This and That

Random bits of my life

Campo de’Fiori, Rome

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 14, 2015


The Campo de’Fiori (literally, Field of Flowers) was only a few blocks away from our flat in the Jewish Ghetto. We bought our fruits and vegetables at the market in the Campo because the quality was much better than what we could find in local supermarkets. The artichokes were huge, big enough for two people. We ate a lot of artichokes during our vacation! Centuries ago, the Campo was the site of public burnings and executions. Now it’s a gathering place


Coffee is a major religion in Italy. My husband always thought he didn’t like espresso, until he tasted Italian espresso. He was surprised by the small size of the cups; he realized that espresso is the perfect pick-me-up and costs very little when you drink it like the locals, standing at the bar (it costs four times as much if you sit at a table). A significant advantage of adopting the espresso habit is that it gives you access to bathrooms, in a country not over-supplied with public toilets.


I never bought spices (packed my own), but I was impressed by how clean the spice section was and how they were pre-mixed for different pasta sauces and bruschetta.


The ubiquitous tourist liqueur in a boot-shaped bottle….


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Castel Sant’Angelo from Vittorio Emanuele Bridge

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 11, 2015



The Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, is a fascinating site. It started as a Roman tomb, was converted into a fortress, and was used as a papal refuge and a prison. An above-ground fortified passageway connects the fortress with the Vatican.

I took these photos on the same day (May 7, 2015), standing on the bridge that leads from the main part of the historic area of Rome to the Vatican.

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Bouncing Busker

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 7, 2015


Rome has some interesting buskers; I saw a man doing magic tricks on the subway, accordionists walking inside train cars. This shot was taken from the bus to the airport at the end of our trip. As we were passing through an intersection, I noticed this man standing in front of cars stopped at a red light, bouncing a soccer ball on his head without using his hands. It was impressive!

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Enchanted Mushroom Forest

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 7, 2015


OK, it’s really just a long exposure of the stone mushroom sculpture/fountain at Shlomzion and Jaffa. I took this photo while out on a workshop at night. I don’t like dragging a heavy tripod with me, but I needed one to get this shot. I used a small aperture (f/11) to create the star effect of the lights. The exposure was 1.6 seconds. I was lucky that the couple sitting on one of the mushrooms didn’t move. Then I just waited for the train to pass by.

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Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 8, 2015


On vacation in Rome. What an amazing city! 

We’ve rented a flat in the Jewish ghetto, very central and convenient. On our first day we had a tour of the Colosseum underground and the Forum where I photographed the Arch of Titus.

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Mountain-to-Valley Relay Race

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 4, 2015


Last week, on April 29-30, I participated in the Mountain-to-Valley relay race as part of an 8-person team. (Note: we were categorized as 8-man team because you need to have at least two women in order to be classified as “mixed”; the other woman who had signed up couldn’t run in the end.) Our group covered 215 kilometers, running day and night, from Tel Hai to Timrat, in 22 hours. I didn’t take any photos at night because it was dark and the stations themselves aren’t very interesting.

My first run (8 km, around 1:30 a.m.) was from Notera to Pkak Bridge. The route had a switchback, where you run along a stream, over a bridge, and then back in the opposite direction. I was very impressed that, in addition to signs with green lights, there were a couple volunteers holding arrows to make sure you didn’t miss the turn. Along the route I saw people in cars, parked or driving slowly on a parallel road, keeping an eye on things. It made me feel a lot safer than I felt in Yam2Yam.

At one point I thought I was alone, but when I looked behind me, I saw the hill covered with points of light from other runners. A sight like that makes you feel like you’re part of a much bigger endeavour than the usual race. Actually, it WAS a big endeavour! There were 960 teams, and approximately 8,000 runners (not running simultaneously; there was a night race and a day race, and the starting times were staggered). These relay races have become very popular lately and the registration for this race is full within a day and a half of opening.

Runners exchange a rubber bracelet at each station. The guy below is just starting out from Elabun station and putting on his bracelet. We were required to carry smartphones with the M2V app. It was very useful because it tracked start/stop times of individual runners, showed the position of the current runner, and could be used to find your way back to the course if you got lost. There was also an emergency button.


