Good-bye New York

If Brooklyn was still a city in its own right rather than a borough of New York City, it would be the fourth largest city of the United States in terms of population. As such, a short day would never do the place justice. But, I can proudly state that we did what we could.

Returning to New York after a wonderful few days in Vermont and New Hampshire, we were moving in to a hotel in the Upper West Side. That is the Upper Upper West Side, at 107th street.

I was pretty much ready to return home after two weeks full of adventure and amazing memories, but we had a weekend to explore the Upper West Side and Brooklyn. In addition we’d bought tickets for a pre-season Knicks game which my boyfriend was pretty excited about and we planned to visit The Natural History Museum after our failed attempt last Saturday.

Even in Chinatown they have better hotels…

We arrived late Friday after a bit of traffic jam on our way into Manhattan. Reaching our hotel we were met with a pretty hallway and a receptionist who seemed to wish himself anywhere else than in the reception. As we checked in, we noticed a notice in the reception with information of an upcoming visit by the exterminator. What a pleasant bit of info to get. And the polite but disinterested receptionist could not tell us if it was rats, cockroaches, bedbugs or gremlins.

Our room and the hallway were dismal with a dirty brown carpet which covered up holes in the floorboards, a disgusting shared bathroom where no one but the initiated knew how to turn off the shower. While the place was pretty much run down they did offer cable and breakfast, and I can’t help wondering if perhaps the money for the cable could have been used better to repair the floor. To think that we were to spend two nights here.

I missed our clean and simple Chinatown hotel.

A quick day in Brooklyn

Unlike last Saturday when we had originally planned to visit Brooklyn, today offered a beautifully clear blue sky and high temperatures considering we were halfway through October.

With the Knicks game in the evening we only had limited time in Brooklyn and planned to get out of the hotel as soon as humanly possible. Despite having slept well, I was far from happy with the place. Before leaving we decided to try out the breakfast. We were shown down to a dirty basement where massive amounts of four different types of cookies were set out along with coffee. Now as much as I like cookies, in my book they do not count as breakfast, but as desert or candy – perhaps a snack. But not breakfast. However, I stockpiled my pockets with cookies before we got the hell out of there.

We wanted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge by foot, wherefore we took the subway to City Hall. Last time we’d been here it had been cloudy and cold and it was great to get a chance to see it with a blue sky.

The Brooklyn Bridge is iconic and I can’t count the number of crime shows I’ve seen where someone threw themselves off the bridge or was killed on it. And it is a very beautiful bridge. I can definitely understand the hype. However it is also completely blocked by other tourists and some of them are very ignorant of the separation between the bike lane and the walking lane. This in turn makes a lot of bikers both native New Yorkers and tourists yell out. There is very little room for error on the Brooklyn Bridge.

But despite the competition with hundreds of other tourists and the angry salutes by bikers, it was an amazing walk across to Brooklyn. Many of the walkers passing us were covered in pink, all of them walking to raise money and awareness of breast cancer. I liked it. I liked all the pink and that so many where out spending there weekend walking through the streets of New York for a good cause.

Brownstones, Orthodox Jews and Korean food

If Brooklyn was still a city in its own right rather than a borough of New York City, it would be the fourth largest city of the United States in terms of population. As such, a short day would never do the place justice. But, I can proudly state that we did what we could.

We began by walking through the beautiful streets of Brooklyn Heights following the pink ladies, before we found a path which allowed us to cross to the waterfront, where we enjoyed the promenade and the beautiful views of Manhattan. I will never understand why Americans build motorways along the waterfront, destroying the access and hiding the view of the sea from the neighbourhood. I hope that in the years to come and as the Brooklyn Promenade is developed Brooklynites will find a way to redirect the motorway or build it into the ground – and yes I know that is utopia, but they did something similar in Portland, Oregon.

After finally finding a way to cross the motorway at Joralemon Street we zig-zagged Montague Street enjoying more of the charming Brooklyn Heights. We were slowly heading in the direction of Fort Greene Brooklyn Flea, hoping to find a funny little gem to memorise our visit.

When we finally arrived, the flea market wasn’t anything special and quickly left again. I think the dream of returning home with something fun and unique will have to wait until next time we are in the area.

Next up was Williamsburg – that neighbourhood that everyone keeps talking about. But there is a long way from Fort Greene to Williamsburg, much longer than what it looks like on the map.

It was Saturday -Shabbat and before long we’d entered a very Jewish Orthodox neighbourhood, which was obvious from the countless well dressed families out for their Shabbat stroll. The men wore large brimmed and very tall black hats and had magnificently dressed curls and beards. The women were classical yet conservative in their dressing and I’d say even the Parisian women would have to look out for these women looked chic.

