We stayed at Bar BaKfar, a delightful B&B in the heart of the beautiful Lower Galilee, back in July, but we went off to the UK not long afterwards and I didn't get round to showing you the pictures here. It was such a gorgeous place, and a wonderful spot to mark Mister Handmade in Israel's 50th birthday, so I still want to show them to you.Moshav Sharona, a moshav with 130 families, some of whom make a living growing livestock or various agricultural crops, and others who work as professionals or in the fields of tourism. The area has long been known as Israel’s "Little Tuscany" due to its green landscape, a number of boutique wineries, and the magnificent views of Mount Tavor.
Arriving at Bar BaKfar we immediately noticed how much care and attention has been given to the place. It has been beautifully planned and decorated, down to the smallest detail, and it was truly a treat to stay there. Our cabin, while not large, was very nice, with an amazing private deck and jacuzzi. The setting was beautiful, green and relaxing. Breakfast was divine and plentiful, with a variety of home baked breads, delicious cheeses and labneh, and a freshly made omelette, cooked each morning according to our wishes. It was as good, if not better, as being in a fancy Tel Aviv restaurant! The swimming pool was utter heaven and we found it very difficult to tear ourselves away from the place to go touring. As an added treat, a small bottle of Bar BaKfar's own "Sarona" wine was waiting for us in our room, along with some tasty tahini biscuits. Bar BaKfar have their own vineyard, producing a first-class Merlot, as well as Limoncello and Pomegranate liqueur and, upon request, we were even given a short tour and explanation of the winery, including a little tasting. Yum!Makom B'Sejera (A Place in Sejera), a restaurant which is housed in an old stone building dating back to 1899. It was originally built as an inn for workers and travellers before there were motor vehicles. You can see reminders of that era in the restaurant - wooden cart wheels, farming tools and old photos - including one of David Ben-Gurion, who lived and worked on the settlement for a while in the days before he became prime minister!
The following morning we drove to one of the observation points in the Switzerland Forest, between the village of Poriya and the city of Tiberias, to enjoy the views. The primary purpose of planting the Switzerland Forest was one of rescue. The steep, bare slope was forever a source of trouble for the city of Tiberias – landslides, avalanches and soil erosion harmed the city, and sometimes even cost lives. The blue landscape of the Sea of Galilee and the mountains around it are an added bonus to the forest and the views were simply breathtaking.
Next we stopped off at the Ein Gev promenade. Fishing has been widespread in the Ein Gev Kibbutz almost from the day it was founded, and a leisurely walk along the kibbutz's promenade saw us pass the pier and several tourist boats. Unfortunately there was no sign of any real fishing in sight.
Dinner that evening was Italian-Mediterranean cuisine at the 1910 restaurant in Kibbutz Degania Alef, Israel's first kibbutz. "Degan" is the Hebrew word for grain, which was emblematic of the several grains that the kibbutz cultivated. The restaurant is located in the old courtyard of the kibbutz. The Degania founders learnt from the experience of other agricultural endeavours to build separate dwellings for people and animals, and to construct their buildings in a fort-like configuration for security. The original kibbutz buildings are constructed around a courtyard of local basalt stone, with implements and equipment dating back to the early years scattered around the area. Dinner was excellent!
The owners of Bar BaKfar were happy to give us ideas about what to do in the area and, upon their suggestion, the next day we set off for Mitzpe Shalom, also known as the "Peace Lookout" or "Peace Vista" in the Southern Golan. The views from the lookout were simply spectacular. We could see the coastline of the entire Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the city of Tiberias, and up in the hills, the city of Safed. Mount Meron, Kibbutz Kinneret, the Jordan Valley and Mount Tavor were all visible from the panoramic lookout. It was quite a comprehensive view!We couldn't resist taking the short nature hike down from the lookout point, through bamboo reeds, fig trees and Sabras (Prickly Pears). Steps with railings have been installed to make the short but steep walk downhill a bit easier. We stopped at several springs and a small, square, man-made pool which was originally built by the Syrian army so their sergeants would have a place to refresh themselves. The views were out of this world and though we had planned a weekend of rest, we were very happy to do the short hike.
The drive back saw us pass an interesting sculpture named for Eli Cohen, above, the Israeli spy master who was instrumental in providing intelligence to Israel about Syrian positions in the Golan.