By Sharon Szmuc
First Station throughout the day is quite a spectacle. You see young people from different parts of the world shopping for handcrafted jewelry at the fair, locals enjoying a beer at the pub or shopping at the organic market, people walking their dogs on the old train tracks, and ice cream shops are always busy on hot summer days. The old architecture has been brought new life, and as I walk around I find myself stumbling into hidden gems (some streets lead to book shelves where people leave books they’ve finished and take a new book that grabs their attention, a sort of informal, self-service library!). I thought about how his represents Jerusalem as a place where people are constantly exchanging stories and becoming characters in the stories of others.
At night, First Station maintains its essence, as the fair is still selling jewelry and as bikers gather together at sundown to ride down the old train tracks. A local band plays music in the center of the station and young people fill the pub on Thursday night to welcome the weekend with friends. The best thing about First Station at night is the atmosphere. Looking around, one can see people of all ages gathered in a place that was once no more than where train passed through, and now it is full of life and passions being shared.
A friend and I sat at HaMiznon, a kosher dairy restaurant with an old-fashioned and artisanal vibe where everything is dimly lit and even the bill is served in a sardine jar. The food was delicious, and every five minutes a table was being filled by either a young couple on a date, or by friends and family catching up on their work week, or by travelers who added an extra spice to the setting. With my attempt to speak the little Hebrew I know and the waiter who spoke his broken English, I still felt completely welcome.
First Station is in some ways like your usual areas of Jerusalem with restaurants, performances and special events. But it certainly has its own uniqueness. It is artistic, cozy and relaxed. It offers a variety of cuisine options (from Asian to meat restaurants to Rebar) and cool places to buy special souvenirs you won’t always find downtown. There are Segway tours and running and biking trails. And most of all, it spotlights a community of people gathered together.
Sharon Szmuc, our fabulous summer intern, is a fourth-year at Florida State University studying Creative Writing and Communications. In the fall she will start writing for Her Campus, an online magazine for US college students.