Oh life…how I love the journeys on this planet sometimes. This was a special one like no other. It was completely unplanned, completely random and unexpected and best of all – I was reunited with two great Israelis that I met a few years earlier.
To give this story some background. I’ve been backpacking a long time, and when you do that, you meet a lot of friends that become your mates for a few days, then you each move on and go on your separate journeys. I was single, and alone when I backpacked in New Zealand for the second time. It was October 2010 when I was touring the south island.
I took myself to Franz Josef Township ready for the Glacier Hike. But a few surprises were in store. Free soup in the Glow Worm Cottages hostel, then I randomly organised a spur of the moment night time walk through the rain, with torches and raincoats to see the glow worms. That night, at dinner I met Alex and Natali. A cool Israeli couple. We ate together, we did the Franz Josef Glacier Hike together and we did the Glow Worm experience together over a few cools days in Franz Josef. We also went down to the local pub two nights in a row. The budget backpacker in me had spotted a “free shot” coupon for the pub and a happy hour on a night out in Franz Josef.
However the next day, Alex and Natali headed to Lake Wanaka and I headed onwards to Queenstown. But we kept touch and I wanted to go to Israel to meet them someday. That moment finally arrived in September 2013. Panny Yu (who I hadn’t yet met while in New Zealand in 2010) and I headed from Jordan to Israel for a wedding in Afula of our friend Haya. After the wedding we got a bus to Haifa for the reunion with Natali and Alex.
Long introduction that one folks, what you really want to know is what is an “oil lamps night in Caesarea”? Don’t worry, you’ll find out. When we arranged to meet Alex and Natali initially it was just for dinner and to stay at theirs and explore Haifa. In true Israeli hospitality fashion, it ended up being a crazy few days where we explored Haifa, Afula, Isfiya, Akko and even some cool caves by the Lebanon border. It was amazing. And it all began when they picked us up from our hostel in Haifa.
We spent our first night in Haifa in the Port Inn and when we got picked up by Alex and Natali, we dropped our bags off at theirs, they prepared some amazing food for us – quiche and cake! We drove north to the old city of Caesarea. This was to be a spectacular setting for a night or oil lamps. I was completely inspired and intrigued and life had gone full circle for me yet again.
For the first night I had met Alex and Natali in New Zealand, we had a night in the dark doing the glow worm trek. Just shy of 3 years later and we were doing another night time activity in a remote and random location, with lamps.
We arrived just before 8pm at the entrance to the ruined, walled city of Caesarea. It was quite enchanting, the whole magic of Caesarea was clear to see as a mist shrouded the air and the summer dusk breeze blew calmly onto the shores. We met our guide for the evening, she would speak only in Hebrew, but she knew some English. Alex and Natali would translate. Arranging a tour can be done through a number of sites, but by far my favourite and best Israel tourism website is Tourist Israel. They give a really good overview of Caesarea and can help arrange tours. We were on a night tour however, in Hebrew with the locals and this cost 45 Shekels. Entrance to Caesarea by day is a mere 38 Shekels.
We got our lamps and off we went.
Caesarea offers more history than your average city. We were explained some of this on the oil lamps tour, but I researched into it more myself.
The city of Caesarea dates back to the time of the Crusaders. It’s a Crusader city, built down by the sea. Rocks and a beach are all that lie west of it. The city is built splendidly with walls and a fort. It’s massive.
Some of the walls were tilted, some of the doors were hidden and as we unlocked a door to the beachfront, we wandered past ruins of a city which Herod the great once used as a government. Of course there is a contrast between old and new Caesarea. around 4,000 people currently live here. It was a lot more than that back in the day!
We pass the remains of a Roman Aqueduct and Ampitheatre. One amusing thing which made the tour slightly less enjoyable was the sheer amount of KIDS on our tour. We couldn’t believe it!
There were a load of kids messing around. Near the amphitheatre they started climbing on a horse statue and taking a bit away from the tour itself.
Apparently children love this tour. As an adult, being in Caesarea and reunited with Alex and Natali was the highlight for me. Seeing them and seeing this cool ruined city by night. The tour itself was sadly off par, a bit boring and repetitive.
The most boring part was when the guide spent 25 minutes (I’m not joking) explaining how they used a toilet in Roman Times. It seemed to many to be the highlight…
By 10pm the tour was over and we sat by the waterside in a bar with a few drinks. The service was horrendously slow there!!
Thanks to Alex and Natali for such an amazing night in Caesarea in Israel. If you’re interested in the tour, or the day tours of Caesarea, Tourist Israel have soon cool options, so check them out.
The way things went in life, we never made it to Caesarea by day, so my flirt with the city remains in darkness. It was off to Akko and Isfiya next…
More stories on Israel to follow hopefully, seems I have a LOT to catch up on!
My Videos from Caesarea, Israel (will follow at some point when I’m in a country that hasn’t banned YouTube!):