24 HOURS IN ACRE
We pick up our rental car in Tel Aviv. It’s a Kia picanto. My sister calls it a plastic car. She dreams back to the Audi A1 we had in Italy a few years back. The car is too small to fit 3 suitcases, so my sister’s is on the back seat with my mom.
The drive from Tel Aviv to the city of Acre (or Akko) just north and around 30 km from the border to Lebanon takes around 1,5h. but we stop on the way at Ceasarea Maritime to look at some ruins. Definitely worth it.
Most travellers skip Acre, not going to this area or only stay at the larger city of Haifa. (We stopped by the UNESCO-listed Bahá’í gardens in Haifa, but that’s a different story). Other just visit on a day trip.
But we heard great things and it look more cosy on pictures than large Haifa. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you know I’m a sucker for it.
We arrive by car from Tel Aviv. It’s an easy trip with good roads, just notice road number 6 and 1 are toll roads. Just before arriving, we pass a great beach hoping to catch it before we leave. Wishing we had more time – as you always do on travels.
It’s illegal (and kind of impossible) to drive or park inside the old city were we are staying. Our host at the apartment hotel told us to there is a drop off parking lot a 100 meters away and a free parking lot 600 meters away.
We drive to the nearest and my sister and I carry the two large suitcases (not my usual backpack this time) up the stairs around corners and over the cobbled street to our apartment. My mom stays in the car to avoid a fine and decides to leave her cabin bag in the car and pack everything she needs in her backpack.
The parking lot is next to a school, there are a lot of other cars. My sister says something about if my mom is sure she wants to leave her bag here. I’m not really listening.
Alma is a really cosy spacious apartment in an old stone house. It’s always a bit difficult to find rooms for 3 people. The host is extremely accommodating and has painstakingly restored the old house himself.
The first thing we do is hurry to the legendary Uri Buri restaurant, you might have seen it on every foodie’s tv show like Feeding Phil. It has also been named one of the best restaurants in the world, and the best restaurant in the Middle East and in Israel by Trip Advisor. So not-to-be-missed?
You can’t make a reservation online and we didn’t get to call, but it’s worth a shot. My sister is usually pretty lucky, so they have at table about 45 minutes later if we can eat fast. Fast you say? You haven’t seen eaters like us… We run to the hotel for a quick shower and change and are back at the fish restaurant exactly on time.
Grilles octopus! Shrimps in garlic! Ceviche! Paired with Israeli white wine. Finishing with ice cream made on dates, cinnamon, cardamom and halva. All the good stuff.
For a hyped place, the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. I recommend the tasting menu – as in most top notch eateries. It was excellent and not to expensive – and that’s saying a lot in a country 10% more expensive than Denmark! We’re in and out in an hour.
After dinner, my sister wants to go to the room and escape our company for a while. I know my mom always wants to stay out as late as possible and I would like take some photographs so the two of us take an evening stroll.
When we walk out, a small square nearby is filling up with tables and lanterns and festively dressed people are arriving. Wedding? We don’t like to crash parties, so we meander on through the maze-like streets.
As always, I need to use the bathroom, so my mom agrees to buy a cup of coffee in Mina Café. (Otherwise Israel is the best country ever for someone with a small bladder. Free and mostly clean toilets everywhere.)
The inhabitants of Acre are mainly Muslims. We pass the El-Jazzar mosque known as the white mosque from 1781. Luckily, it’s open for visitors for a small fee. I usually carry a scarf for such an occasion, but didn’t this time. The friendly man at the gate lends me one (they do that most religious places in Israel).
“Shit!” My mom screams (she always does that, when she can’t find something). “Where is my scarf?” “Maybe you left the at the café?” I say. She runs back, while I go into the grounds and let her stress on her own. (Probably should have help her in hindsight…) I’m about to enter the mosque when someone yells “stop!”
