Bauhaus architecture has never earned the respect of, say, Art Deco, Art Nouveau or Craftsman style buildings, at least among the general public.
But the Bauhaus school, based in Germany between 1919 and 1933, laid the foundation for most Modernist design. Noted practitioners included Swiss painter Paul Klee, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky and school head Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was later responsible for many of Chicago’s architecturally significant buildings.
Tel Aviv ,where many German-Jewish architects fled when the Nazis took control, has the largest concentration of Bauhaus architecture in the world, with more than 4,000 buildings. In 2004, the city was named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, and it bears the nickname “White City” for its Bauhaus buildings. Even new construction is done now in Bauhaus style.
The city is modern in every way, akin to Miami with its beach culture, international restaurants, trendy shops and nightlife.
There’s even a billboard of a scantily clad Paris Hilton on a popular corner.
We sampled a bit of the nightlife on a Thursday night, which is the start of the Israeli weekend. Our evening started in the Port neighborhood, where restaurants and clubs are built upon a boardwalk overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
After dinner at Comme il Faut, a cafe that anchors a complex of women-owned stores and spas (first time I’ve ever seen a sex shop paired with a restaurant), we met up with Or, a Tel Aviv native who took us to Gazoz, a trendy lounge, also in the Port area. Just as in any major U.S. city, the bar was filled with women in short skirts and groups ordering bottle service. Definitely not my scene.
At our urging for something different, Or took us to one of his favorite bars in the Florentine area of town. This neighborhood reminded me more of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, with young hipsters, old buildings and a chill vibe.
We shared a couple of drinks with some locals, and took a cab back to the Dan around 2 a.m. It must be noted that we felt very safe at night walking through Tel Aviv.
The next day, we headed out to Jaffa, a suburb of Tel Aviv considered one of the older ports in the world. The city is mentioned in Egyptian writings dating back to 1470 BC, as well as in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (Jonah departed from Jaffa before his famous whale encounter). In more modern times, Jaffa has been known as an Arab stronghold; Tel Aviv itself grew out of Jews fleeing Jaffa during a series of violent attacks in the 1920s.
Today Jaffa has boutiques and restaurants tucked among the winding streets of its Old City. Outside the tourist areas near the Mediterranean, Jaffa has many poor areas where the city’s Arab population is concentrated. A movie set in one of these neighborhoods, Ajami, was nominated for a foreign language Oscar in 2009.
One of the Jaffa’s more popular attractions, however, only dates back about seven years. The Wishing Bridge claims that if you touch your horoscope sign while making a wish and staring at the sea, it will come true. Even though it’s really not an ancient legend as claimed, I went through with it anyway; who doesn’t need more luck in their life?
Jaffa is also the site of the popular Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda. Legend has it that the people of Jaffa tied Andromeda on a rock in the port as a human sacrifice to Poseidon. Before her death, Perseus swooped down on the winged horse Pegasus to save her.
From Jaffa, we headed toward Shenkin Street. a trendy area of town frequented by Israeli rich and famous.
Our guide Tamar pointed out several Israeli television and movie stars riding bikes and sitting in cafes, although they didn’t look familiar to me.
I rounded out my day visiting the craft market and grabbing burekas (Israeli pastries, stuffed with spinach, mushrooms or cheese) from the Carmel Market.
All in all, we had a great couple of days in Tel Aviv. I’m not sure that I need to go back- if I was taking a shorter trip, I’d prefer to see more of Jerusalem and Galilee, and spend beach time in the southern town of Eilat on the Red Sea, where it’s an easy hop to Petra. But if you need a few days in a big city during your time in Israel, Tel Aviv will satisfy your requirements.
Can anyone identify that actor in the photo above? He seemed quite popular, as people at the cafe kept stopping for his autograph.