Breathed the Mountain Air, Man

Baha’i Gardens, Daria, and flips on a beach. My feet hurt just thinking about this day.

Our trip started successfully.  We left the Kfar on time and everything!  Made it to our bus on time and started our journey from Jerusalem to Haifa.Map of Haifa
The drive took about two hours.  We made our way to the Port Inn hostel.  It’s actually rather nice here.  I’ve never stayed in a hostel, but I definitely had some preconceived notions about the ordeal.  We were shown into a room that has seven beds.  I immediately chose the only bottom bunk.  (Unfortunately, as I went to bed that night, I came to find the the bottom of the bed had a “bow” in it…so every time I shifted in the bed, I heard a loud thunk…it sounded kinda like the popping of a Snapple cap.  Lovely.)

That afternoon we just explored the area a bit.  We made a few friends from Australia (Johnathan and Andrew) who were going to the Gardens the next day as well, so we made plans to meet up the next morning and went to sleep early.

Here’s a map that will help explain my trek through Haifa on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday was a much more adventurous day.  We woke up at about 9:00 and left for the Baha’i Gardens.

A short history of Baha’i.

On May 23, 1844 Siyyid `Alí-Muhammad of Shiraz, Iran proclaimed that he was “the Báb” (“the Gate”). His followers were therefore known as Bábís. He foresaw the coming of another prophet, though who it was to be was unknown. As the Báb’s teachings spread, which the Islamic clergy saw as a threat, his followers came under increased persecution and torture. The Báb was imprisoned and eventually executed in 1850. The Báb’s Tomb, located in Haifa, is an important place of pilgrimage for Bahá’ís. The remains of the Báb were brought secretly from Iran to the Holy Land and eventually interred in the tomb built for them in a spot specifically designated by Bahá’u’lláh.

Bahá’u’lláh was one of the early followers of the Báb. He was arrested and imprisoned for this involvement in 1852. Bahá’u’lláh relates that in 1853, while incarcerated in a dungeon in Tehran, he received the first intimations that he was the one anticipated by the Báb.

Shortly thereafter he was expelled from Tehran to Baghdad, then to Constantinople; and then to Adrianople. In 1863, at the time of his banishment from Baghdad to Constantinople, Bahá’u’lláh declared his claim to a divine mission to his family and followers. Tensions then grew between him and Subh-i-Azal, the appointed leader of the Bábís who did not recognize Bahá’u’lláh’s claim.

Throughout the rest of his life Bahá’u’lláh gained the allegiance of most of the Bábís, who came to be known as Bahá’ís. Beginning in 1866, he began declaring his mission as a Messenger of God in letters to the world’s religious and secular rulers.

In 1868 Bahá’u’lláh was banished a final time to the Ottoman penal colony of Akko (in present-day Israel). Towards the end of his life, the strict and harsh confinement was gradually relaxed, and he was allowed to live in a home near Akko, while still officially a prisoner of that city. He died there in 1892.

The Bahá’i don’t have spiritual leaders, as they believe that all people (men, women, children) are equal.  At local, regional, and national levels, Bahá’ís elect members to nine-person Spiritual Assemblies, which run the affairs of the religion.

Random fact: There are about 5-6 million Bahá’ís worldwide.

So we caught a taxi to area 1 (on the map).  Area 1 is also referred to as the Inner Gardens where the Baha’i Shrine is.  There are all kinds of plants, flowers, and sculptures within.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFrom here, we toured the Inner Garden and visited the Shrine.As we got closer to the Shrine, we were warned by guards that it was a sacred location and once inside, we weren’t allowed to take pictures.  Luckily, we weren’t limited before we went in.Here is a lamp and inscription before you enter the building.Everything is very regal and coated in gold filigree.  Here are what the gates look like:Following this, we finally approached the entrance to the Shrine.No pictures were taken within, but honestly…It was only one room.  Quite small, no circulation with a lot of incense.  It was hot and steamy.  Oh baby!  I exited quickly and went back to the outlook at the front of the building.  I framed a shot quite well (I think…) and here it is!As we ran out of things to look at, we exited the Inner Gardens (after spotting this awesome shrubbery:)And started walking towards the top of the mountain to join the tour for the Outer Gardens.  (This is number 2 on the map.)  It was about a 30 minute walk…up a mountain.  It was exhausting.  But we saw a burnished bronze sculpture in someones lawn on the way.  I liked it…

We got to the top a bit early and scoped out the lookout (Spot 3).  The view was gorgeous.  You could see all the way to Lebanon…which is right above Israel.And here’s my best attempt at making a panoramic picture in Microsoft Paint:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAs 12:30 rolled around, we joined in with a huge English speaking tour.  There was an ADORABLE kid who kept asking questions…I know that, at that age, I totally would not have been checked in.  But this was the most curious kid I’ve ever seen in my life.  Totally precious.  Honestly, he reminded me of Adam.  😦  I miss home!

