So, it is new years day, and it is very special. On this day, once a year, it is actually illegal to do business. So people fast and meditate, no one drives a car or goes to work. Seem like a great tradition to reflect on your life before starting a new year.
Without the airplanes, cars and bars it was blissfully quiet and we all had a blessed sleep. After that, I went out to see Rothschild Boulevard, the rest of the year packed with cars 24 hours a day, empty.
A lot of families with small kids use this opportunity to run on the streets with bicycles, everyone seems in a festive and joyous mood. The occasional kid falls over on the street and mommy or daddy is coming to help. To see the people of Israel this relaxed and joyful actually makes me feel what they build for themselves here much stronger than the banks skyscrapers, now standing there as useless background to a peaceful scenery of people enjoying themselves.
It was nice to see Dizengof center not selling women’s shoes and surrounded by traffic for once.
Infected by the general inflective spirit, I ended up at the beach thinking about my life, people and everything.
In the evening, two of the roommates prepared Dinner for all of us, fasting or not. So the flat came together, enjoying delicious food and relaxed and joyous conversation.
It was a special experience, and I am glad to have taken part in it.
Ok, first off, it is not that complicated. The hardest part was to get all the right information. The internet was not very helpful, the bus company websites tell you only half the story. So I asked around some time till I figured it out.
Part one: Just taking the bus.
There is one little problem if you, like me, are not fluent in reading Hebrew
The plans and destinations written in Hebrew are of little help. Luckily, the text on the sign is in English on the other side!
So, first find your connection on Google maps. Then check the bus stop sign and get into a bus with the right number.
To get in, make sure the driver notices you. Sometimes, especially when the bus can not stop at the actual bus stop because of cars or buses blocking it, they might drive right by you. Don’t be shy, yell and wave, a well placed “Hey!” or “Rega Rega!” can go a long way in Israel.
As there are at least two bus companies and the line runs may change for whatever reason, so when unsure ask the driver by announcing your final destination. Even if he does not speak English, you will most likely get confirmation or told to take another bus. Do not worry, as the buses are confusing, asking is not uncommon.
If you are lucky, the stops are announced audibly. Note that they usually say the street and a crossing one. When in doubt, consult Google maps again in order to find out when to get off. Or just ask the driver, he/she or someone else will tell you when to get off.
In between, you can enjoy the sound of Tel Aviv traffic.
There is a lot of honking involved, and I keep wondering if the bus drivers are stunt drivers who missed or rather found their calling. 😉
And again, when in doubt, just ask the someone around you. Most people in Tel Aviv are beyond friendly.
One time, when I just missed the bus, some guy in a passing car just yelled at me – to get in. He took me to the next bus stop, whilst overtaking the bus and driving in front of it to make sure I catch it.
Part two: Saving money
Ok, if you take the bus often and want to save some money, you have to get a ‘rav kav’ card first. To do so, take your passport with you and go to a major train or bus station, like HaShalom.
Beware that your luggage will be checked when entering a train station.
Then go to the Dan counter marked with green symbols and ask for the card. They will take your picture, print it and put it on a fresh card.
This card is still empty, so you have to charge it with the bus driver. You can ask for ‘hofshi hodshi’ which is a monthly ticket. For 246 NIS you can go basically anywhere in the greater Tel Aviv area.
After a while, some other researchers entered (it’s lecture-free time and holidays, so quite a few people are away). Everyone greets me very friendly and has some advice on sightseeing and living in Tel Aviv.
The air conditioning is so powerful that it is almost to cold, but it’s definitely preferable and makes working easier if not at all possible.
Apart from that, I work on my current paper and thesis. In between there are some discussions with coworkers on our respective research and possible collaborations, as well as on technical issues.
It feels good to have no other duties like teaching, especially when a flock of students appears in order to flood one of my coworkers with questions. Been there, done that.
In the evening, I return to Rothschild for some quick shopping and finding a new place to eat.
Got up at 5AM with some of my flatmates to watch Tel Aviv’s Ma’ariv Bridge being demolished. It was supposed to be a three month provisorium and ended up standing for years. Due to the rail construction, it finally had to go.
At around 6:20, it finally happened
We could just see a small part vanish, all in all it was well done.
Afterwards, we went for breakfast and watched the whole thing on video.
Fortunately I was able to go to Tel Aviv for a few days in order to search for an affordable accommodation before my actual stay. I took a hotel at Rothschild Boulevard since I wanted to stay in the city center.
For that I took the bus … which was a little adventure in itself. Apart from the Arabic numbers, everything is written in Hebrew, and the buses do not always go the full track. After accidentally being stranded at a mayor train or bus station, which happend to me twice going back into town, I had to resort to asking around to find my way back to the hotel. Luckily, the locals are very friendly and most of them understand English.
Most importantly, I managed to make a few appointments via Internet and meet some landlords and residents. It looks like I will get a sublet directly at Rothschild, near all the bars, restaurants, theaters, museums, and just 10 minutes from the beach.