Sunday, April 4, 2010
Tel Aviv - Carmel Market and Beyond
One thing I like to do while traveling is aimlessly wander city streets. Or for my more structured readers, go on self-made walking tours. However, I prefer my version, compared to the formal entity that will cost you anywhere from $20 to $75, as I can have a beer break whenever I want. And as you all know by now, I like things on my schedule.
One thing I have noticed since being in Tel Aviv, is there sure are a lot of bus tours. I can only guess this is due to a combination of (1) there is a lot to see; (2) people being too lazy to plan their own vacation; and, (3) an over stated fear of terrorist bombings. Although the latter is somewhat of a concern if you were living here maybe 10 years ago, there are security precautions today, such as any time you enter a public space (whether it is market or mall) a security guard will greet you to check your bags and swipe you if need be. That being said, I heard there was a time in Tel Aviv where you would frequently find soldiers holding machine guns on every corner...well, those days seem long gone. But hey, if you are one of those religious fanatics who wants to cram in every religious site in a week long 24/7 site seeing extravaganza (sites such as where Jesus last urinated before he was crucified) by all means take an organized tour.
So first we decide to head off to Carmel Market; best characterized as a place crowded with a sea of sweaty fleshy Israelis who come to purchase their wares and socialize with friends and family. Only a tad intimidating; but one thing to keep in mind, if you act like the Southern Ontarians you will get along just fine in Israeli society. Israelis self-identify as rude and pushy.
The mouth of the market is located at Kikar Magen David, which is a 6 street intersection that is supposed to represent the star of David but what I think is really just the opening to the market. So we enter the beast, remembering I am a person who cherishes her 3 feet of personal space!
Have you been to a market? And I'm not referring to the nice partitioned stalls of the Canadian kind, no I'm talking about the real deal. There is just no such thing as personal space in Israel, especially at a market. And once you enter the claustrophobic mass of people, all you can do to stay sane is keep walking because there is no turning back. We made it about half way through and took a side street in order to take a break from the masses (a drink was in order). We left with hopes of being around less people but instead were greeted with an adjacent artist market. Apparently we are in market hell or as they refer to it in Tel Aviv, the market district. (Click on photo to see the mass of people!)
We find our way out of the markets and to a nice restaurant where I can drink beer in the shade on the patio and recover by watching the daring driving maneuvers of the locals. Lots of blocking traffic, yelling and honking. Relaxation at last.
After the much needed beer we head off down Rothschild blvd, a several block long concrete promenade lined with cafes and gatherings of people. The concrete jungle is full of swing dancers showing off their moves, friends and families hanging out and mid-day house parties on the streets that run parallel to the promenade.
Then we take a turn at Sheinkin Street (boutique-lined interspersed with cafes), where pretty much anywhere serves as a great people watching spot. And what interesting people we saw. From the famous local tattoo-faced street person (who was on the cover of a local magazine at the time) to the cafe patrons with an inflated sense of self-purpose; much like back home! But enough of this minute-by-minute depiction of my day, I know what you really want...Let's talk fashion. As far as I can tell there is no serious fashion to consider here unless of course you like wearing printed and brand name shirts (think Coca-Cola tees and shirts with American sayings like "No you didn't!). Yeah, no you probably don't need me to elaborate much more than this. But hey obviously that's what's cool here and what do I know? All I do know is I don't like it. It reminds me of So-Mex fashion - tacky at best. And of course, as predicted, the Aviator glasses are in style as they are in the rest of the world - one point for the global capitalist free trade market.
So to cap off our afternoon of walking through Tel Aviv neighbourhoods we head to the nearest store and buy some beers; a good source of inspiration for when you're planning your next outing.