The area was as many others we’d seen so far, but it stood out in one major way. All balconies were boarded up with cardboards or wooden planks. In most places it looked like a homemade solution. It is not difficult to figure out that Orthodox Jews are not to keen on showing parts of their private life to the public such as by sun bathing or drinking a cup of coffee on the balcony. In fact it is very hard to see anything through their windows. Not that I tried.

However, it makes the neighbourhood look ruffled and dirty which is quite sad. Moreover, I personally find balconies an absolute plus and the idea that people willingly close off their homes to natural light is impossible for me to comprehend. Where I come from light is a commodity in high demands, because half the year we have nearly none.

By the time we reached Broadway, I was ready to crawl on my knees. My feet were messed up and I felt like I was walking on bare bone. But walking up Broadway with the elevated subway tracks had me quickly forget my feet. This is how I imagined New York. Very similar to how the loop circles Chicago, the elevated subway gives off a futuristic feel. I immediately started looking for Harrison Ford because it seems like we’ve reached the not-so-far-away future of 2019, where blade runners kill off replicants. We’d reached the über hip Williamsburg.

With pained feet we entered the first and best eatery we could find. A small Korean Take-Away which allowed for a few seats at the windows. Oh my, never have I had such great Korean food and never have I been so happy to sit down.

After enjoying our food and resting our feet, we went out to explore the streets of Williamsburg. We got to the waterfront with magnificent views of Midtown Manhattan, and passed community gardens with more hipsters than I saw in my life.

Turning from the waterfront we walked down Bedford Avenue stopping for a coffee at one of those über hip coffee shops – this one with a Swedish touch. I think we both agreed that we would have liked more time to explore Williamsburg, but we had tickets for Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks were meeting The Boston Celtics.

Go Knicks!

Before coming, I’d spent a good amount of time securing tickets for a basket ball game at Madison Square Garden. I’d researched everything from sites for procuring tickets to seating arrangements.

I must say my research paid out. We had magnificent seats up at 210, row 2. Though we were too far away – as were most – to catch one of the t-shirts being shot off during some of the many breaks. Half the fun was all the in-between events. Cheerleaders, hip dancing groups for kids and the close up on the screens of some of the celebrities placed on the row facing the field. I have no idea who any of them were and it seemed like D-celebrities to me with some guy having a secondary role on Teen Wolf. But they were amazingly self-conscious and playing it off smart. I guess this is the closest they’ll ever come to feeling important.

The game itself did not go well for the Knicks, who were behind most of the match and ended up loosing, but to me it was an amazing experience – apart from having to endure yet another boring hotdog.

Before the match started we had stocked up on Knicks merchandise and both of us in Knicks t-shirts and with a foam finger we felt the part. However, we were far from the only tourists there and more than once did we come across a Danish family. I guess this weekend is the start off of the Autumn holiday back home. Thank goodness we are returning as the rest of Denmark is taking over Manhattan.

A dance good-bye

On our last night in New York and after having watched our first off season NBA game we walked through Hell’s Kitchen towards Columbus Circle from where we took the subway North. We’d not been able to make it to Hell’s Kitchen previously because of that one rainy day which screwed with my tight schedule. So here was our chance. Not that I feel I can say much more than “we walked through”.

I was by all definitions weary and tired after a long but wonderful day in Brooklyn and an evening at Madison Square Garden. I was so absolutely ready to return home.

At Columbus Circle Subway Station, I imagine I was not alone at feeling that the train never came. However, as many others I was caught up in the dramatic dancing of a thin boy dressed in white pants and a red satin shirt. He was literally dancing the night away. It seemed that he’d just stepped off Broadways rendition of Fame.

Around him stood tired New Yorkers, some had placed themselves on the stairs, all of them caught up in the energetic dancing of this thin boy. He seemed a little break from the long haul home, a welcome distraction from the train that didn’t come.

He dazzled me, and I can’t stop thinking about him and his courage to stand on that platform acting out his Michael Jackson fantasies. Who is he? Where does he come from? And why is he here performing to strangers?

As the train drove into the platform, I added my couple of dollars to his basket, hoping that he didn’t need them too much.

Last day

I cannot get out of this hotel fast enough. The entire Upper West Side is crawling with rats and we literally saw a girl yesterday who had to scare them away from her front door. They are everywhere! Adding to that we just left our luggage for safe keeping at the hotel in a room with dead cockroaches.

As we walked from the hotel we saw a guy killing something which was moving inside a plastic bag by dropping a brick to it. I say it was a cockroach. My boyfriend says rat. It could have been either.

A Day at the Museum

We’d planned to spend the morning at The Natural History Museum today. We were psyched about the exhibition “Dinosaurs Among Us” as well as the large collection of dinosaur skeletons. But when we arrived and after a short break in line, my boyfriend quickly convinced me that we should buy a ticket for all the exhibitions. We’ve ended up spending the entire day at the museum.

