Monthly Archives: February 2016

Fountain of Youth Tips in Israel

“Do you feel like children again?” our guide asked as our van climbed toward Sea Level.

I didn’t know how to respond or what she was getting at and apparently neither did anybody else because the van fell silent.

“It is said that you will turn back time twenty years by swimming in the Dead Sea, so you must feel like children,” she continued.

“Ah, yes. I do feel giddy now that you mention it,” I replied from the back of the van.

I had never given much thought to the healing properties of the Dead Sea. I always thought it would be fun to float effortlessly in the heavily-salted water, but I didn’t delve much into the health effects.

The drive to the Dead Sea in Israel is full of twisting turns and endless views of the crystal-clear water below. Along the way, we made a pit stop at Sea Level, where a man tried to coax us into paying him a dollar to photograph his camel. We passed Jericho (believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world) and further down the road, our guide pointed out the cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

We arrived at Mineral Beach in the late afternoon, just as the sun began to sink behind the mountains. After changing into our suits, we hurried down the hill to snag some chairs and drag them to the water’s edge.

There was no shortage of people giggling in the water or capturing those classic reading-a-newspaper-while-floating-in-the-Dead-Sea photos. I inched my way into the water — it was colder than I had anticipated — and once the waterline hit my waist, I let the buoyancy take over. The salty water lifted my feet to the surface and I immediately felt like I was floating on a raft. No treading water — just resting peacefully in the Dead Sea.

The water made my skin tingle, similar to what it feels like after I’ve surfed for a few hours in the ocean — but multiplied by ten. The Dead Sea is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean, which makes this water too harsh for any living creatures to survive in. But, short dips in the sea has been shown to heal many ailments. Think of it like a huge Epsom salt bath. Supposedly, the magnesium in the water can decrease stress, reduce inflammation, and improve the use of oxygen in the body, while the bromide salts are a mild germicide.

Whether the healing properties are scientifically proven or just a placebo effect, I felt refreshed and content after spending just fifteen minutes in the water. I guess you could say I was a kid again, even if it was only for a few hours.

Know Before You Go:

Mineral Beach is located on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. The entrance fee is 50 or 60 Shekels (depending on the day of the week) for adults and 30 or 35 Shekels for children. They offer other amenities on the property, such as a sulphur water pool, fresh water pool and spa treatments.

How to find Best Restaurants In Israel

Israel is a small country, but they have no shortage of unique and mouth-watering cuisine. I was lucky enough to have a local guide showing me around the country, so a good portion of my trip was centered around tasting as many different types of cuisine as possible — often for hours at a time.

It’s not just Israeli food that you will find in Israel. Some of my favorite dishes came from nearby countries — which, of course, makes sense considering Israel is such a melting pot of cultures.

HUMUS SAID IN AKKO (ACRE)

Humus Said is known for serving the best hummus in Akko — and possibly in all of Israel. It’s located in the market of the old city and there is always a line out the door, with tourists and locals who can’t get enough of their secret recipe. They serve a variety of Mediterranean dishes in addition to their famous hummus — and the portions are large, so you won’t leave hungry!

URI BURI IN AKKO (ACRE)

Uri Buri is a friendly and very well-known local who is more than happy to talk about food as long as you prefer. His gourmet seafood restaurant in Akko — which is named after him — is one of the few places I’ve ever been willing to try unknown seafood dishes. He can make any fish taste good, in my opinion.

The “tasting menu” is a must here. Once your waiter determines what you don’t (or won’t) eat, they begin bringing small portions of a variety of dishes until you are full.

DECKS IN TIBERIAS

Decks is located on Gdud Barak Street in the town of Tiberias. This restaurant is considered Kosher barbeque and serves up some killer meat dishes. I highly recommend sitting on their huge outdoor deck, which overlooks the Sea of Galilee. They use ancient roasting methods to cook a variety of meat, poultry, fish and vegetables — all seasoned to perfection.

SOCIAL CLUB IN TEL AVIV

Speaking of meat, one of the best rib eye steaks I have ever had was served at the Social Club in Tel Aviv. Every dish I tasted from this elegantly-designed restaurant was to die for — the freshest tomatoes, creamy potato puree, mint shrimp kebabs, pasta dishes and more.