Our team-mate Sharon coming up the hill. He had some difficult routes over really big hills. (No, they don’t block traffic for this race.)


Dawn at Karei Deshe, a camping ground on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). That was a lot better than sleeping in the back seat of a car at a 24-hour gas station! I slept outside in a sleeping bag. The white tents in the center are covering a seating area where the organizers had hot and cold drinks available around the clock. There were showers and electricity. I didn’t sleep at all, but I rested for a few hours, listening to the wind blowing through the palm trees.


A few people managed to go for a quick swim. I think Teverya is in the background, on the other side of the lake. Looks a lot better in this light than it does close up.



Although the race is supposed to show you the country, most of it looks like this–lots of fields. You spend a lot of time running through wheat fields or (if you tackle one of the difficult routes) over big hills like the ones in the background (elevation often over 200 meters). My second run (around 8:30 a.m.) was 9 km from Al Betuf to Hoshaya, definitely not one of my faster runs! Al Betuf is an Arab village. My route went past a garbage dump with rotting sheep carcasses–you can imagine how they smelled after the extremely hot weather we’d had all week! I encountered two flocks of sheep guarded by unpleasant dogs. I was carrying pepper spray but didn’t use it because the shepherds were around. Instead, I slowed down, did my “tough walk,” and asked the shepherds to call off their dogs. I also had to stop a couple times to rearrange the tube of my water backpack (got a kink in it and wasn’t drawing). So my overall time for that segment was a lot slower than it should have been.


The third run (around 3:30 p.m.) was 10 km from Hazorea to Kishon. Barry Leff, who had led our Yam2Yam team, joined us for two consecutive runs, including mine. I was really grateful for the company. By the third run, I’m tired and get discouraged easily. It was good to have someone to chat with. There were two water crossings. I misjudged the distance at the second crossing and stepped with both feet into water and mud. The final two kilometers were very difficult because my shoes, heavy to begin with, were soaked, my toes were chafing, and the weight of the mud, plus the dust picked up from running on a dirt road, was like trying to run with bricks tied to my feet. I looked like a slow-motion cartoon and my feet were really hurting by the time I got to the station. Thank heavens for extra shoes and socks!

Finish line at Timrat.


Lounge area. You can’t see the snack buffet and the bar serving coffee and beer. They cleared a huge wheat field for the parking lot. I was very impressed with the organization of this race. Each stop had food (never eaten so many enormous majool dates in my life–they were the really big ones that cost around 40 NIS/kilo), sometimes coffee, isotonic drink, ice cream, a bag with snacks. One of the stops was at Runway, a fancy running store; that was a lot of fun, checking out the clothing, shoes, and running gear. Almost all the stations had toilets or portable toilets and–you’ll never believe this–there were cases of toilet paper beside the toilets! (Most of the Yam2Yam stations did not have toilets; I saw enough gas station toilets for a lifetime.)



Got lucky with this shot of a crop-duster flying past while I was trying to photograph the clouds just after sunset.


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Independence Day, 2015

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 23, 2015

Maale Adumim. This is a single exposure, not a composite or multiple.
More fireworks photos are posted on Flickr.

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Memorial Day, 2015

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 23, 2015

During the siren, on Golda Meir Blvd near Begin in Jerusalem.

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Jerusalem-to-Sea Relay Race (Yam2Yam)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 22, 2015

Last week, on April 16, 2015, I ran an overnight 144 km relay race, Yam-le-Yam (Jerusalem to sea). I was part of a 6-member team, along with Barry Leff, our team captain, Jacob Ner-David (Barry’s friend), Israel Friedman (Cisco), Sharon Yakobovich (Cisco), and Ouriel Gottlieb (Cisco).  I hadn’t planned to do this race. In fact, I hadn’t trained at all; I agreed to fill in at the last minute for Barry’s daughter, who had shin splints.

We ran the 144 km in 17 hours, starting at 7 pm. I ran a total of 25 km, in three segments, with about 2 hours’ sleep in the back seat of a car at a 24-hour gas station, around 1:30 a.m. I took a DSLR along but honestly I was too tired most of the time to take photos and when you’ve seen one station, you’ve seen them all–bright lights, a couple tables with food, a couple volunteers recording team numbers as runners come in and go out. The photo above was taken at Sataf, a park with some gorgeous hiking paths. This man was making shakshouka (eggs poached in tomato sauce) on a portable gas stove for his team. The ground was still wet and soft from severe thunderstorms, rain, and hail the night before.