Not only did we see countless dinosaur bones in the permanent Fossil Halls, but we also had a look at the exhibition Dinosaurs Among Us, which explored the evolution of dinosaurs to birds. We explored the Crocs exhibition, with real life crocodiles – though of the smaller variant got lost in the beautiful Human Origins and Cultural Halls as well as the powerful Mammals Halls. Moreover, we got to see a movie about the Arctic as well as search the universe through a showing in the Hayden Planetarium.. And then we ate our last American meal at the award winning food court at the museum. Americans sure know how to create an atmosphere at natural history museums.

After hours of discovery, we returned to the hotel before departing for the airport.

Now having returned, I can’t figure out whether I regret having taken the trip, because while we experienced so much and was so very awed, I feel as if Manhattan is no longer the mysterious place in my mind, but rather a real place with pros and cons, with everyday people and places and streets. All the movies and tv-shows and books loose their mystery and instead become reality.

But I liked New York, and for the vacation itself I am very happy we went.

Zofka

Vermont

I have always known that should I go to New York City I would want to combine it with something more. I’d want to explore more of the east coast. That is why we went south to Philadelphia and Washington DC. It is also why we’ve planned a small vacation to Vermont.

I don’t know if it was the intro in Gilmore Girls that had me dream of experiencing Autumn in New England or if my fascination came with my high school studies of the 13 colonies, or perhaps it was when I in 9th grade watched The Cider House Rules in English Class. No matter what, I have had a long standing dream of exploring New England in the fall. In fact my dream is the reason that our trip to New York takes place in the first two weeks of October.

Back in July, I’d spent a lot of time figuring out how we might get to see the 2016 peak. Neither of us have a driver’s license, and on TripAdvisor we were warned against any attempt at reaching the New England states without a car. This is not a part of the world where public transport has made any advancement. I found so many beautiful little hamlets to explore or trails to walk, but all of them demanded that we drive there by car.

I was close to giving up when I finally made a break through. And for all you European city dwellers out there who are dreaming of seeing a piece of New England, here is what we did.

Online I’d found VT Trans Lines as probably the only public bus line through Vermont. It has two routes, one north- south and one east – west. Then I compared all the stops to lists of beautiful New England towns and quickly came across Woodstock, VT. Apart from being a beautiful town, Woodstock also offered a small national park with walking trails close to the centre. In addition, I’d found an AirBnb listing smack down in the middle of town. From there I’d found all the long distance bus lines I could and discovered that to the east of Woodstock and also on the VT line lies the larger town of Hanover, New Hampshire. The town which lies at the Connecticut River on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont is home to the private Ivy League University Dartmouth. This offered a few more transportation options than for the rest of the area and I quickly found that the daily east-west bus line of VT Trans Lines matched perfectly with the daily Dartmouth Coach from New York City to Hanover. I’d found a way to reach Woodstock through Hanover. Hanover itself sounded like an interesting town and after an AirBnb search I came up with a listing in Norwich, Vermont – a small village one mile from Hanover on the Vermont side of Connecticut River. The great thing here was that Hanover and the surrounding area offered free transportation through Advanced Transit which also drove to Norwich. Take that pessimistic TripAdvisors!

Now all that was left was worrying about how one bus being late might get us stuck somewhere.

On the road again…

On Tuesday morning we arrived early for the Dartmouth Coach stop at 42nd street. As we needed to load up on cash in case we needed it in the New England outback, I send my boyfriend to find an ATM. Not 30 seconds after he’d run off, several women in the line started telling me different scary stories about how the bus waited for no one and that it would leave at exactly 8.30. It didn’t help when the bus arrived making the women even more anxious on my behalf. Fortunately, I’ve learned that my boyfriend always makes it on time, but their fretting really didn’t help on my already fragile nerves.

But as I knew he would he made it back in plenty of time. And we could enter a little piece of bus heaven together. Now unlike Greyhound or for that sake Norwegian Air Shuttle, the Dartmouth Coach line from New York to Hanover is absolute luxury. I think they called it executive seating, but whatever it was called, there was space for even the tallest biggest person in these seats. My problem was that it was almost to large a seat, making me slowly disappear. The bus offered Wi-Fi and the option of a movie, but what really blew me apart from the great seating was the coffee and snack bar in the back of the bus. We really hadn’t needed to buy breakfast before departure.

It took us two hours to get out of New York City, but as soon as we’d left New Haven in the rear view mirror, the driver quickly caught up, while we enjoyed the beautiful landscape we passed by. Reaching Hanover, we spent an hour and a half soaking in the autumn sun in front of Hanover Inn while waiting for the VT Trans Lines bus. When it came it was merely a minivan and we had to stuff our bags in to the seats in the back.

Half an hour later as it was turning late afternoon the bus dropped us off at a parking lot just outside Woodstock.

