Since I'm up watching the Mets game at 4:30am Tel Aviv time, and its in rain delay, I figured i'd update y'all on my travels. I ventured north today to my old stomping grounds in Haifa. For those of you who do not know, Haifa is a bustling city (3rd largest in Israel behind Jerusalem and Tel Aviv), home to the top technology university in Israel, the Technion, offices/labs of top hi-tech firms (a la Microsoft, Intel) and a major seaport. I woke up at roughly 5am, fresh off my jetlag and set off for the train station.

I must say, the last time I was in Israel (roughly 4 yrs ago) it was common for Israelis to compare taking the train to watching paint dry, since the system was poorly maintained and had few reasonable itineraries for normal passengers. Thus, I assumed that I'd be taking an Egged Bus to Haifa, which could take over 2 hrs. However, to my surprise, the system has been vastly improved and seems to have taken off here, with tons of passengers. I took the direct train to Haifa, and it was a real pleasure (roughly 50 minutes and at times it actually goes along the edge of the beach, with the Mediterranean Sea in full view - its quite a view). Here's a few photos from the station:

When I got to the Haifa Mercaz Rakevent (main train station), I was at the bottom of Mt Carmel, right near the seaport. I immediately took these pictures, one showing the mountain in the context of office space and businesses by the seaport and one prominently showing the Bahai temple and its grounds on the mountain range:

The Technion is near the top of the mountain, so I took a taxi up there. When I arrived on campus, I instinctively went up to my old dorm room, to see whether the building was still there (given that the Technion has grown substantially in the last 8-9 years, I figured it was a 50-50). Context: I was at the Technion for two summers in '97 and '98 on the Scitech program, which offers high school students from across the globe the chance to do engineering research projects (as an alternative to say Harvard Summer School). Well it was there, and the building looked better than when I was there last...

I then decided to walk down to the Student Center and try to grab a quick lunch before exploring the rest of the new campus. At this point, I was physically exhausted, having been in the 100 degree heat for several hours. Unfortunately, the Student Center is being completely rebuilt, much to my dismay:

I spent the remainder of the time exploring the new facilities, including the new Computer Science facilities and other others. Students that I spoke to along the way were all very excited about their futures in Israel of abroad, working in the Engineering discipline. In fact, it felt eerily like MIT, a campus I recently spent lots of time on recruiting candidates for Opera. As such, I figured I'd stop by the recruiting office and ask about recruiting procedures.

Finally, after several hours in Haifa, I decided to travel a bit farther north to Akko, home to the infamous old city markets. These markets are open air and home to some of the best produce, baked goods, fish, spices and tobbacco products in Israel. I took in all the great colors and tastes for some time, trying to cool off from the blistering heat. Unfortunately, the only photos I have from Akko are from etnry into the old city (Citadel and Mosque) as well as the harbor, which is beautiful and on the Mediterranean Sea:

That's it. Looks like this rain delay is serious. Too bad, Tom Glavine's having a great night... I hope to visit Tel Aviv today and spend some time in doors, since I took a real beating in the heat today...