The Social Club is located at 45 Rothschild Boulevard (in the piazza behind Max Brenner). Reservations are recommended!

VICKI CHRISTINA IN TEL AVIV

Named after the Woody Allen movie, this tapas and wine bar offers wonderful outdoor seating, underneath one of Tel Aviv’s oldest trees. It’s a great place to dine with a group of friends, where you can order an assortment of tapas to share. I highly recommend the Beet Carpaccio, Camarones a la Broqueta and Ensalada de Escarola.

Vicki Christina is located at 1 Koifmann Street at the Station Complex in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv.

AZURA RESTAURANT IN JERUSALEM

Azura Restaurant was my first experience with Iraqui cuisine and I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I ate here as part of Shuk Bites, a food tour at the Machne Yehuda Market, a self-guided tour where you can sample six different restaurants in the market.

Going with the beet theme of the trip, I ordered the Kubbah Soup — a sweet and sour soup with beets and dumplings.

HACHATZER IN JERUSALEM

HaChatzer is located in the Old Train Station area of Jerusalem, at 7 Derech Beth Lehem Road. Its a chef-owned restaurant where the Kosher cuisine is continually praised as some of the best in Israel.

I wish I could tell you what to order here, but honestly, the chef just kept bringing out dishes and there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t love. I know my meal involved melt-in-your-mouth falafel, a creamy eggplant dip, beef carpaccio and perfectly-seasoned fish.

Feeling the Love at Karneval Tips

This word continues to play over and over in my head, even after I’ve returned home from Germany. I heard it hundreds of times over the course of the three days I spent celebrating Karneval in Dusseldorf.

What does it mean, you ask?

Helau is the local word for the Karneval greeting in Dusseldorf — each city who celebrates Karneval has their own word — and it basically means hallelujah.

WHAT IS KARNEVAL?

Karneval (or Carnival) is like the Mardi Gras of Europe and one of the best parties in Germany. This tradition dates back to Medieval times and is celebrated between February and March (the dates vary from year to year). Karneval officially begins on November 11th at 11:11am, but the crazy parties don’t really begin until Altweiberfastnacht, sometime between mid-February and mid-March.

In the early days, Karneval celebrations symbolized the driving out of winter and its evil spirits, so people wore masks to scare away these spirits. At Karneval-Time, the common folk had the chance to spoof the royals. Even today, it’s a time when people can mock the government without being punished.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Altweiberfastnacht (AKA the Women’s Day) on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday

Unfortunately, I missed Thursday’s celebrations — when the ladies take over the City Hall and cut off men’s ties. There are parties in the streets, especially in Dusseldorf’s Old Town.
Jugendumzug (Youth Procession) on Saturday

I did get a glimpse of Saturday’s festivities, still bleary-eyed from my overnight flight. I warmed up with an afternoon shot of Killepitsch, while the children marched through Old Town.

Karneval Sunday in Konigsallee

Before noon on Sunday, people were already drinking and partying in the streets of Konigsallee. The locals get creative with ways to carry around their alcohol. You will find baby strollers with numerous cup holders, makeshift bars in the streets and hidden pockets in colorful costumes.

Rosenmontagszug (Rose Monday Parade)

Monday’s festivities include a giant parade with decorated floats and people marching on foot through the city center. This year there were over one million people cheering in the crowd.

This trip was hosted by Air Berlin and Visit Dusseldorf, so I had the unique opportunity of experiencing Rose Monday’s parade as a guest on Visit Dusseldorf’s float. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this experience. I normally don’t like being in front of a crowd, but it’s not like I had to give a speech or anything.

It was slightly grueling at first — a couple of hours of waiting in the cold and drizzle — but once our float approached the massive crowd, I could instantly feel their cheerful energy and soon forgot about the chilly weather.

We threw candy into the crowd, while they shouted, “Helau” and waved their hands. The actual parade lasted about three hours and I couldn’t believe the stamina of some of the people in the crowd. Looking out at smiling children and animated adults made this an experience I will never forget.

GETTING THERE

Dusseldorf can be reached via direct flight from New York, Chicago and Miami in the US and several cities in Europe. See Air Berlin’s routes if you are thinking about joining the Karneval festivities next year. The Breidenbacher Hof Hotel is located right in the middle of all the action, with easy access to Old Town, Konigsallee and the city center.