50 shades of green

A luxurious Swiss-style retreat is no farther away than the Upper Galilee; a perfect idea for Valentine's Day.

50 shades of green (photo credit: Courtesy)
50 shades of green
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With Family Day and Valentine’s Day coming up, now is the time to find a romantic getaway – and what better place than Kerem Ben-Zimra in the the Galilee? Surrounded by a nature reserve, covered with oak trees and rich flora, the scenery offers more shades of green than is possible to count.
The view from the holiday cabins of Nof Shweitzari (meaning “Swiss scenery” in Hebrew but also a play on the name of the owners, the Shweitzer family) in Kerem Ben-Zimra, overlooking the Hula Valley and the snow-covered Mount Hermon, is a perfect backdrop for a romantic weekend retreat, as well as a family hangout. But the relatively new guest cabins built by Ephraim and Yaffa Shweitzer near their home offer much more than stunning scenery.
The cabins were designed by experts with great care, each offering a four-poster bed with white satin-cotton linens, a bathroom with a double jet bathtub and a spacious shower, Dead Sea cosmetics, a hair dryer, two terrycloth robes and slippers. There is a small well-equipped kitchen, with a fridge stocked with milk, beer, soft drinks and water, a coffee machine complete with espresso capsules, a kettle, a bottle of wine, coffee, tea, cookies and chocolates, a breakfast bar with two chairs, all the dishes, cutlery and glassware you might need and more.
Near the lounge area, a 42-inch TV screen is connected to a multimedia Internet system operating as a state-ofthe- art entertainment center that offers not only free Internet access but also a copious film library and more.
And that’s not all. Beyond the attention to detail, the comfortable bed and the beautiful porch, it is the hospitality that sets these holiday cabins apart from others in the area.
Arriving there at sundown on Thursday, after a long drive, we found our cabin waiting for us, warm and ready, sparkling clean and laden with an array of cookies and other sweets. Our host, Ephy, explained how the entertainment center and Jacuzzi in the room worked, showed us the outdoor swimming-pool area and hot tub, and asked us what time we wanted our breakfast. We settled into the cabin, ordered pizza from a nearby restaurant (surprisingly good) and decided to explore the premises further the next day.
It was a glorious Friday morning, and the view from our cabin was breathtaking. With green everywhere around us and the snow-capped Mount Hermon as a picturepostcard backdrop, we sat in our terry bathrobes sipping coffee when a knock on the door announced the arrival of breakfast. Ephy and his lovely daughter quickly and efficiently set up the delightful breakfast feast that included 12 kinds of cheese, spreads, homebaked breads and cakes, jams, fresh orange and pomegranate juices, eggs made according to our wishes, cut vegetables and salads, all freshly prepared by Yaffa (the mother of the family) and served beautifully on white dishes. Everything was delicious.
For a while we thought that we were the only guests, but we discovered that the other two cabins were occupied as well.
The cabins are laid out in such a way that privacy is complete. We couldn’t see or hear the other guests. The cabins were expertly designed to provide not only the utmost comfort and but also consummate privacy.
After a long soak in the outdoor hot tub, we went for a long walk in the nearby nature reserve and paid a visit to a small winery. The area boasts some of the best grapes grown in Israel. Not only are some of the best Israeli wineries located in the area (such as Dalton and Adir, which also have a beautiful visitors’ center), but there are numerous small boutique wineries that are happy to let guests visit and taste their wines. Our host showed us to one that was not far from his home.
As it was Friday, we were concerned about dinner. Much to our delight, as soon as we asked our hosts about dining options, we were offered a Friday night dinner in our cabin prepared by Yaffa. By now we knew we could count on her cooking and could guess that her Friday night dinner would be much more than we prepare at home, and we were right.
Cooking for her family, Yaffa prepares salads, soup and several kinds of meat. As the family is a mix of Sephardi and Ashkenazi, the dishes are a melange of traditions. Our meal included Moroccan fish, Polish chopped liver, all-Israeli baked chicken and a roast, baked potatoes, rice, steamed vegetables and salads, as well as dessert and cake. The dinner was sumptuous, and we loved it.
The Shabbat meal costs extra, but there is also a Shabbat hotplate and hot water in a small cabin for guests to use during Shabbat. The food is kosher, as Yaffa keeps a kosher home, but since it is home cooked, it is not rabbinically supervised.
There is a barbecue area for the guests to use near the beautiful pool and hot tub. The private lounge areas are equipped with hammocks and deck chairs. In the summer, this is surely a getaway from the heat, offering fresh cool air and green scenery. But it made for a wonderfully romantic winter retreat, and we loved the cleanliness, the whiter than white sheets and robes, the warm hospitality, the welcoming atmosphere and attention to detail and, above all, the kind and humble Shweitzer family.
Ephraim and Yaffa go beyond fulfilling their guests’ wishes. Yaffa will even bake a birthday or anniversary cake, and the beautiful bouquet of flowers that greets you as you enter the cabin makes you feel like a celebrity.
If you arrange it beforehand, you can leave after Shabbat ends. The fabulous breakfast is included in the price of the cabin, but extra meals and specials, such as spa treatments, can be ordered for an additional fee.
For reservations at Nof Shweitzari: 052-955-5000; www.nofsh.co.il
The writer was a guest of Nof Shweitzari.