Akko, Akko, Akko

Napoleon meet Rabbi Nachman… What? Now there’s a historic meeting that would have been fun to witness. Yup, Napoleon invaded Palestine, attempting to capture the stunning and strategic city of Akko. Having heard about this, and that Akko is a World Heritage Site and that it’s a Christian Arab, Muslim Arab and Jewish city built on a thumb of land that juts out into the sea and  that everyone in history seemed to want to invade it – well seemed like a road trip was in order. Took the train- (traveling by train on cushy double decker trains in Israel is def. the way to go). Met the lovely Mark Yudell, my companion for the trip at the  train station on one of the most beautiful days in the Universe and we were off to explore……..

So Akko is actually awesome. It’s walled port-city that has been  continuously  occupied since the  Phoenician period. The remains of the Crusader town, dating from 1104 to 1291, lie almost intact, both above and below today’s street level, including a wild maze of escape tunnels designed to let those in the walled city escape to the sea. More on that later….The present city is classic  Ottoman from the  18th and 19th centuries. If you look at it on a map it becomes obvious why everyone wanted to own Akko. It’s a perfect port and a perfect strategic location from which to control the coast.  There is a modern part of the city , outside of the ancient walls,  but we’ll ignore that.

Akko is  a magical, peaceful place inhabited by people of many faiths and what appears to be thousands of cats. The local feeling is that in a port city you have rats. if you have cats there are no rats. Makes sense to me.  Winding ancient streets that double back on each other lead you around and around and eventually everything leads to the sea. The city is off the tourist trail and as a result feels special and somehow private. The coffee is superb. Enough chat. Here are some snaps-coff bar akko Coffee bar, Akko Style. Extraordinarily good coffee, served with side dishes of baklava and pickles. A taste combo I never need to repeat.

Most of the shops are decorated with historical and personal pictures, leading to some incredible combinations…..

dad and kids akko girl portrait akko portraits akko portraits in Akko

girls

Sign at a fish monger’s shop….Damn, I love this drawing….

fishmonger sign

The Old City has a beautiful little Mosque ( little is a relative term when it comes to Mosque size) It’s claim to fame is that the Mosque contains a hair from Muhammad’s beard. And I want to say to the French tourists who angrily refused to pay the 10 shekel entrance fee ( about $3.00) Really?  And did you have to be so damn rude about it? mosque 3 mosque1 mosque4 mosque5Every Mosque should have a cat in a basket!cat in a basket
Kids riding ponies bareback thunder down the street, Orthodox Jews shopping in the market next to veiled and robed women. Stores with equipment that looks 100 years old making things out of copper and tin. Tis’ truly a marvelous  city.

We descended into the Crusader tunnels – they wind underneath much of the city, clever escape routes for a besieged army. Some of the tunnels are about four feet high, arched tunnels perfected constructed. It’s a little mind bogging to think of how they were been built. The floor of one tunnel actually  fills with sea water as you get closer to the sea. Akko is layer upon layer of history. We came upon these two gents who were actually bricking up a tunnel. Upon questioning we learned that an entire new part of the ancient city had been discovered but the funds to properly excavate it weren’t available, so they were closing it back  up to preserve it. These guys  had been working in the tunnels for 22 years…..tunnelsMeanwhile, above ground. The seawalls, seafood restaurants cling to the side of the city, the sea lapping up against them.walls seaSweets, fish nets, street posters, seafood, a wall of seashells, shops sweets2sweets

fishnets

street posters2 streetposter

seafood

seashell wallshop

hamsa

It’s a dizzying array of color, scent and light.  A strong breeze blows off the ocean. The sky is a shade of  blue right out of a renaissance painting.  A perfect respite from my normal uber urban Tel Aviv  days, where taxi drivers vie with insane electric bike riders to see who will blink at that moment of contact……..I like Akko.

 

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14 Responses to Akko, Akko, Akko

  1. angelique says:

    Hello!
    Sharing some of your experiences too,because unexpectedly we are here!
    Seymours parents wanted to go and because they are not the youngest, we came with them. So, every step is with them, doesn’t leave us much time for doing our own thing. For example, to see you. You are probably busy yourself. Right now in Jeruzalem, from Friday on, in Tel Aviv. I read your blog and marvel about everything you write: so nice.
    If you want to leave me a line, better to use my email. You have that right?
    Love ya, and enjoy!

  2. angelique says:

    but if we end up in the same place at the same time, let me know, and I’ll try to meet!

  3. WOW! I love the rush of imagery and color in these photos, Melissa. Your trip is inspiring and exciting. I am so glad that you are blogging and taking so many beautiful photos. Have you started making any art there? xx

  4. Terry Heller says:

    truly brilliant. The colors are a surprise – I usually expect sand and beige, but the turquoise rails next to the seashell wall… the blue in the tile… unexpected confluence….

    xoxo

    keep ’em comin’! love it!

  5. Meg Shiffler says:

    You had me at weird candy! Thanks for sharing your trip with all of us!

  6. Todd Pearson says:

    Wow, very interesting place! Thanks for sharing, the photos are wonderful, and the people sound like fun. I love the story of the guys bricking up recently discovered tunnels, till the time is right to explore them………. Keep them coming!

  7. Carol La Monda says:

    Thank you for taking me on the trip with you, vicariously. I feel like I have been there before…so wondrous and yet familiar.

  8. Jim Friedlich says:

    I am inspired by your art, your trip, and by you! Let’s get married!

  9. Sue Lipkins says:

    It’s fun living vicariously through you! Thanks for Akko – eye popping!

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