style shutters and bright pastel wall colours truly appealed to me as I wandered through the nooks and crannies of this lovely little neighbourhood. I also found it a timely refuge from the noise and glaring sunshine of the streets before. All appears to be peaceful and quiet in this leafy, picturesque suburb.

I absolutely love, love, love the quaint little leafy suburb of Neve Tzedek (and I like it's meaning too - 'Oasis of Justice')! Over here, the noises of the city dropped quite a few decibels lower and all was serenely quiet.
I eventually found my way back out onto the coastal promenade, and at four o’clock in the afternoon, the Middle Eastern sun was beating down almost oppressively on me. If not for the sea breeze, I think it might be a little unbearable! Nevertheless, I am so, so glad that I am here and that I am realizing more and more that I truly love traveling with an attitude of a wayfarer – and not just a mere tourist.

One of the funny things that happened while I was strolling along the coast was when a friendly chap cycled in my direction and smiled jovially with a greeting. I returned it and kept walking. A few minutes later, the same fellow cycles up beside me and asks me if I speak Ivrit (Hebrew)! I surprised him by saying, ‘Ken! Ah, mah nishma?’ (Yeah! Ah, how are things?) He was so thrilled he kept saying, ‘Att tov!’ (You’re good!) It was a good opportunity for me to practice my Hebrew and try asking him some questions. To my delight, he could actually understand my rudimentary Hebrew, and I could actually pick up on his words too! I couldn’t believe that I’d only been in the country for less than three hours and I had already found a friendly local Tel Avivian to chat with. Pretty awesome!

Chilling round the hipster Banana Beach and Ge'ula Beach close to Charles Clore promenade :)
Anyhow, it’s only around six o’clock now (seven hours before Melbourne!), but the sun is still up in the sky and isn’t showing any sign of abating its radiating warmth. Pretty awesome, since I’ve come from Melbourne’s dreary winter, where the sun has been setting around five thirty! Can’t wait for my body clock to get used to the summer time here, I’ll be sure to go on more wandering adventures in the next many days I’ll be in Israel!

A glorious Middle-Eastern sunset (this was taken round 8 o'clock), right on the promenade of Jerusalem Beach. The sun was so round and huge, literally a ball of fire sinking beneath the Mediterranean sea. It was something out of this world to behold.

For more photos, check out my Tel Aviv: Carmel Market | Bauhaus City | Neve Tzedek | Jerusalem Beach gallery here

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