History, culture, nature. A day is full of possibilities in Israel (Travelogue)

Tel Aviv, March 1 : How about visiting a beautiful beach along the Mediterranean Sea, walking on layers of history stretching back to over 2,000 years, and dropping in on one of the most diverse organic farms in the world? All in a day?

It is possible to pack one's day with vast possibilities in Israel, a country rich in culture and history -- and one that is geographically compact and yet has a varied topography.

The excellent transport infrastructure also ensures easy and fast travel.

We started our day with a quick visit to the organic farm of Mizpe Hayamim, a hotel in northern Israel that can be a role-model for the farm-to-table concept.

Spread over a vast area, the organic farm has flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, livestock and a dairy.

The farm provides fresh seasonal produce for the hotel's vegetarian restaurant and meets almost all its needs.

Apart from boutique cheeses, liqueur, jams, unique blends of coffee, home-made pastries and sweets, even soaps are produced on the farm.

The farm is on a hillock and reflects the enterprise and determination that have turned the seemingly barren land into a fertile asset, attracting people from all parts of the world.

Mizpe Hayamim is close to the Sea of Galilee and views of the vast expanse around were amazing.

The expansive views continued as we travelled to Zichron Ya'akov, a quaint town on Mount Carmel, founded in 1882 by 100 Jewish pioneers who returned to their Biblical homeland from Romania.

The main shopping street at Zichron Ya'akov is on a slight incline, making the walk a pleasure.

It is lined with cafes, small shops and old buildings. After having a sumptuous lunch at a Baronita restaurant, located on a pedestrian street, we headed for the ancient port city of Caesarea, a fascinating place steeped in history that transports you back in time by centuries.

The Caesarea National Park has remains of many periods and the attractions include Roman theatre, hippodrome, sea-shore promenade, the crusader gate and the magnificent port.

The city, rebuilt by Herod the Great in 22-10 BCE, is a treasure trove for any student of history and archaeology.

While we took a quick tour, an entire day can be spent here discovering its chequered past -- which also saw it emerge as a major port of trade between the Roman empire and Asia.

It did not take long to reach Tel Aviv from Caesarea and the city impressed with its neatness and vertical architecture.

The modern, cosmopolitan city with several avenues of shopping and a thriving nightlife also has the highest number of high-tech companies per capita in the world.

Located on the eastern Mediterranean coastline, Tel Aviv has captivating beaches.

We took Segways, the two-wheeled electric vehicle, to explore the beach promenade, and it was an unforgettable treat.

Moving along on the big wheels in gentle breeze, the Segway tour presented different views of the waves, the sea, the setting sun and the elegant shops on the beach side.

It is not difficult to use Segway and all it requires is a bit of practice under watchful eye of an expert.

Tel Aviv can be the base to visit some other destinations in Israel, including Jerusalem and Haifa.

The coastal city of Haifa has a sense of tranquility about it and the Baha'i World Centre and Hanging Gardens -- a Unesco World Heritage Site -- immensely add to its quiet charm.

There are quite a few places to explore nearby. We went to Derech Hatavlinim Herb and Spice Farm and it was a model for agri-tourism. The farm attracts about 150,000 people from all parts of the world annually. The farm, with a visitor centre in the fields, offers about 600 varieties of species and hundreds of varieties of blends and now has shops in different parts of the world.

Jeruslam, 66 km southeast of Tel Aviv, is a perennial attraction and our visit to Israel would have been incomplete without a look-in at its Old City.

The Church of Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall and the Dome of Rock are a few minutes walk from one another.

The Old City Train -- a cute little green and yellow road-train -- makes it easy and interesting to go through the Old City to the Western Wall.

(Prashant Sood was in Israel on the invitation of its Ministry of Tourism.

He can be reached at prashant.s@ians.in)



Source: IANS