Getting into the Groove in Caesaria 12/24/09

Happy X-mas to those who enjoy that holiday. We finally seemed to hit some sort of stride today with a good mix of tourism and enough local knowledge to truly enjoy the day.

After a slow start we breakfasted at our local haunt and headed for the train station. This time we arrived just in time to hop on the local to Benyamina which stops in Caesaria. Alighting in Caesaria, we took the one taxi that was waiting by the station and soon arrived at the “National Park” which is what Israel seems to call just about any location of significance from a simple monument to a vast forest.

Caesaria was an artificial town even at its inception. About 24 BCE or so, Herod ordered an artificial port to be created out of nothing. Fourteen years later, it was finished–a marvel of the Roman Empire. It soon became the largest port in the eastern Mediterranean and featured a theater, amphitheater and hippodrome. There was a palace for the governor, fancy Roman baths and, of course, shops. A few centuries later the Byzantine Christians erected a Church. The Arabs took over in the mid-600s. In the early eleventh century the Crusaders conquered the area and held it for about 200 years. In the late 1200s the Mamelukes overcame the Christian inhabitants, killed them all and completely destroyed the city. It was empty for 6 centuries until resettled in the mid-1800s by of all people–Bosnian Muslims who had been invited there by the Ottomans. In the late 1800s Baron Rothschild purchased the land and eventually a new Jewish population moved in.

When you approach Caesaria, you first see a reconstruction of the Crusader entrance. The ticket booth for the main entrance sits before the bridge that crosses a deep moat. Once inside, the most touristy part of the park is before you–a place of restaurants and shops all tastefully arranged in a central plaza. The visitors center is very nice and provides audio/visual aids in variety and in a variety of languages. We enjoyed a short film and slide presentation.

After I get home I will update this article with some of the photos I took of this remarkable place.

After about 4 hours of peering at the layers of habitation showcased in this park we were ready to head home. We reversed course–taxi, train, bus. This time, though, we continued past the University Station to the Central Train Station where we could take the number 5 bus back to our digs. We’re now awaiting the arrival from Arad of our son after which we will hopefully have a pleasant dinner on a fine night in Tel Aviv.

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