Akko

Meanwhile, I made the trip to Akko despite my Tel Aviv host’s discouragement  “It’s a dirty Arab town and not really worth the time and effort to get there” he claimed. It indeed did take a while to get there and I can understand… When people tell me they are going to go by train to the Blue Mountains, I’m like, “Whatever the hell for?” But as a tourist, it’s not like you have to rush off to work or anything.. So, I threw caution to the wind, threw on a pair of shorts and off I went.

Akko is in the north of Israel on Haifa Bay, about another thirty minutes on the train past Haifa.  Along with other cities, it claims to be one of the oldest continually inhibited cities in the world; about 4000 years apparently and is the holiest city for the Bahai faith.  It was initially meant to be part of an Arab state during the UN partition plan for Palestine, but it was captured during the war and annexed along with other parts of Palestine.  It then became a development town for thousands of Jewish immigrants mainly from Morocco and then later Russians and Ukrainians from the USSR.  However, the old city of Akko still remains very Arab Muslim and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From a distance, the walled old city of Akko is quite attractive.  It sits on a peninsula surrounded by water that comes up right to the city wall.  In the centre of the old city is the very attractive Al Jazzar Mosque… and no problem entering in shorts either!  The rest of the town is a labyrinth of covered walkways, part market and part residential.  There are a lot of sweets and spices at the market and also an open fresh fish market.  I’ll pause for a minute, so you can fully imagine the aroma of fish wafting around the labyrinth in 40 degree heat…

 

To be honest, Akko was a bit shabby and it was mainly a case of take some snaps, tick it off your list and leave.  One good thing about going to places like Akko is that it makes Tel Aviv look a whole lot better when you return.  It makes it easier to appreciate what it has to offer and overlook the ill-mannered and entitled Tel Avivians and the horrible service you get in shops and restaurants.  At the better end of the spectrum, the service in Tel Aviv can be quite stern.  At the other end of the spectrum, it’s just downright rude.  I was tip shamed the other day at a club.  The barman shouted at me, “It’s usual to tip in Israel!” as I went to pick up my change from the tray.  I’ve worked in the hospitality industry so I totally get tipping and I generally DO tip … But at bar, when you’ve just paid an extortionate 65 shekels (that’s 24 Australian dollars!!) for an extremely ordinary drink and the barman doesn’t speak to you… He just scowls at you and flicks his face upwards as if to say, “What the f*** do you want?” … Can you explain to me WHY I should tip you?

And now from one extreme to the other:  From a dirty Arab town to staying in an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in Jerusalem… More to follow!

After party

So I finally had the chance to realise one of my dreams: going to a Mexican after-party. And all I can say, is that it didn’t disappoint… It was everything I hoped it would be plus a WHOLE LOT MORE. Unlike in Guadalajara where clubs organise their own after-parties, the tradition here is that after the club closes for the night, everyone moves to someone’s house to have the party.

The night started off at a techno club a short taxi ride away from the Sacristy. I’m not really a huge fan of clubbing by myself these days, but in Mexico it’s absolutely not an issue. Mexican people are so genuinely warm, welcoming, friendly and hospitable (at least towards foreigners anyway) and everywhere I’ve gone people have seen that I’m by myself and asked me to join their group. So even though I knew no-one in this club, within about 20 minutes of arriving, it was like I was out with a bunch of old friends.

The club was really cool with three different DJs playing… The main annoyance were the drinks waiters who were on a mission to rip-off everyone as much as they could. I’m sure they make a killing every night this way. They automatically took their own tip, as much as they felt they should or could. At the beginning of the night the tips were small but by the end of the night the tips got bigger and bigger. Nor would they return change unless you chased after them and made a special point of asking for your change back. The price of a beer was 40 pesos and a bottle of water was 20. At the beginning of the night the waiter wanted 50 and 30 respectively but by the end of the night the price for a beer and bottle of water was 150! The general feeling I got was just pay the money, keep them happy and avoid risking any trouble. So despite being in Mexico, it worked out to be quite an expensive night.

The only other issue in the club was a plumbing issue. Nothing flushed in the men’s bathroom so you can imagine what state it was in by 6 a.m.

After the club closed at 6 a.m. about 40 people shuffled off to someone’s house for the after-party. Anyone who wanted could go and there was quite a collection of characters. I’m the first to admit I’m a bit of a pig when it comes to household tidiness and cleanliness but even I was a bit shocked at how quickly and how badly trashed this guy’s house became. Just about every drink was spilt on the floor and nothing was mopped up and pretty much everything else ended up on the floor aswell. On top of that, in Mexico it seems that the floor is used as the ashtray… and Mexican people like to ash and put out their cigarettes with such passion and gusto. So after a few hours, everyone was slipping and sliding around in a sea black debris strewn murkiness. The owner didn’t seem to mind and for me it was truly the cultural experience to end all cultural experiences.

I arrived back at the Sacristy at about 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon looking a little rough round the edges. The only bummer about the Sacristy on days like this is that it’s maximum security. First there’s a big wooden bolted door and then another padlocked iron gate, so there’s no way of just discreetly sneaking in with no-one seeing you. You have to buzz for someone to let you in.  

I went up to my room and and at that time the housekeeper had had arrived to clean my room. I must have looked like a fright because she took one look at me, jumped, dropped her keys and cried, “OK, I’m leaving” and rushed off. I was glad she left but I was a bit embarrassed by the whole situation.

Last night was a very lazy night just hanging at the Zocalo and eating tacos and today it was hanging on the rooftop of the Museum Amparo taking in the sun.