Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Delayed Blogging: Gardens of the Baha'i

We have been running around so much over here, all I have had a chance to do is upload new photos to Flickr. I had major posts planned, knew what I wanted to say and everything, but haven't had a morning to sit and write. I almost decided to skip over it, but everyone's comments from my last post were so inspiring, I decided to take the time--this is sort of my travel journal, too, so I know I will be glad for the perseverance later. There will be a few posts in quick succession in the next few days....
So, after our trip to Jerusalem, Vitalay was dying to take me north to Haifa to visit the Gardens of the Baha'i. I had no idea what these were, but wow, was I glad we went:
This place was, in a word, spectacular.
The Baha'i are an interesting group. This is a religion, consisting of about 5-6 million followers worldwide, who take a very holistic approach to faith, encompassing the teachings of all of the world's major religions in one. They view all of the great religious leaders as prophets from one universal religion. I really liked the sound of this one!
View from the top:
As visitors, we start at the top and go down, but this is a pilgrimage site for the Baha'i (kind of like Mecca), and they have to start at the bottom. Um, maybe this is not the religion for me? ;) But the view from up there of the gardens, Haifa, and the Mediterranean is stunning. People can only go on very carefully guided tours through the place in an effort to keep it serene and holy for the pilgrims, but it is free to anyone who reserves a place in the tour.
We got in to the first tour of the day, at 9 am, and it was already boiling hot:
You've got to be properly covered there--not quite as much as me, but knees, shoulders, and chest must not be showing--and they are serious about this, I watched an intense altercation as they refused admission to an older woman in a sleeveless top! But I wanted to be totally safe:
Vitalay refers to this as my "good religious girl" outfit, which I think he finds a bit disconcerting--like people are looking at him as though he kidnapped some nice orthodox girl.
View from the shrine, looking up:
This place was seriously so incredible, it felt like my eyes were being assaulted with beauty. It was so carefully and lovingly tended, with not a petal out of place. It sounds a little stifling, but it's not at all--it's more like a brightly sparkling jewel.
And this was the view from the street below, after we exited:
After the Baha'i Gardens, I stripped off my sweaty clothing, reverted to standard shorts-and-wife-beater uniform, and we headed out to a nature preserve. It was ridiculously hot, so the place was completely deserted:
But peaceful and lovely, and a wild and un-groomed contrast to our previous stop.
Happy and hot!
Next stop: an evening trip to Jerusalem....