Monday, May 07, 2007

Israel - general impressions

Just came back from a two-week vacation in Israel. While there I did not get involved in moving any bronze monuments around, as some of my readers have suggested, but did the normal touristy things and visited relatives and friends. The detailed report with pictures is forthcoming, but in the meanwhile:

- the whole country is really owned by cats, who keep humans as pets. Never seen that many cats anywhere.
- they have a different climate in every suburb of every city. Zionist climate control clearly works.
- we tried to avoid as many holidays as possible, and saw only 3 holidays in 2 weeks.
- most holidays seem to be celebrated by barbecuing huge amounts of meat. The people also practice it in between holidays, just in case.
- shawarma really is better than in Europe, mostly due to added eggplant and various salads.
- the people like to wave flags everywhere in the manner of Norwegians.
- the people are very direct, and will tell you everything they think about local politics in very vivid colors as soon as they meet you. The most colorful swearing is used to describe the president Moshe Katsav.
- Russian-speaking people are everywhere. Most of the younger ones speak Hebrew among themselves, so you don't realize that they also speak Russian until they suddenly address you in Russian.
- the people are very patriotic and militaristic in a way that is very similar to Finnish but a lot more intense - sort of like the Finns would be if the Winter war happened every ten years.
- hummus is everywhere. Beware.
- Roman ruins are all over the place.
- most people drive everywhere, even though public transportation exists.
- lots of beautiful flowers, except in the desert.
- before going to an Arab area, ask the locals - the difference between "that horrible place where really nasty Arabs live" and "that nice Arab village where everyone goes to lunch on Shabbat" is not obvious to the naked eye of a tourist.
- Dead Sea burns your asshole and is way overrated. Red Sea is very beautiful and nice to swim in.
- the south is deserty and looks a bit like an alien planet (at least if you are not accustommed to the desert). The north is quite green.
- all the official sings are in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic, English)
- security checks are everywhere (parkings, supermarkets, universities, malls, roads, hotels, etc.) but at least they don't make you take your belt off like in Washington, DC.
- all the supermarkets are kosher. The treif (unkosher) food is sold in small ethnic and delicatessen stores.
- almost everything is closed on Saturdays, but some stores and restaurants are open. Public transportation stops, but taxis work. Taxis are rather cheap.
- weekend is Friday+Saturday. Saturdays and other holidays start on sunset of the previous day, and end on sunset.
- the are a lot of armed people all over the place, so all places that do not want people carrying arms there have cute little "no weapons"-signs.
- there are lots and lots of lifeguards at the beaches.
- the coffee is really good, especially in the chain named Aroma.

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