Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Off to Akko

Or Acre, take your pick. Akko is more accurate, historically. You can read more about it here.

One of the cool things about Acre is that it's one of those places covered by so many of the archaeology shows. You get to see what the digs looked like when they filmed the show and see how far they've gotten. In the case of Acre, that could be a significant difference. While the city has been continuously inhabited since around 1500 BC, parts of Acre had not been discovered until as recently as the Israeli War of Independence (for example, the Hospitaller quarter, which had been completely covered by a Saracen palace).

I'm a sucker for anything related to the old military orders of the Church, so say Hospitaller or Templar and I'm right there. And, yes, if I were offered a membership to the Order of Malta, I'd go for it!

Anyway, vain dreams aside, I should cut to the chase and show you Acre.

Acre doesn't look like an archeological ruin for two reasons. First, much of it was completely buried. Second, what pieces were missing are being refashioned. So what you see, as opposed to the ruins in Caesarea, looks much more intact.

Now I'm pretty much a dolt when it comes to architectural style, but the Gothic element is pretty hard to miss with the vaulted arches in the Hospitaller quarter.

Oh, but wait, that's one of the newer finds. Here's one that's been set up as a display for some time.

Not all of the history here was medieval or ancient. In fact, the British used this location as a prison camp and hung numerous Israeli Jews during the time prior to the Israeli War of Independence. Aopparently the majority of the prisoners were Arab.

During an escape attempt (perhaps the escape of the 255 in 1947, the buried structures were discovered. The Israelis are still in the process of excavating the entire site.

So imagine you have a citadel that contains factions that aren't so friendly with each other. (Those Venetians seemed to stir up way to much trouble, from my reading. Maybe Dale can enlighten us on that account.) And you also have to move a lot of human... uh... byproduct out of the center of the town. How do you make the most effective use of the space?

You create tunnels through which tourists can tromp 500 years in the future!

I'm not sure why, but this was the only underground location where I found mold in any of the places I visited. I really don't want to think about that very hard.

After we emerged from this tunnel, we went into what I think was the templar fortress.

Since the templars had so many rivalries, they naturally needed their own means of getting around. Here's the templar tunnel at one of its intersections.

Finally, we also got a clear shot of the port, which for the most part is completely submerged.

I'm sorry to say that I did not get a good shot of the Tower of Flies. You can read about this spot here.

I didn't capture any images of the stop at Rosh Hanikra. Really the only thing that interested me about this stop was that we were practically underneath the Lebanese border. For some reason, I'm just not as wired to appreciate natural wonders as much as man-made follies. However, I did get a shot of this IDF coast guard unit way off in the distance.

Finally, we loaded up the bus and moved to Beverlee...

I think I'm getting a bit punchy tonight. I don't even like the Beverly Hillbillies.

Anyhoo, we started our return trip and stopped for a moment in Haifa. Please keep in mind that this was a target for Hizbollah shelling during the last conflict two years ago. It's a city where Jews and Arabs live together. It's the most important location for the Bahai faith. It's a college town. It's probably one of the most beautiful Israeli cities I saw (outside of West Jerusalem). Within Israel, Jews and Arabs seem to be able to live peaceably and prosperously. The antagonism seems to come from without rather than within.

Anyway, I tried to get a good shot of the Bahai gardens and the view from atop Mt. Carmel. Again, I'm not a photographer, so please forgive my inexpert touch.

By this time, I wanted nothing more than to fall asleep on the bus. Israel is a fascinating place. If you have the opportunity to take it slow, please do. At the same time, if your on pilgrammage for the only time in your life, grab as much as you can.
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