Because of the fact that my Hebrew class for the last few days has spent a considerable amount of time focusing on a text describing one of Israel's most unique sites, I thus have picturesque Caesarea on my mind. Caesarea is an ancient city located on the Mediterranean Sea about 60 miles northwest of Jerusalem. The first time I visited this special site was during my Birthright Israel trip about 4.5 years ago when I had never visited it before nor had I even heard about it in the first place. When we arrived there, I had no idea what to expect, yet I do clearly recall being quite surprised to find a Greco-Roman fortress filled with ruins right there in the middle of Israel. It looked like the ruins had been plucked right out of ancient Greece or Rome and then plotted on this particular stretch of Israeli coastline.
I discovered that Caesarea was allegedly constructed by Herod the Great between 22 and 10 BC and was named after the legendary Caesar Augustus. Being a Latin aficionado, I have always loved all things Greek and Roman, and so I was thrilled to check out the beautiful grounds. Caesarea was said to be one of the most beautiful cities of its time and was supposedly the capital of Palestine for nearly 600 years. It certainly is perched on a prime piece of real estate. You can see on the map to the right where Caesarea is located within Israel. It is not too far up the coast from Tel Aviv and is comfortably situated on the warm Mediterranean Sea with its colorful water. Check out some pictures below of the beautiful ocean blue waters surrounding the ancient ruins:
The ruins at Caesarea are well-preserved and in particular the Roman amphitheater, built by Herod and dedicated to the divine Augustus, has been completely restored and is still in regular use for concerts and special events. The Roman amphitheater was used and maintained throughout history by people living at the time during both the Roman and Byzantine eras, fitting nearly 3,500-4,000 guests in the giant stadium. Today, the amphitheater still holds the same amount of guests. It is pretty exciting that the same amphitheater that was used thousands of years ago is still in use today. Here's a look at some of the ruins you might see on a visit:
Set in one of the most beautiful places in Israel, Caesarea makes a popular choice for brides and grooms to tie the knot. One of my good friends from graduate school was actually married here but unfortunately, we did not meet until weeks after her beautiful wedding. It sure looks like it makes for a stunning backdrop, especially on those warm summer evenings that are so characteristic throughout the majority of Israel's springs and summers:
Lastly, should you be so fortunate to make a visit to Caesarea, no visit would be complete without a stop at the Ralli Museum. There are five different Ralli Museums throughout the world (Santiago, Chile; Marbella, Spain; Punte del Este, Uruguay; and two in Caesarea, Israel) and each showcases the work of living Latin American artists. The Recanati family, who funded the cost of each museum, believes that "pleasure is the purpose of art" (Nicolas Poussin) and so they make the visits completely free to the public, turning away even donations. From what I can tell, the artwork looks spectacular and I will definitely be heading into the museum on my next visit to the area.