We soon found our accommodation and the local tourist information where we were advised on visiting Billings Farm and the joining National Park. With plans for the following day, we walked through the very charming town of Woodstock Vermont. And it was everything I’d imagined. A covered wooden bridge, a green, wood churches, lots of trees and cute little stores catering to locals and visitors, alike. We walked around for a bit as the sun slowly disappeared. We managed a few visits to local shops including the very charming FH Gillingham and sons general Store with old wooden planks on the floor and an atmosphere as if we’d stepped back in time to the 19th centuries wild west.

I couldn’t help drawing comparisons to Stars Hollow while we enjoyed Woodstock. I imagined that Woodstock would have its own Taylor Doosey who’d bring up demands for Halloween decoration at the mandatory town meetings. The decorations in town and in front of the shops was simply too well maintained that only a perfectionist like Taylor would be behind it. At least he would love Woodstock.

The only thing that seemed to be missing in town was a Luke’s Diner. Instead we were recommended Bentley’s Restaurant where once again we were treated to Butternuts’ Cup Squash. We ordered lamb chops but were a bit disappointed when it didn’t include bones with marrow. But it tasted great nonetheless.

A Day in Marsh – Billings – Rockefeller National Historical Park

Early the next day we set out to Billings Farm and the National Park. Before leaving town, we went to the General Store for sandwiches, but quickly discovered that they offered nothing in terms of plastic wrapped industrial sandwiches. Rather they suggested us to visit The Village Butcher next door.

And once again we were greeted with another perfect example of Taylor Doosey’s dream town. The Village Butcher sold much more than merely meet, including maple syrup, cakes and fudge as well as some really great sandwiches, which we got wrapped up for our trip into the wild.

We decided to focus on the National Park rather than the farm and a tour of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller mansion. We have enough old houses back home. We’d come for the nature. Before setting off we were informed that at 2 o’clock there would be the option for joining a ranger for a tour of the park. It is a small park and at 13.30 we’d been through most of the main trails apart from the northern and southern summits because we’d somehow missed the entry to the trails.

It is a very beautiful and peaceful place and just what the doctor ordered after a week in New York. However it was far from as red as I’d imagined even though we’d hit peak.

We managed to return in time for a tour with a ranger and decided to join if by chance the tour would go by the northern or southern summits. It soon became apparent that we were the only visitors who wanted to join a guided ranger tour that day. Our ranger guide was an elder and very kind woman who originally heralded from Wales, but had lived 28 years in the US. Despite having planned a less trying tour that day she agreed to take us to the Southern Summit. It was pretty cool to have our own ranger with us. She told us about places that animals might hide, or which had been used by the natives as sleeping spaces in olden days. She told us that the reason the red colour was not more dominant was the deforestation of the area back in the 19th century after which the Billings, Marsh and Rockefeller families planted a variety of trees including Norwegian Spruce. This meant that the maple tree was not as widely represented here as in other parts of New England.

She also read us a few poems on our trip all of which perfectly matched the warm autumn day.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, Mountain Interval, 1916

By the time we reached the summit it was late afternoon. Here we were joined by a British family as our ranger told us the story of why leaves turn red in the autumn. She ended our tour with the beautiful view from the Southern Summit with another Robert Frost poem.

After thanking the ranger, we headed off to a few more areas of interest, enjoying the late afternoon. Though it might not have been as red as I had dreamt it to be, it was still beautiful and I am still thrilled that we were so lucky with the weather.

We walked back to town by a trail which zigzagged for ages ending up in Faulkner Park. We only managed to reach town after dark and completely spent. But we’d managed to get a complete day from walking around the beautiful Marsh – Billings – Rockefeller National Historical Park. So far I’ve been mighty pleased with my visit to New England though I have also already decided to return one day to explore other parts of the region.

Goodbye Woodstock, I hope to see you again some day

I take it back. There is a Luke’s Diner in Woodstock Vermont. It is a bit more frazzled and unkempt and instead of Luke you’ll find a group of grey haired waitresses running the morning crowd, but it is definitely worthy to be categorised as a Luke’s Diner. Mountain Creamery is placed on Central Street along with pretty much everything. The place is packed full with middle-aged American couples touring autumn coloured Vermont as well as locals at the bar chatting with the waitresses about everyday stuff.

Coffee and waffles at Mountain Creamery was the perfect ending to an amazing stay in Woodstock Vermont.

By 11.30 we were standing with our luggage at the parking area outside of town waiting for our drive back to Hanover.

Hello Norwich

We arrived in Norwich early afternoon and had plans to see Hannover. Unfortunately, the rain arrived at the same time as us, and the “short” mile into Hannover turned into a shower. We ended up checking out all the various items one could buy with the Dartmouth logo. It is truly a business of its own with several major stores in town selling everything from t-shirts and jumpers to key-chains, notebooks and cups – and that is only the more standardised items. There were Halloween and Christmas ornaments and cushions and throws. This is so far from the one lousy t-shirt you can buy from a university in Denmark. In fact, Danish universities only produce such t-shirts because overseas exchange students have requested them. I suppose the very fact that you pay immense amounts to go to university in the US already makes it a very commercial institution, whereas in Denmark the universities up until a few years ago never thought about branding themselves.

