Tag Archives: Israel

Stories Published!

October and November were good months as several of my stories were published in magazines and online!   All are online — click on the links to the right.

“Destination Discovery:  Israel” is in the December issue of Porthole Cruise Magazine, now on the newsstand.


My story on the history of Tabasco Pepper Sauce is currently in the online edition of  AAA Home&Away magazine.


“Houston:  Larger Than Life” was in the October issue of SilverKris, Singapore Airline’s inflight magazine.




GoWorldTravel.com recently published two of my stories — one on “The Face” appearing on Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain on the South Island; and the other on my island hopping adventures in Fiji.

Tel Aviv: The ‘White City’ with its Modern Face

By Richard Varr

View of Tel Aviv from the Old Jaffa port. Photo by Richard Varr

Tel Aviv reminds me of a modern American city.  It’s hard to imagine how this town, with its skyscraper-studded skyline, was born atop sand dunes just over 100 years ago outside the walls of the old Arab Jaffa port.

Rothschild Avenue. Photo by Richard Varr

I walk along the city’s popular beachfront promenade, passing a string of resort hotels and benches offering breezy views of the Mediterranean Sea.  My journey leads me to popular pedestrian-filled spots including Dizengoff Street with its many shops, and central Rothschild Avenue lined with palm trees and buildings in Bauhaus architectural style.

Rabin Square with Tel Aviv City Hall in the distance. Photo by Richard Varr

I pass through the Carmel Market, the city’s largest open-air bazaar, where lamb kabobs sizzle on grills and vendor stalls overflow with plums, bananas and olives.  I stop at Rabin Square, adjacent to the block-like City Hall, where I visit the memorial to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Old Jaffa’s narrow streets. Photo by Richard Varr

Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Towers. Photo by Richard Varr

When I reach 4,000-year-old Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest seaports, I see pedestrians poking their heads into art galleries, meeting friends in cafes and walking up to a few vantage points for excellent views of the city skyline and shoreline.  “On a clear day, you can see the buildings of Jerusalem and the chimneys of Caesarea,” says tour guide Yaniv Bar.  Old Jaffa includes flea markets, an archeological museum, Napoleonic cannons and a 17thcentury monastery that now serves Jaffa’s Armenian community.

Bauhaus architectural style along Rothschild Avenue. Photo by Richard Varr

Because of its Bauhaus architecture, Tel Aviv has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and nicknamed the “White City.”  Bauhaus is a modern architectural style which includes rounded balconies, asymmetrical facades with windows running horizontally, and even porthole-style windows which are reminders of the ships that brought Jewish immigrants to the Holy Land.  Many facades are white in color.

Building with Bauhaus architectural style along Rothschild Avenue. Photo by Richard Varr

“Straight lines, simplicity, clean, clear, very easy and fast,” says Bar of this architectural style that originated in Germany.  “There are no decorations, but instead something simple and clean.”

“In the 1930s when a lot of German Jews during the Nazi rise fled the country, some of them came to Tel Aviv and brought this style,” he adds.

Tel Aviv at night from Old Jaffa Port. Photo by Richard Varr

“They started to build our buildings, but only here, the weather is much nicer.  Here you can add balconies, because there are nice sunny days.  So the Israeli international style is a bit different then what is known as Bauhaus.”

Northern Israel: Crusader City, Roman Ruins and Along the Shores of Galilee

By Richard Varr

Grand hall in Crusader City, Akko. Photo by Richard Varr

I hear muffled voices reverberating off the 900-year-old walls  in one of the world’s oldest seaports.  I’m walking amidst the subterranean stone facades of Akko’s Crusader City with its arches and grand knights’ halls connected by dimly-lit tunnels and passageways.  I pass through the Magnificent Hall, the Hospital and the Dungeon – all appropriately named as part of this Crusaders stronghold on their quest to liberate the Holy Land.

Walking through the narrow tunnels, Crusader City, Akko. Photo by Richard Varr

“During the 11th and 12th century, you were not underground,” explains tour guide Roni Houbani.  “This was the ground surface, so this was part of the city.   So you were in a castle like a castle in Europe.”  It’s where such orders as the Knights Templar and the Hospitaller Order of St. John set up camp, and where excavation work continues today after the Crusader City was eventually conquered by the Ottomans and left in ruins.

“You move one stone, you find something.  You move another stone, you find something else,” Houbani tells me.  “It takes a lot of detective work.”

Baha’i Shrine at night, Haifa. Photo by Richard Varr

My visit to Akko is just one stop on my three day tour of northern Israel with biblical and Roman ruins steeped in and around hilly and treed landscapes, deep valleys and along the wave-crashing shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea.

Haifa is Israel’s third-largest city, sitting at the foot of Mount Carmel.  Perched atop the mountain is the Baha’i Shrine, the city’s symbol  and centerpiece, with its golden dome and succession of “hanging” garden terraces adorning the mountainside.  Both the shrine and gardens are classified by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.  I also walk the streets of the restored Templar Colony built by German Templars in the 19th century.  It’s now a hip neighborhood of boutiques and restaurants.

Yardenet baptism site on the Jordan River. Photo by Richard Varr

Along the Sea of Galilee, Yardenet on the Jordan River is a baptism site luring Christians worldwide.  Nearby, I visit the ruins of the 4th century marble synagogue at Capernaum, home to Peter the Fisherman, and the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount.

Sea of Galilee. Photo by Richard Varr

Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee shore, has several hot springs that were key to the Romans establishing Tiberias as a resort town.  It’s considered one of the four holy cities of Judaism because much of the Talmud was written  there.  The excavations of Beth Shean have revealed remnants of the Roman-Byzantine town that an earthquake leveled in the 8th century.

Roman theater ruins at Beth Shean. Photo by Richard Varr

In Nazareth, home of Jesus, I visit the Basilica of the Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to the Virgin Mary with word that she was to give birth to the son of God.  Caesarea on the Mediterranean was once a vast Roman port with, remaining today, a well preserved Roman Theater and Crusader and Ottoman ruins as well.

11th century Crusader ruins at Caesarea. Photo by Richard Varr

Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. Photo by Richard Varr

Processional Mass in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Domes of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre as seen from the tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. Photo by Richard Varr

The below clip is a continuation of the Daily Procession Mass as described in the previous post, now taking place outside the church’s inner chapel built upon the area believed to be Christ’s Tomb.