Published: October 30th 2012October 28th 2012
The last day in Turkey
I left Fethiye after 2 weeks with a bunch of new (facebook) friends and wonderful memories. I wish could have stayed longer, but I was also excited to go to Israel. So, I took once again the overnight bus, this time in the other direction, from Fethiye to Istanbul, the big scary city. I had less then 24 hours and since Istanbul kind of exhausted me the last time, I decided to book a cheap hostel, close to the Blue Mosque because I already knew my way around there. The overnight bus was packed due to the Bayram holidays... Everybody was carrying cargo loads of meat with them. I couldn't really sleep because I had no space to stretch my legs or anything else... We arrived around 9 a.m. at the central bus station in Istanbul, somewhere under a bridge in the middle of all the other busses and taxis; I had no idea how to get back to the main part of the bus station, which is where all the buses leave. I kind of swoop through all the honking busses, cars and taxis and finally found the metro. I arrived in my hostel,
plain exhausted. I slept for a few hours, had a Falafel, slept more and got into the airport shuttle the next morning. Istanbul is a great city, but its definitely too big for me and it stresses me out, so I was happy to leave it behind. Arriving in Tel Aviv
I must say, I felt a lot more comfortable arriving in Tel Aviv than in Istanbul. I got into the country pretty much hassle free (although they picked me out for a quick questioning after disembarking the plane) and took a train into the city center. I made my way to the Kibbutz Program Center on Frishman street (after it took me ages to figure out the bus system) and had my placement interview. It basically went like this:
Interviewer: "Any requests?"
Me: "Nope. I'm fine with anything."
Interviewer: "You ok with cows?"
Me: "Yeah. I'm ok with cows."
Interviewer: "You ok with cow shit?"
Me: "Yup. I'm cool with any kind of shit."
And that was it... Kibbutz Lotan it is. Lotan is about half an hour north of Eilat, in the middle of the Negev desert, bordering with
Jordan. I must say I'm pretty happy with this placement, according to the website Lotan is an Eco Village that offers Green Apprenticeships, its organic and involved in permaculture. Like they had known exactly where to put me! Plus its in the south and in the desert and near Eilat and near Jordan, where I was planning to go next... I'm really excited to go! But until Wednesday, which is when I can start, is still a few days to go. I'm couchsurfing in Tel Aviv for the time. After I got my placement I bought an Israeli sim card and hung out at the beach for a little bit. And I think Tel Aviv is pretty awesome. I did not feel stressed out at all! Everybody is just relaxed and soooo nice and helpful! But not in the creepy way that I have encountered in Turkey. It is really nice not to stand out so much. I'm still a tourist, but I dont get the stupid stares and "where u from"'s from every F*ing corner! Here all I got was "Is niiice in Israel!" and a big fat smile.
It did take me a while to get to
my hosts apartment, because now I was absolutely dependant on other people's help. Because reading signs is just not an option here as everything is written in Hebrew, obviously. So taking a bus was an adventure, then I got out at the wrong stop and walked around aimlessly for about 15 minutes until I magically found the sign of the street where my host is living! What a relief! I had about 3 hours until he'd come back from work, so I sat down in a nice street corner cafe called Café George and had a delicous vegan lunch and a coffee until I met my host at his flat.
He had friends over and upon my arrival we went out for some food and a beer. I had a nice conversation with these guys. The next day I had actual stuff to do. I needed to buy a map because I had no freakin' idea where I was. So, because this method had always prooved itself as the most effiant, i walked around aimlessly, ready to give up and just get into the next best bus that came along until I found a shopping center! You wouldn't believe
how hard it is to find a shop on Rothschild avenue that sold a map of its own city! So I bought one in a book store. Then, i decided to get on a bus anyway and went to the bus station to get my ticket to Eilat. I went back on bus No. 4 to go back to Frishmanstreet and hung on the beach for the rest of the day. The Beach in Winter
I spent pretty much the whole day at the beach. It wasn't crowded (because its winter - duh), the temperature went up to about 28 degrees ( IT IS winter!) and people probably warpped themselves in cozy blankets in front of a fire with some hot chocolate... Compared to the summer heat Tel Aviv gets here, I guess I understand how people would call 28 degrees the winter. So I had the beach almost completely to myself! The sun was shinig on my belly and improved my Turkish tan. I went into the water only briefly every 45 minutes to cool off and the water was amazing! It was so warm and clear. I enjoyed it a lot because it will
be probably my last dips in the mediterranean ocean for a while, as I will be (as I mentioned before) spending the next 3-6 months in the desert that is close to the Red Sea (which yet I still have to swim and dive in), bordering Jordan, where I want to spend even more time in the desert, living with Beduins. But first things first.
Anyway, back to my story. I met my CouchSurfing host at his flat when he came back from work. He was meeting is Grandmother for the evening but before that he took me to a really nice vegan Pizzeria. As it turns out, Tel Aviv is pretty vegan friendly, too. Another thumbs up for you, Tel Aviv, for caring about animal welfare! It was my first time eating vegan Pizza and as you can all imagine, it tasted amazing!
The next day I had a bit of a lazy day... I went to the beach for a couple of hours, but it got really really hot and humid so I had to get out of the sun for a while and just hung out in my hostel. Then I decided not to be
a lazy bum and to check out the Old City of Jaffa, a Must See of Tel Aviv, personally recommended by my CouchSurfing host, and my personal highlight of Tel Aviv. I started walking along the Promenade just before sunset and I couldn't have picked a better time! It took me about 45 minutes to get to Jaffa and I was rewarded with panoramic views over the skyine of Tel Aviv! As the sun set I walked into the old city and heard something familiar, something I haven't heard since I left Turkey - the call for prayer. I found a few mosques in the old city and quite a few Arabs who reside there. The city itself is - as the name says - old. It seems to glow golden by the time of sunset which makes it even more beautiful. I walked around the old and narrow streets and enjoyed a Grapefruit lemonade with my breathtaking night view over the city. I walked back along the Promenade, this time in the dark.
I think Tel Aviv is a special place. Happy faces everywhere, a wave of friendliness and tolerance and diversity await the traveller here. It is
truly an oasis in the Middle East. And I already love it! You can sing, dance, play ultimate frisbee, do your yoga, pray, walk your dog, play volleyball, kayak, swim, talk to yourself... whatever you want to do, you can do it here!
I can't say too much about the city after 3 days, but I can say a few things... People are exceptionally friendly and helpful (wether you ask them for help or not), it's unexpectedly pricey, and its inhabitants all seem more beautiful than in other places (I really wonder why that is). It is super laid back and I felt very comfortable, safe and welcome. But now I'm super excited about my desert adeventure in the kibbutz Lotan, where I will be off to first thing in the morning.
There are more photos below