Our visit to Hannover was brief and it seemed to take us longer to find our way home since we ended up on the brown line as it went all the way to the other end, paused for fifteen minutes before making its way back to Hannover and onwards to Norwich.

And off course as we drove in to Norwich the sky cleared and the sun showed itself. but we were tired and wet, so we headed to the general store to shop a few sandwiches before returning to our host’s house. The general store in Norwich is called Dan and Whit’s and is something of a local celebrity. partly because it is massive and seems to stock everything, and partly because it has one of the best slogans in the business:

If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!

After perusing for ages, we bought a few sandwiches and sodas and made our way home.

Sightseeing Norwich

We were headed back to New York in the early afternoon, and had planned to spend the first couple of hours of the day exploring Norwich. Fortunately, the day offered a clear blue sky. We set out to find a bit of breakfast first, and ended up asking for directions to The Square Café at Norwich Inn. As they assisted us in finding our way around the very small hamlet, we grabbed a brochure about historic sites in Norwich. An absolutely brilliant brochure.

Norwich is a tiny place. Nothing more than a main street with houses on each side. The place has likely never had any significant impact on world or US history, but the history-loving locals had made a small brochure which told the history of every house on the street – many of which were from the 18th and 19th century. So after a muffin and a coffee at The Square Café which itself was in one of the historical buildings, we walked up and down the main street, pointing out and reading about each house. We passed the village green where the local school was out for recess and had another stop at Dan and Whit’s, on this overall charming walk.

While Norwich might just be one in a million small towns in rural US, I am very happy that we got to see it and that the weather was so great.

By midday we took the brown line back to Hannover catching the luxury bus back to New York and our visit to the Upper West Side and Brooklyn.

Cheers

Zofka

Days in New York: The UN and the Upper East Side

Americans seem to adore parades. They have the Mardi Gras, the Thanksgiving Parades, massive Halloween parades and Saint Patrick’s Day Parades which equals anything in Ireland.

One parade which I’d never heard of before is the Columbus Day Parade, but during my research I discovered that we would be in New York around the Columbus Day weekend and what better way to experience the Upper East Side than with a long line of parade floats down 5th Avenue.

The United Nations

But before heading towards the Columbus Day Parade, we’d planned to visit the UN headquarters. Unlike yesterday, the sun was shining brightly today and it was almost sad to have to enter the UN building for a guided tour with such pleasurable weather outside.

However, one cannot regret to enter the halls of this place. The architecture is stunning and the fact that this organisation attempts to gather the nations of the world in peace makes a visit here worth your while – no matter the weather outside.

Our guide was a charming young African man with a particular interest in the work against landmines. He took us through the different meeting rooms ending with the impressive General Assembly Hall. We were lucky that not too many meetings were taking place that day, but from a Danish perspective we were unfortunate that of all the rooms it was the Trusteeship Council Chamber which was occupied.

This particular chamber was first designed by Danish furniture designer Finn Juhl in 1952 and renovated with new furniture by Danish design duo Salto and Sigsgaard in 2013. Thus the chamber is an icon in Danish design history as well as in the architectural history of the UN. It is very likely also the main reason for most Danes to visit the UN Headquarters in New York.

But despite missing out on this symbol of Danish design history, we had a marvellous walk through the UN. However, I was pleased once we got outside and were able to once again enjoy the sun. After yesterdays heavy and cold rain I was enjoying the sun to the fullest.

Columbus Day

I wont be exaggerating when I say that the parade was a let down. It seemed a very small affair in comparison to how I imagined American parades and nothing near the spectacle I’d experienced at the 2012 Vancouver Pride.

Here we were standing around most of the time waiting for the next float to arrive. The floats themselves were often just a truck with no decoration but a sad advertisement or brand. There were some marching bands in between which I enjoyed, but for the most part it was boringly dressed people walking down 5th avenue.

It seemed to be mainly the Italian community which was celebrating this day and I assume that the rest of the New York population was off enjoying the fall foliage on an extended weekend in New England. That at least was where I’d much rather be than standing around for this.

I apologise for being negative, but in a land where we have come to expect that everything is always supersized the thin parade stood in sharp contrast to the rest of our trip.

However, with the brilliant weather our decision to see the parade offered an excellent opportunity to zigzag some of the streets and neighbourhoods of the Upper East Side as well as enjoy a walk through Central Park.

