When I was in high school I used to cycle everywhere. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do in Tel Aviv, although this city is actually perfect for cycling: it’s flat, the distances are short, and the climate is convenient. However, riding my bike was always a battle between the parked cars (sometimes parked half or fully on the sidewalks), the dog shit and other obstacles such as human beings (I did not dare to ride on the road). Lately, every time I visit Tel Aviv I see an improvement in the biking field, and this time the biggest change was the shared bike system. It’s really cheap and convenient, although the bikes are not in the best shape.
We landed in Tel Aviv on a Saturday morning to a surprisingly quiet and empty airport (note to self: always try to land in Israel on Saturday). It was hot and muggy outside. We tried to get used to the heat but it was too much to bear, at least at first – the humidity is the real problem in Tel Aviv. So the next day we headed to the beach, and of course to Jaffa, for some Israeli treats such as Hummus and Malabi.
Riding in Tel Aviv is still an adventure. There is a variety of bike lanes: bike lanes that are marked between the parked cars and the sidewalks, bike lanes that are marked on the sidewalks which could just as well not be there, because anyway everyone walks, cycles or runs wherever they want, and the lanes that start out looking very promising and all of the sudden stop. It’s still better than nothing and an important step in the right direction.
So on our second day, which was also the eve of the Sukkot holiday, we cycled along the Tel Aviv promenade on what is clearly the best bike lane so far. We stopped for a refreshing swim at one of the beaches, where a sign “swimming is prohibited” welcomed us, but it didn’t stop us or anyone else. It was so nice to be able to stay in the water for a long period of time, without shivering and running back out.
Then we continued till Jaffa, where we found Abu-Hasan alive and kicking (the place at least, the man died a few years ago) with long line ups both for dining in and for the take out. Gili made sure to secure our spot in the line, you really have to be on your toes and sharpen your elbows in Israel. We met Ilan, my brother, who had never been to Abu-Hasan before, and looked quite shocked at the crowded atmosphere of shouting and pushing. The Masabacha was excellent as always, but for me the real treat, even more than the Hummus, was the Malabi.
Malabi, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a custard milk dessert, served with rose water syrup on top. It’s absolutely divine. On Yerushalaim Blvd, there is a small place (previously a shack) with no sign, but everyone knows it. Shlomi and his family have been in the Malabi business for three generations and in my opinion they have no competition. Unlike other places which serve the Malabi with peanuts and coconut on top, at this place there are no distractions, and the smoothness of the white custard and sweetness of the syrup stand proudly on their own. Simple and delicious.
I continued cycling in Tel Aviv throughout the visit. On the last day I cycled on a beautiful bike path very close to the water, this time going north almost all the way to Hertzlia. Then I turned around, went for a swim, and continued again to Jaffa in the south. I stopped for a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, and was amused at how a few tourists took pictures of the stand with all the fruit. This is what Gili and I always do when we are traveling in exotic places. Then it occurred to me how much I enjoyed spending time in Tel Aviv, as a tourist, but with the advantage of knowing the city quite well. I opted for the Hummus and Malabi combo once again, and stopped for another swim, before returning to my mom’s place through the Yarkon Park.
I concluded that Tel Aviv is a lovely city to visit, with good food and so many other things to offer. Just make sure not to visit in the midst of the sweltering summer, and bring a bike or pick up a shared bike, to join the bicycle revolution.