We started the tour at the very top and worked our way down.  It’s fascinating…they have water on every level of the Gardens…and they recycle the same water so that every time you go…you see the same water.And here’s how it goes down the mountain…It takes the stairs!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAIt lends a BEAUTIFUL sound to the tour.

After the first round of steps (there are 700 going all the way down…) we stopped to look up (to the first outlook).

Everything is very peaceful…and all gorgeous.  All of the hand-rail fixtures are iron swirls:And all the grates on the level parts of the garden are covered:All the plants are perfectly trimmed…And there are so many sculptures of peacocks and eagles that it’s not even funny…

It wasn’t until a good chunk of the way down that I realized everything in the garden is perfectly symmetrical!No one has ever accused me of being quick on the uptake.  😉

To the right of the Gardens are several important buildings to the Baha’i faith.  First is the Baha’i school.Then, the important somethingorother that I don’t remember the name of…but I like the building!And lastly, in classical greek style, the Baha’i Archives/Library with a bright green roof.They didn’t want these buildings to clash with the Gardens because the Gardens are the most important part of the religion.  After all, the Shrine houses Báb.  So they didn’t want the buildings to be large and over the top.

Here’s a view of Ben Gurion Street at the base of the mountain.  This is in the German Quarter…where all the yummy restaurants are (Part 8).Here I am in the middle of the mountain:Finally, we reached the base of the mountain.  Here was the view from the middle, up.And lastly, here’s one of my favorite pictures.  Just for the heck of it:When we were finally back at the middle of the gardens, we decided to walk to the Muslim Quarter to find food and a taxi (section 4 on the map).  We caught a cab and headed to Elijah’s Cave (#6: Eliyahu Hameorah in case you are ever in Haifa and your cab driver doesn’t know English…).  Unfortunately, Elijah’s Cave was closed due to Sukkot.  So we started hiking up the mountain…VERY steep stairs.  We got to the top and found another beautiful outlook at section 7.  Here’s overlooking the Mediterranean Sea:

There was an old church called Sacre Coeur Church that apparently has an interesting history…but has since been abandoned.We continued walking up to section 8, The Stella Maris Monastery.  We were only allowed into the church, so here are some pretty church pictures!The church had a beautiful mural on the ceiling.Deciding to call it a day, tour-wise, we left the Monastery intending to find a cab to take us back to 5 (Port Inn Hostel).  Unfortunately…we couldn’t find one.  So we walked all the way back (part 9).  It took about an hour.

We relaxed for an hour or so at the hostel (I showered….it was SOOO nice) before we left to go to the Haifa International Film Festival.We got to see POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.  I LOVED IT!  It really made me appreciate how much I like my major.  I even had a good discussion with Kate afterwards about advertising and why I want to spend my career doing it.  Was quite nice!  I also got to cross “Go to a film festival” off of my bucket list.  Extremely satisfying.  We took the subway back (What?! A subway in Israel, you say?!  Confused though we were…it was the best way to get back.) to our hostel and FINALLY called it a night.  I was sitting in my bed watching NCIS when one of the girls I was roomming with brought a guy back to the room at about 1:00am.  And…yeah.  Wow.  xD

The next morning Arielle left to go back to Jerusalem and I made a new friend!  I actually made three new friends!  Daria is from Floria (but just moved to Louisiana), John is a PE teacher from Maryland, and Dan is from New Jersey.  We decided to head to the beach together (section 11).

We headed to the bus station where we all pulled out our passports to get through security.  FUNNY STORY!  My picture…is in Daria’s passport.  o.o  Fer serial!  She sent her Visa application to the Houston consulate (as did I) and apparently they accidentally put my picture on her application.Talk about strange!  7,000 miles away from home and I run into someone who has my picture in her passport.  It’s like it was kismet!


We had a LOVELY day where I snacked on french fries and nacho-flavored Doritos.  I had a mini-photoshoot as the sun was going down.  I also got to cross another thing off of my bucket list; “Tumble by the sea.”

Here is the Mediterranean Sea at sunset:

I got some beautiful semi-silhouette shots as well…

By the time the sun went down, we decided to head back but since Shabbat had already started we ended up walking back to the hostel.  It took about an hour and a half.  Oy to the vey.  But I got a good workout?  Worked off my ice cream?  I’ll just keep telling myself that.

And, this post has taken five hours to write.  >.<  I shall post more when I have done more.  TOODLES!

Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Obtained my Master's in Film, Television and Screen Media in London, England. Now working as a small-group travel coordinator. Nice to meet you!

One thought on “Breathed the Mountain Air, Man”

  1. I love every minute of this post. Keep them coming. Sounds like you’re having a more than wonderful time and learning sooooo much!! Love ya, Gma

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