As some of you know, last week I spent a few days in Tel Aviv, Israel. It wasn’t my typical trip – vacation or technical conference. I was there for business. And I wasn’t there alone, but with a colleague of mine. That trip was the first of a kind for me.
One of the things that was very different is how prepared I was. Usually, I try to read and learn as much as I can about the place I am about to visit. I also plan a bit on where I want to go and what I want to see. But this time, I didn’t know that I’m going until the last minute. And I didn’t know how much time I’ll have for sightseeing. And I was busy. So I read absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada. And maybe that was for the better – I could see around me with a fresh eye.
We arrived to Tel Aviv around 1:00 am on Tuesday night. Looking through the taxi window on the way to the hotel, I caught myself thinking that that reminded me of Moscow. Not the center of Moscow, but its suburbs, with lots of apartment buildings, occasional factories and garages.
We checked into the Renaissance Hotel, which was right at the beach, and went out for a late pint, just to catch some air. There I learnt my first fun fact about Tel Aviv. Apparently, it’s the city that never sleeps. At 1:30 am of the week night we saw people playing beach volleyball, jogging around, having coffees at cafe, and even ordering late dinner! There we were, sitting at the beach, enjoying a beer, and at almost 3:00 am the waiter warned us that the kitchen is about to close, so if we wanted anything to eat now would be the time to order. That’s an interesting experience, when you are used to Limassol. Cyprus is not dead at 3am, but finding something to eat is an advanced quest.
Next morning we met up with our manager, who was staying at the same hotel, to catch some breakfast and go to the office. The breakfast had me disappointed though. There was plenty of choice of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and even fish. But when it came to meats there were none. No sausages, no bacon, no ham, no burgers, no nothing. They call it Israeli Continental Breakfast.
Taxi to the office. It took us about 30 minutes, which I used to look around. And once again I thought that Tel Aviv reminds me a lot of Moscow. Lots of people outside, lots of businesses on the streets, alleys with mums walking kids, traffic lights, plenty of cars, plenty of world famous brands, and so on. And much like Moscow, Tel Aviv is not particularly clean or dirty. Grayish somewhat.
When we got the office, there was something that I am not used to at all – skyscrapers. Maybe they are not the highest in the world, but after Limassol, where the highest building is probably around 16 floors, these things were massive. Our own offices were on the 34th floor, with a nice view over Tel Aviv.
Now, I’ll skip all the working stuff, cause nobody is interested in that anyway. And that leads me straight to food. Our colleagues were kind enough to take us out for lunch all three days that we’ve been there. We’d usually just walk to somewhere nearby. On the first day it was a fast food, where I had one of the best burgers I ever had. Maybe I was biased after the vegetarian breakfast, but I don’t care. It was a large burger, with properly cooked beef. The second day, we went a bit further away from the office, into a somewhat god-forgotten place, with some decent Caucasian cuisine. And on the third day, our schedule was tight, so we just went downstairs to an Asian place, where I had some sushi.
Lunches are simple though. The evenings were for a bit more food. The first night we were taken out for some Georgian cuisine, with plenty of beers and shots. It was quite enjoyable. After we’ve had all the food and drinks there, we decided to take a walk around the town to check out some of the local pubs and bars. While most of the places on our way were wine spots, we still managed to find enough spots to have a pint, that we barely made it to the hotel.
There was a bit of a problem though. Most of the places that we saw, had either food or beer. And when there was beer, usually there were weird half-pint glasses. Since we already tried the local way, we decided to go for something we knew better – an English or American pub, where we would be able to have a decent meal with a decent pint, or two.
Mike’s Place came recommended. And it was only 10 minute walk from our hotel, and easy to find. When my friend and me got there, we felt at home. It was mostly a tourist place, so everybody was speaking English. Football on TVs, good music in the speakers, witty waiters, and familiar menu items and beer brands. Just for the principle of a thing, I ordered a pork chop with bacon and about 15 Guinness pints.
There was some live music there too, so we ended up staying until very early morning. Drinking the beers and shots. By the way, there was a funny episode, when we asked the waitress if we could have some shots on the house. A very common thing in Cyprus, there it was not understood at all. Eventually we all had a good laugh about it and paid some much discounted price for a very nice Kentucky bourbon “McAfee’s Benchmark”.
Needless to say, with all the alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, and intensive schedule at work, we were almost devastated for our last night at Tel Aviv. All we wanted at that point was to just fall down on a sofa and sleep. But we got rather delayed in the office and when we made out of it, the hunger appeared on the horizon. All our local colleagues were already home and we were sort of left alone. Without any will or strength for experiments we took a taxi to the Mike’s Place again. The plan was for a quick meal and pint, and then some sleep before the 4:00 am checkout and flight home.
“If you want to hear God laugh, tell him about your plans for the evening“, they say. We go to Mike’s Place just fine. But what we didn’t know was that a really awesome rock blues band SOBO was scheduled to perform there tonight. It was absolutely awesome and just couldn’t leave until about 3 o’clock in the morning.
3 days, 4 nights, absolutely exhausted, without a single tourist-kind of a picture at any famous landmark at all, we flew home. And as I said, that was one of the most unconventional trips for me, yet the one where I had lots of fun and even managed to do plenty of work. I really enjoyed my time (and company) at Tel Aviv, and I’m sure I will go back there. Hopefully, with a bit more time on my hands I’ll have the opportunity to explore the city and the surrounding historical heritage.