On our walk through the Upper East Side, I found the following description of the neighbourhood from the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation:

The Upper East Side, today one of the most elegant residential and shopping districts, was first built up following the creation of nearby Central Park between 1857 and 1877. It has gone through several development phases, each of them distinctive and still represented today. Middle-class brownstones in the Italianate and Neo-Grec mode of the 1860’s to the 1880’s exists on some side streets. The Beaux Arts palaces and Neo-French Chateaux of the period, designed by McKim, Mead & White and other architects for the Vanderbilts, Astors, Loebs, and Whitneys, recall the days when those names were synonymous with American industrial and economic power. The Neo-Classical revival facades from the early 20th century show a change in taste from 19th century eclectic opulence; and the luxury apartment houses of the 1910-1930 period sought to retain the high style of private residences, while accommodating a basic change in lifestyle.

The Upper East Side seems a dream for the historically interested architect and full of some of the best of American architecture through the ages. At the same time it seems a land closed off to the commoner, where only the elite of American society has any chance of living.

Central Park in comparison seems a breathing hole shared by all New Yorkers and offered a marvellous walk across the Great Lawn and down along the Lake.

We ended the day under the neon lights and large billboards at Times Square along side the many cartoon characters and fellow tourists.

Zofka

Days in New York: Harlem and the Met

Whatever sun we’ve experienced is gone from Manhattan and instead we are left with a grey blanket of clouds and heavy doses of rain.

We wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge today and explore the different neighbourhoods of Brooklyn as well as a few flea markets, but with the cold rain slapping our faces we gave up on that idea and found our way to Grand Central Station to check out the Great Northern Food Hall, which the media in Denmark have been buzzing and fussing about for the last few months.

Third Ave Subway Station
Third Ave Subway Station
The Great Northern Food Hall

Now I’ve never really been a fan of Claus Meyer though I remember him as a television chef from when I grew up. He is the personification of the over hyped Nordic Food which has made my home town into a food Mecca for the elite. But he has always turned my hairs the wrong way.

Central Station
Central Station

However, proud of particularly the Danish breakfast treats (the real Danish pastry) and well aware that Danes are leagues ahead of New Yorkers in the appreciation of a real and good tasting hot dog, I was curious to see Meyer’s attempt at educating the Americans in regards to some of these essential food items.

Great Northern Food Hall
Great Northern Food Hall

I had read ahead of time that Meyer had been way to artistic with his hot dog stand and instead of offering actual Danish hot dogs to the masses he’d gone ahead and made a real classic Meyer by attempting to dose it up with all kinds of weird stuff. Thus, since it was early in the morning we kept ourselves to the Vanderbilt Hall where we got a treat of Danish tebirkes and porridge.

Hall to the Subway at Central Station
Hall to the Subway at Central Station

The first was just as it is back home and gets an A+ from this tebirkes aficionada. The porridge might have been good, but apart from the main chef at the stand bad mouthing the entrepreneur – that is Meyer –  we were also served the porridge nearly cold. In comparison to what I know of American service by now that guy should be out on his ass. Even in Denmark where we prefer a more cold service that guy wouldn’t have kept his job long.

I might not like Claus Meyer, but no one bitches about him but me!

Pershing Square
Pershing Square

After getting cosy and comfortable at Grand Central Station we took the chance to see if we might possibly get a tour of the inside of the UN Headquarters.

Central Station and the Chrysler building in the rain
Central Station and the Chrysler building in the rain

Inside being the keyword as rain started pouring down. But we were out of luck and had to wait a day for the next tour on site.

Warning Rodent Bait!
Warning Rodent Bait!

At this point I was ready to just get home and under the sheets, but despite having changed rooms at the hotel the idea of spending the day there was far from pleasant.

NYPD barricades
NYPD barricades
The Met – Temples and Eggs

We ended up taking a bus into the Upper East Side where we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. The Met is one of largest museums in the world offering a permanent collection of more than 2 million pieces.

Temple of Dendur
Temple of Dendur

Amongst these is the entire Temple of Dendur, which the Egyptian government gifted to the US in 1965 after it had become obvious that the temple’s original location would be flooded by the building of a nearby dam.

Figures and hieroglyphs on the side of the Temple of Dendur
Figures and hieroglyphs on the side of the Temple of Dendur

The temple is reconstructed in the Sackler Wing where it lies with a beautiful panorama view of Central Park. The very idea that the museum houses an ancient temple helps to comprehend the sheer size of this place.

Sphinx
Sphinx

We could have spent hours walking around and studying the many exceptional exhibitions on show from all over the world.

