There’s not much to see here. Some bauhaus buildings, two markets, maybe one or two neighborhoods. But so much to do! Exercise, eat, party and spend afternoons lazily in one of the street cafes. It’s a perfectly livable city, with lots of variety, plenty of freedom and few annoyances.
Tel Aviv is a fit city. Lots of people jog, run, bike or move around in countless other ways. Much of this activity happens along the beachfront, both for the views, as well as the convenience of a broad promenade and bike path.
Every other morning, shortly after sunrise, while my companions were still fast asleep, I would sneak out towards the beach, to one of the several street workout facilities available, and work out in the morning sun. Can’t imagine a better surrounding. I wasn’t alone. The place was always packed with people—half of them elderly, doing a bit of mobility stuff, the other half fit regulars, pushing more seriously. These quickly took me in and started greeting on arrival—which felt great!
The beach was obviously also a mecca for those who prefer an immobile horizontal position. Already this early in the season, the sun was plenty warm, and lots of people spent their days and evenings on the sand, or at one of the many bars and restaurants along the promenade. On weekends and evenings I thought the whole Tel Aviv actually descended onto beachfront—it was this busy.
We did do our share of sightseeing too. Started out in Jaffa, which is the oldest part of the city, with low buildings, narrow streets and all around a lot of messiness. Nothing postcard-worthy really, but pleasant to stroll, eat or have a drink in one of the “ruin bars”—probably not what they’re called, but we stole the term from Budapest’s bar scene, because these here establishments were similar, with somewhat decrepit interiors.
The Neve Tzedek neighborhood is similar—a neat place to spend time in—but distinctly more modern. Then the highly advertised bauhaus architecture along the Rothschild boulevard was quite pleasing, especially for a design buff like myself, though again, the beauty of this movement lies in its simplicity and its products are far from what one would consider “impressive”.
Next were the markets, the flee market of Jaffa and the Carmel market of Tel Aviv. Both busy, noisy, packed and offering lots of really cool stuff to spend money on, including mouthwatering veggies and other foods. Basically, what you would expect from serious markets.
Finally, there were the old ports of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, which by now have turned into hip leisure spaces, with restaurants, galleries and stores that moved into the old warehouses. Again, an interesting space to spend time at, but visually quite a turn-off. Even the Marina north of Tel Aviv’s main beach was pretty unimpressive. By contrast, I vividly remember the beauty of all the yachts parked in Palma de Mallorca’s port—a sight I could spend hours photographing. Here it was just a bunch of ships with little magic to it.
Now, the food is a blend of all kinds of cuisines and flavors. Plenty of hummus and falafel, of course, like everywhere in this country. But on top of that, novel dishes, imported from everywhere in the world, or inspired by local tastes and traditions. We had delicious stuff we couldn’t possibly name. Even street food offered its share of innovation, one of which I’ll definitively copy: whole, baked cauliflowers, served for sharing, and to eat by hand.
One thing we didn’t get to try was the party scene. Pity, because I would’ve loved to, but didn’t have a willing company to join me. A lot of bars were within meters of our apartment (which made for a bit of noise until early morning hours), and many of them proudly displayed rainbow flags, marking their friendliness to all sorts of sexual orientations and genders.
Overall, it’s a melting pot of nations, origins, attitudes, orientations. Everyone is welcome and free to be themselves, as long as they let others express themselves too. Just the environment we love to stay in, and one that our home Warsaw is steadily becoming too. We could certainly live here, work, exercise and leisurely spend time—lots of it at the beautiful beach. If only Israel wasn’t this isolated…