A woman comes running towards me, telling me I can’t go inside in a not-friendly voice. She drags me towards a small side building. “That is for men. You must come with me.” I see the boring small closet-like prayer room for the women and then glance at the men’s beautifully decorated hall. This is not what I wanted to see. “I’m very sorry,” I say. “But the man said I could go…” She looks at me surprised. “If the man says fine, you can of course go, but if it was me I wouldn’t go. But sure if you want to be disrespectful!”
I do not want to be disrespectful, but when you pay to see a mosque and the man at the entrance says you can go and gives you a scarf, I’m clearly not trespassing.
I enter. No one is there. I sit down and enjoy the exquisite craftsmanship. I love the dimensions of the Islamic architecture. A man arrives to pray. The woman from before also enters but don’t enter the hall, but stay by the shoe rack to pray. I leave and think it was much ado about nothing. My mom now arrives with her scarf, but won’t pay to see the mosque.
So tired and excited for tomorrow.
Monday 8 am
We wake up not knowing that the night has brought about something unpleasant.
Have a small breakfast which for me is just a cup of mint tea.
Surprisingly, there’s suddenly a lot of other tourists in Acre this morning. I guess most only swing by the old city on a day trip from Haifa or somewhere other. I’m glad we stayed the night (still).
Monday 10 pm
I also go head first for my my top of the list attraction. You never know what might happen, so waste no time (and this time it proved me right sadly). We stand before the crusaders citadel as it opens.
I wait with my bags by the road. My mom and sister brings the car back fro the parking lot. I open the trunk to place my bag inside.“Where’s mom’s bag?”, I ask. They both look at me like I’m kidding. I’m not.
After looking under every seat and in every pocket and over and under the car, we drive back to the parking lot to search for it. Surprise. It’s not there. It must have been stolen. If it were me I could have forgot to make sure the trunk was locked. But not my sister. She double checked.
And it’s off to the police station. We can’t park anywhere nearby for free and neither my sister or I want to leave our bags in the car. We drive to the parking lot of the police station and after looking really sad and confused, a nice man let’s us park inside with the police cars.
Apparently, it’s not uncommon for this to happen. An hour later, we leave with a police report in Hebrew. Wonder what my mom’s insurance company will do.
We buy lunch from one of the best hummus places in the world Hummus Said. Being all flustered, we forgot cash. So my sister has to run around the entire city to find an ATM. Meanwhile I sit and look pretty. The very nice staff offered me both water and coffee. After 15 minutes, she came back. Turns out the ATM was right next to the hummus shop.
We are so we park the car next to a bench so we can enjoy our lunch on a parking lot looking at the car. what an experience…
What we needed was some delicious hummus. They make it with and without tahini and pickled vegetables and egg.
After discussing and recovering from the chock, we decide to go to the beach. We almost give up on doing anything fun today. I try to lift my sister’s spirit and suggests we skip the Templar tunnel (she sighs) and the UNESCO site on my list and head for the beach (we have different ideas of fun).
Just south of Acre we head for the beach we passed on our way into town. But we can’t get the parking app to work so we have to run down for a quick swim one by one, so it’s not really a beach day.
To top this day off, the traffic gods don’t like us. When we leave Acre, the GPS says the 1,5 hour drive to Jerusalem will take 3 hours due to a traffic accident. It did!
Now you might think being robbed would ruin our trip to Acre and Israel, but when I travel I have different expectations than when I’m on a holiday. Everything that happens is part of the journey (as long as you are safe obviously) – even the cancelled train, the bad hotel and the yelling when you dress wrongly in a religious country.
Despite this, I would recommend coming to Acre and staying at least one night, since the small crusader town was actually the best part of my journey to Israel (which is definitely not my favourite country by the way).
JUST DON'T LEAVE ANYTHING IN YOUR CAR!
This might be obvious to you but I come from Denmark. We have a very high level of trust.
Sometimes the dumb things make great stories. Like the time a Ha Long Bay trip in Vietnam became a Monkey Island prison! or the time I accidentally embarrassed myself (almost) in front of the pope in Rome.
Have you been robbed on a trip?