Drinking horn from Nuremberg, Germany 1436
Drinking horn from Nuremberg, Germany 1436
Funerary mask from 10th-12th century, north coast of Peru
Funerary mask from 10th-12th century, north coast of Peru
A Hypocrite and a Slanderer by Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
A Hypocrite and a Slanderer by Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) by Salvador Dalí, 1954
Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) by Salvador Dalí, 1954
The Charles Engelhard Court of the American Wing
The Charles Engelhard Court of the American Wing
Gold beakers, precolumbian art
Gold beakers, precolumbian art
Saint Michael from France, ca 1475
Saint Michael from France, ca 1475
Interior from the Classical Galleries, 1810–1845
Interior from the Classical Galleries, 1810–1845
The exhibition 'Body Language'
The exhibition ‘Body Language’

To me the most interesting find in the vast collection were the Fabergé eggs on show in the European section. In particular, the beautiful pale pink egg bearing the title Imperial Danish Palaces Egg. The egg was presented to the czarina Maria Feodorovna on Easter 1890 by her husband Czar Alexander III.

European Sculpture Collection 1700-1900
European Sculpture Collection 1700-1900

Maria Feodorovna was born Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. Most Danes know her as Dagmar.

The Imperial Danish Palaces Egg
The Imperial Danish Palaces Egg

Her older brother became King Frederik VIII of Denmark, her older sister Alexandra married the later Edward VII  King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India, while her older brother was elected King George I of the Hellenes (Greece). Not without reason her father was known as the Father-in-Law of Europe, and many royal houses can trace their history back to him.

Early cast for the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi
Early cast for the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

Dagmar herself saw her son and grandchildren killed during the Russian Revolution of 1917, and as such ended as the last remaining crowned person of Russia. But before these events she lived a life at the utmost top of society in Russia and Europe.

Head of Satyr playing the double flute, 1 centurt A.D.
Head of Satyr playing the double flute, 1 centurt A.D.

The Fabergé egg which caught my attention has hidden a folding ten-panel gold screen which shows some of Dagmar’s favourite Danish and Russian retreats. The thought of finding – among such treasures at the Met a tiny but priceless piece of ornament showcasing miniature pictures of Danish royal palaces seemed so surreal.

Small folding screen inside of the Imperial Danish Palaces Egg
Small folding screen inside of the Imperial Danish Palaces Egg
Harlem tour

We waited out the heavy rain in the large halls of the Met and as the weather seemed to stabilise and only the grey cloud remained, we decided to shake up our schedule and take the subway to Harlem.

Brownstone-homes on Striver's Row
Brownstone-homes on Striver’s Row

I had planned a Harlem tour full of Harlem history facts. Thus we started at 135th street station and St. Nicolas’ Park walking towards Strivers’ Row, which is a three-row radius of spacious town houses, known as brownstone-homes. According to the information I’d found beforehand some of the key players in the Harlem Renaissance and civil rights movement lived here.

Victory Tabernacle Seventh Day Christian Church on 138th Street
Victory Tabernacle Seventh Day Christian Church on 138th Street

Built in 1891, most of these homes remained empty until affluent African Americans (Strivers) bought them in the 1920s as Harlem became the centre of a ‘literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that kindled a new black cultural identity’ (History.com).

Private Road between 138th and 139th Street
Private Road between 138th and 139th Street

The movement has later been known as the Harlem Renaissance and was caused by a mass migration of black Americans from the South to Northern industrial cities during and after WWI. They came to the north and Harlem in search of jobs within the war-time industry and brought with them an artistic and cultural explosion as ‘strivers’ for a better future.

Private Road - Walk Your Horses
Private Road – Walk Your Horses

History.com offers a short introductory video on the Harlem Renaissance which is really nice: The Harlem Renaissance.

Houses on 138th street
Houses on 138th street

We continued from Strivers’ Row down to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which dates back to 1823. The congregation was started in 1808 as a way for black Americans to avoid the segregation in church and is one of the first and most influential African-American congregations.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd

Continuing down Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd I must admit that I was surprised at how pleasant Harlem is and all the lovely brownstone houses. This is definitely a wonderful part of Manhattan and much more attractive than Midtown.

Harlem Nights
Harlem Nights
Brownstone houses
Brownstone houses
Behind the facade in Harlem
Behind the facade in Harlem
The Universal Temple of Spiritual Truth and Funerals by Design
The Universal Temple of Spiritual Truth and Funerals by Design
Fire exits
Fire exits
YMCA - Young Men's Christian Association
YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association
Corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 135th Street
Corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 135th Street
135th Street
135th Street
Floral Expressions Harlem
Floral Expressions Harlem
Shrine Live Music
Shrine Live Music
Bethlehem Moriah Baptist Church
Bethlehem Moriah Baptist Church
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 132nd Street
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 132nd Street
Just Lorraine's Place
Just Lorraine’s Place
Shiloh Baptist Church
Shiloh Baptist Church

We ended up where everyone ends up on a tour of Harlem at 125th street – the commercial centre and beating heart of the neighbourhood.

125th Street
125th Street

Enjoying the atmosphere and the crowds of people who had overcome the grey weather we did a bit of shopping on 125th. I was particularly pleased with the GAP outlet store, which offered enormous discounts on clothes.

