Haifa/Baedekers/Ocean Liners


Haifa is the largest city in Northern Israel. The city is known as architecturally beautiful, especially the Baha’i Gardens pictured above. The city lies about 60 miles north of Tel Aviv, and is an important trading port. This is probably why Urban visited. It is an easy, deep-water port that his ship could dock at and refuel. Also, in 1918 the city was taken over by the British. Under their mandate, Haifa became an industrial port city and was connected extensively with the rest of the world. Urban could have gotten on a train anywhere in the Middle East and ended up in Haifa, as there was the terminus to major train lines from Northern Africa to Iraq. Also, Haifa was a popular destination for ocean liners because the climate is beautiful all year long. Tempered by the Mediteranean, Haifa is also on the end of a large Wadi, or valley. The hot desert air from the east meets the fresh sea air outside of Haifa’s borders, so the city never gets too hot or humid.



Baedekers are a series of travel books, similar to a Frommers, that were quite popular for people that took European trips in the early part of the century. They are quite extensive, and Urban would have used them to plan his trips around specific cities. For instance, Ceuta, Morocco has a Baedekers that outlines the city, the places of interest to visit and the common customs and simple language phrases one is likely to encounter. Having been used quite extensively since 1827, Baedekers was a staple for any traveler during the time Urban took his trip.

Ocean Liners

To get to Europe, Urban took an ocean liner. Ocean liners are different from cruise ships from the standpoint that they were made to withstand some of the roughest conditions in the world, and still deliver the passengers safely. Urban’s ship, the S.S. Roma, ferried thousands of people across the Pond during the 27 years it was in use, although it began as a ship for the Italians to use in the Mediteranean. After World War 1, many shipmakers were waiting for large orders. When one came, Navigazione Generale, an Italian company, ordered 30,000 gross tons of trans-atlantic ocean liners. The very first one they built was called the Roma. This monstrous ship was 215.25 meters long, with a 25.20 meter beam. That means this ship was BIG. More than two football fields long, and weighing 48,502 tonnes, this all-steel hulled ship was enormous. With her four geared steam engines, the Roma was capable of 1700 passengers at a time. Her maximum speed of 20 knots was two knots faster than her sister ship, the Augustus. Even so, it would take this monstrosity about 6 days and 10 hours to complete a crossing going full speed. During Urban’s time, however, they moved slightly slower because their understanding of weather systems was not as advanced as ours today. They had to be able to go around massive storm systems, or they would risk being sunk. That was a very real risk, especially in the 1930’s. Even today, as far as technology has advanced, one trans-atlantic ship sinks every two weeks. That is an astounding statistic. That makes a trans-atlantic crossing, by ship, in 2012, more dangerous than shark attacks, bee stings and snake bites. As we go back to Urban’s time, a crossing becomes even more dangerous. Mechanical failure on ships was a too-frequent occurrence and skilled mechanics were rarely on passenger ships, their respective nations would generally pay handsomely for their work in the navy.


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