|Devil Duck that greeted|
us upon arrival. I almost
got back in the car.
On Saturday, February 15th, we set out early in an attempt to visit the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa. It didn't work out as planned, so we quickly moved on to the next stop. (I did visit the gardens at a later date, so fret not! We will get there eventually.)
Acre (Hebrew), or Akko (Arabic), is one of the oldest continuously
|Regal Rooster was indignified |
by this paparazzi attack.
Upon arriving, we walked past a satanic looking duck and a regal-but-boring-by-comparison rooster and made our way to a ramshackle ticket counter where we were able to purchase a "Sites of Akko" combo pass that allowed us access to several important locales. I only mention the poultry because I've been back through Akko several times, and not once have I seen additional signs of farm life. They were just…there. In front of a seafood restaurant. Weird.
Akko has been inscribed upon the World Heritage List as a site deserving protection for the benefit of all humanity. (Gosh, I just love visiting these places!) Akko is a historic walled port city with continuous settlement from the Phoenician period. The remains of the Cursader town, dating from 1104 to 1291, lie almost intact, both above and below the street level. The city today is characteristic of a fortified Ottoman town dating from the 18th and 19th Centuries, with typical urban components such as the Citadel, Mosques, and Baths.
The first "site of Akko" was the Templar Tunnel, which extends 350 meters from the Templars
The tunnel was discovered in 1994 and, after thirteen years of excavation and renovation, was fully opened to the public in 2007. Exhibitions are only offered in English and Hebrew, which means anyone not in the know has basically paid for the pleasure of walking down a stone hallway with a ceiling that constantly varies in height. Still, a must see and worth the cost when absorbed into the combo pass.
I was also amazed that this particular mosque had a cat. Yes, a cat. Just wandering around inside with a confident air that would make you think he owned the place. Maybe he did. Who am I to judge business kitties like that? He was adorable and against our better judgement we played with him for a ridiculously long period of time. As the rain began to subside, we bid him adieu and dashed for a nearby restaurant where we indulged in falafel and shawarma…and yes, we washed the stray kitty cooties off first.
The cat followed us. We fed him bits of food, which probably means that the Mosque Cat has now become the Falafel Stand Cat. Sorry, chef!
Structural integrity became a growing concern in the early 1990s, with noticeable cracks appearing in the vaulted ceilings and causing soil an mortar to fall to the floor below. Akko's Development Company proceeded with restoration and developed the underground complex for tourism throughout the 90s.
|Standing in one of many galleries that|
features plaques without exhibits.
Our next stop was hands down the most amazing thing any of us had seen in a very long time, simply for its sheer ridiculousness. Akko's Hamam al-Basha Turkish Baths are that in name only. The baths, which date back to the Ottoman period, have been converted into a museum that demonstrates through video, sculpture, and steam effects the role of the bathhouse in the city's daily life. Basically, you do your regular daily activities, then go get naked, have a steam, and gossip about anybody and everybody that doesn't happen to be in the room at that time. Naturally, we waited for the rest of the tour group to pass through, and then paused for shamelessly inappropriate photos.
Exiting the Baths, we came across a horrifying display while en route to our next destination. Four jackasses spray painting a donkey. Just for fun. We yelled at them to stop. We tried to find police (no luck, it was Shabbat). I took photos of them in an effort to scare them away. Ultimately they stopped. And then…the donkey…followed them?!?! Not sure why, but if it turned out that one of them owned the donkey, I hope his parents walloped him upside the head for his disgraceful behavior. Here are there photos, on the off chance that someone that knows them would ever see this and chastise them or turn them into the police.
In hindsight, I look back on this particular event, and feel totally ashamed for another event.
Slowly recovering from our anger, we walked along the city walls, which afforded us beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea and a camel. Five months into our stay here, and I apparently hadn't gotten out much. The only other camel I had seen was at a butcher shop…and that was just the head. No. Really.
Atop the city walls, we found more opportunities for immature photography...
…before finding ourselves at our final destination: Akko's Treasures in the Wall Museum, which was developed through private collections to establish an ethnographic center that would illustrate and preserve the way of life that was prevalent in the area during the Ottoman period up through the founding of Israel. The museum acquired its name by being built into the old fortified walls that once protected the city. It was a neat little museum, featuring a hodgepodge collection of Judaica, pottery, furniture, and various knick-knacks. Several exhibits were set up that demonstrated what various workshops may have looked like. Nothing of earth shattering historical significance was to be found, but it was nice to enter a museum that actually had content. Here's a smattering of what was to be seen.
That concluded the day's adventure in Akko. I've since been back a handful of times, whether just driving through, or stopping by for more exploring, or to grab a bite to eat. It always proves to be quite an interesting experience, jackasses and all. We will revisit the city at a later date, as our eventual trip to Haifa also led back here.