With 5 days left on this trip, we have successfully completed our internships and are now spending time traveling and relaxing a bit. It was bittersweet leaving Netafim. I met some smart, nice people, some of which I am lucky I can call friends. A bunch of the people I worked with threw me a going away "party" on Thursday. We ate cookies, drank coffee, and they sent me off with kind words. They encouraged me to come back next year. I told them "we'll see."
As soon as we finished work on Thursday, we got in the rental car and headed north to the Sea of Galilee. Specifically, we rented an Air B and B in a town called Tiberias. The place was incredible. It was right on the sea and it had a balcony that overlooked the water with no obstructed views. A great place to relax, drink wine, and reflect on this whole trip.
While we made time to relax, we also made sure to sight see while we were in this new part of Israel. The first morning we visited Arbel Cliffs. We hiked up about an hour to find stunning views of the Galilee region and another angle of the glistening Sea. It was a HOT day! We could only handle so much… so, after that, we drove off the beaten path to a farm called Goats with the Wind. We weren't exactly sure what to expect. We made a lunch reservation and saw the website, but nothing could have prepared us for the experience we got.
We walked down a gravel driveway, passing goats and beautiful fruit trees until we found a dining…area. I say "area" loosely because this "restaurant" wasn't a typical restaurant. We were guided up to our very own private sort of balcony/deck area that overlooked the Galilee valley. Green trees and a cool breeze surrounded us as we sat on pillows at a beautifully decorated table. We poured ourselves some rosewater as the waitress, who is a volunteer at the farm, told us that we would be served a prix-fixe menu that consisted of 10 cheeses, all made on these very grounds, 3 salads, a fresh loaf of bread, tea, and something sweet. We ordered a local bottle of wine, made right on the farm from the grapes right in front of us, and we sat back and relaxed while we feasted, tasting and savoring each and every bite. One cheese was better than the next. We were in heaven. We all stated it was quite possibly the best meal we'd ever eaten! Between the variety of cheeses, the eggplant salad, the cherry tomato and slow roasted garlic salad, and the cabbage salad, which was dressed in sesame oil and cilantro, the flavors blended perfectly and filled us to the brim. "Nana" or fresh mint tea finished off the meal and of course, the something sweet, which was a mini brownie bite. A perfect finish to a delicious meal.
A meal like that called for naptime. We relaxed back at the apartment and ended up hanging out there all night on the balcony, eating leftovers from the meals prior. It worked out well since it was Shabbat and most restaurants in town were closed. We rested up for the next day. When the morning rolled around, we took off to Golan Heights. Our first stop was Nimrod Fortress, a castle-like structure atop a mountain that provided endless entertainment and adventure. We felt like explorers going into 2,000 year old rooms and cave-like structures, winding up and down stone stairwells, and enjoying fantastic views.
After touring Nimrod, we drove down to Banias Falls, also known as "the most beautiful trail in Israel." And, perhaps it was. We followed the sound of water along a path then descended to another trail that was suspended over beautifully clear and fresh, flowing water. Large fig trees and other lush vegetation surrounded us as we snapped photos and marveled at the unexpected beauty. I say unexpected because it sits right below dry dessert. One would never fathom that this sight would exist so close by! The incredible experience was topped off when we picked fresh, perfectly ripened figs from one of the trees and ate them. What could get better than that?
The rest of the trip was full of more wine, more good food, and more driving through the Israeli country side. It made us realize that though Israel is small, its terrain is diverse. There is no shortage of history, unexpected beauty, and good food to be had in this country. That's for sure!