I’m back in Jersualem, and it’s especially evident that we’ve been living here a year because the things from last November/December are back: There’s the upcoming annual fancy fundraiser at a gorgeous old hotel; the Christmas tree is up Bethlehem’s town square (and another one is up in our living room); and the skies are no longer blue all day long.
Most people who live in Jerusalem will tell you that its a city than can weigh on you with its constant tension, borders, armed guards, religiosity and whatnot, and that it’s really nice to have a little escape now and then in the form of weekend getaways and day trips. We’ve done both of these in recent months, but day trips are especially nice because we get to return at night and not shell out hundreds for a hotel (and we can sleep in our own bed with the kitties).
Here are my favorite recent daytrips (all of which I’d recommend for Jerusalem residents and visitors alike).
Hike in the Jerusalem Hills and Lunch in Ein Karem
All of Israel has nice hiking trails, and I’m determined to establish a list of favorite hikes here, as I did in Madrid. So far, Mr. Em in Jerusalem and I have focused on the nearby Sataf Forest, in the Jerusalem Hills. First we did the Har Eitan (a sunny trail loop around a mountain, or har) and more recently we did the Shvil HaMa’ayanot, a two-hour hike with nice views, several spring-fed pools (ma’ayanot is Hebrew for spring), and a little detour to see a surprising John F. Kennedy Jr. Memorial that looks straight out of 1960s Washington DC.
You could actually hike from Shvil HaMa’ayanot to the nearby Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Karem for lunch (or just get back in your car and drive, like we did). Ein Karem has a few cute restaurants to fill up at post-hike. Also, Christians believe it’s the birthplace of John the Baptist, and tour groups make stops to visit the many churches in the neighborhood. (Thanks to Brain at Israel21c for this post on hikes in the Jerusalem area).
Bless our friend who organized a 16-seat bus to take a group of us to Jerusalem-area wineries, because it was an awesome day and sure beats imbibing and driving yourself. We started by visiting Yaffo, an operation started by a French woman and her Israeli husband (originally located in Yaffo, aka Jaffa, thus the name) and now located in a peaceful Sonoma-esque locale about thirty minutes outside of Jerusalem. We had a lovely spread of cheeses and veggies and sipped wine, my favorite of which was a 2014 Syrah-Merlot blend.
Next stop was Kadma, where we tried wines that have been made, at least partly, in clay casks, which is how they make wine in the owner’s native Georgia. We also enjoyed a nice lunch spread and pretty desert-brush views while we noshed and sipped.
The final winery stop was the lovely and elegant Flam, which I’d been to before. Here’s the thing with wineries here: You must undergo a lengthy lecture before taking a sip of wine. (It was the same way in Spain, only there, the lecture was in Spanish). I’m all for combining some learning with my drinking, but, at this point, I think I know how wine is made. (We’re still enjoying the case of Flam we bought last month).
Ancient History and Ruins in Caesarea
Last Sunday, I really needed to leave the apartment. I’d been sick with a cold since Thanksgiving and was starting to feel like me and the sofa were one. So, we took a two-hour drive north to the Mediterranean coastal town of Caesarea, which is midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Caesarea was built by Herod the Great during the time of Christ and was once a bustling port city where the Romans shipped in all sorts of goods. It was also the administrative center from which the Roman Empire (including Pontius Pilate) ruled the Jewish people (they only visited Jerusalem when necessary). Later, it was where the Byzantine Empire ruled from. The Muslims ruled it (and everything else in the region) in the 7th Century until the Crusades. Then, it was abandoned until 1884 when it was, and I’m not sure why, a home for Bosnian immigrants. In 1948, it was conquered by a unit let by Yitzhak Rabin (a former Israeli Prime Minister). Today, it’s a national park with lots of Roman ruins, including an aquaduct, a chariot racetrack, and a theater.
To weekend adventures,
Em in Jerusalem