My first section (#5 of 16) was 8 km, from Ramat Raziel to Eshtaol. It was a downhill run in a dark forest for the first 7 km or so. I wore a headlamp and had an easy road to follow (dirt road in very thick forest), but multi-focal glasses are not ideal, so the road was slightly out of focus where it was lit up. Oh, well, old age is no picnic…. I was nervous at first but I could see a couple runners about 30 m. ahead of me. As long as I could see their lights, I knew I wasn’t lost. At one point the dirt road changed to pavement. I saw something glowing by the side of the road and thought, “Did someone drop a headlamp”? Then I tripped and nearly fell head-over-heels over a speed bump. My light had been reflecting off one of the square metal bumps that marks a speed bump. After that experience I kept my eyes open for those little metal squares.

The road leveled off at a construction site, where I ran into mud for the first time. Literally ran into mud. I stepped in a bulldozer rut filled with water. At the traffic lights, about six of us crossed together because the lights changed so infrequently. We trotted, in a bunch, through another road construction site, then fanned out into single file when the road turned into a hiking trail, up and down, up and down. At one point I noticed a lot of crunching, looked down, and saw lots of broken glass, plastic plates, and garbage. Ewww. Here I am, running up out of the forest to the station at Eshtaol (photo taken by Shvoong photographer).
Me running in the Y2Y relay race

After a couple hours of sleep, my next segment (#12 of 16) was at dawn, from Elad to Park Afek (photo below taken with my LG G2 smartphone).


Dawn runs are tough because it’s fairly dark and cold when you begin, but the weather can turn hot within 20 minutes. Of course, I hadn’t bothered with sunglasses or water! It was 8.7 km to Park Afek, running along a gravel road (tough surface, slippery), with absolutely no shade. Everything looked the same–lots of peach trees, lots of tomato plant. I’m really glad I ordered a Garmin GPS watch for future runs, because it’s hard to pull out a smartphone when you’re running to check the distance and it’s difficult to judge distance when running in unfamiliar areas. You would think a run through agricultural areas would be quiet and peaceful, but I passed a large army base with two firing ranges, both in use. There were a few puddles and muddy areas but they’re much easier to avoid in the day time. I started the run around 6:30 and had to really push myself. It’s not easy doing two runs close together. When I reached the station, the sun was quite hot and young, muscular guys with perfect bodies were stripping down to low-slung running tights (no, no, I’m not complaining….).

The last section (#16 of 16) was from the Reading power station, down the boardwalk along the beach, to the old Jaffa port. That was a lot of fun (or at least it would have been if I hadn’t been so tired!). I managed to run the whole way, albeit, at a slower speed than usual. (Finish line photo taken with my smartphone.)


It felt surreal to be wearing a racing number and water bottle belt, running through crowds of strollers, shoppers, leisurely joggers, people drinking coffee at cafes. I really enjoyed all the Kol hakavods (= kudos) I received from strangers, along with a few comments like, “Good to see women doing this!” I’ve seen the Tel Aviv coast many times, but never from this perspective. A cool breeze (had to hold on to my sun hat) was blowing in from the sea at the new Tel Aviv port. I counted the hotels as I ran past the Carlton, Hilton, David, then the office buildings. It wasn’t easy running on slippery pebble-paved pedestrian paths, so sometimes I ran on the paved bike path and jumped out of the way when cyclists came along. After the office buildings, I was in the much less populated area leading to the Jaffa port. Barry, who had only done 2 segments, joined me half-way so I would have company. Israel and Ouriel joined us about half a kilometer before the finish line (Sharon and Jacob had to leave early) and we crossed the finish line around noon.

Next week I have a much bigger relay, M2V–Mountain-to-Valley (Har le-Emez). Eight of us, all from Cisco, will run 255 km from Tel Hai to Kfar haHoresh!


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Shadow of the Dome

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 20, 2015

Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum. I was wondering what a black dome would look like, so I stood on the side that was in the shade.

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