Monument to Adam Clayton Powell
Monument to Adam Clayton Powell

After having seen the shop assistant add discounts of up to 75% on all the items I’d grabbed I was pretty much whistling and exclaiming that this couldn’t get any cheaper.

Shopping in the GAP
Shopping in the GAP

To this our shop assistant grinned at us and added ‘We haven’t counted in the 25% off on all items yet’. What! I walked out of there feeling like I wasn’t spending money, but earning them. This place is definitely on my to do list if we return to New York.

Apollo Theatre on 125th Street
Apollo Theatre on 125th Street
Sylvia’s

We ended our day in Harlem with a late lunch at Sylvia’s, which is known for serving Soul Food. The late Sylvia Wood who ran the restaurant for more than 50 years was known as the Queen of Soul Food, so I’d figured a visit to her restaurant was the proper way to eat in Harlem.

Sylvia's
Sylvia’s

The term Soul Food comes from Alex Haley’s recordings of Malcolm X and is used to describe the food which the Great Migration of African-Americans from WWI and up until the 1960s brought with them from the South to their new homes in the northern industrial cities. Sylvia’s and many similar black-owned restaurants have served as meeting places and social spots for the black community in for instance Harlem, serving up traditional dishes of the black south.

At Sylvia's
At Sylvia’s

Strangely enough the cuisine originates not in the African roots of slaves in the South, but with the indigenous and native people of North America.

Sylvia's Restaurant Soul Food
Sylvia’s Restaurant Soul Food

It is heavy food and probably not all that healthy to eat all the time, but it tastes amazing and Sylvia’s was a marvellous place to end our Harlem adventure.

Zofka (now dressed in GAP)

Gallery: Chelsea Flea Market

Though I did not find anything, I was in particular need of, I could not help myself taking pictures of all the odities that were available at Chelsea Flea Market.

Danish garders by Kaj Bojesen
Danish garders by Kaj Bojesen
A pilgrim cup
A pilgrim cup
If only this chair could fit in a suitcase
If only this chair could fit in a suitcase
Shelves of porcelain
Shelves of porcelain
Dracula in a frame
Dracula in a frame
Abraham Lincoln and Stars and Stripes
Abraham Lincoln and Stars and Stripes
Colonial wood carved African American men
Colonial wood carved African American men
Colonial wood carved African American men
Colonial wood carved African American men
Can you find Tintin?
Can you find Tintin?
The lady and the glass slipper
The lady and the glass slipper
Books $5
Books $5
A bulldog
A bulldog
African masks
African masks
African figurines
African figurines
Another chair for the suitcase
Another chair for the suitcase
Brushes
Brushes
Chelsea Flea Market
Chelsea Flea Market
Barber sign
Barber sign
A doll on the shoe shelf
A doll on the shoe shelf

Zofka

Days in New York: The Village

A small group of students were advocating for the rights of Native Americans, and in reference to the upcoming Columbus Day were asking people passing by how they’d like it if someone showed up and took over their house.

Unlike yesterday which offered a beautiful blue sky, we’ve had to do with grey clouds all day today. However, I have still thoroughly enjoyed walking through the Village.

We began the day with a visit to Chelsea Flea Market and though I didn’t end up buying anything, there was more than enough to look at. Loads of American flags, wooden figures and people enjoying the atmosphere. So much that I decided to make a gallery of it all.

Colonial wood carved African American men
Colonial wood carved African American men

From there we walked down 5th Avenue and into Greenwich Village. When we reached the First Presbyterian Church in the New York City we turned down 11th Street to 6th Avenue and the Jefferson Market Library and Garden.

The Jefferson Market Library
The Jefferson Market Library

Here I found the small Patchin Place and one of only two still existing gas lamps in New York. I wonder if I get a chance to find the other one as well.

One of two remaining gas lamps in New York
One of two remaining gas lamps in New York

Continuing down Christopher Street we took our time to enjoy the lively puppies in the many local pet stores. At West 4th Street we turned north into an area full of lively restaurants and bars where people had defied the grey weather and were enjoying the outdoor seating.

Sant Ambroeus on West 4th Street
Sant Ambroeus on West 4th Street

As we reached Perry Street we happened upon a house with large groups of young women taking photos in front. It would seem that we had reached Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment building.

Women flocking to Carrie Bradshaw's apartment building
Women flocking to Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment building

Despite the fact that Carrie lived in the Upper East Side in the series ‘Sex and the City’ this house was used to shoot the exterior scenes. And for that reason for women of my generation, it seems to have become a destination for modern pilgrimage.

Soon Julia Roberts and Richard Gere will show up on the fire escape
Soon Julia Roberts and Richard Gere will show up on the fire escape

Continuing up to Abingdon Square we found a small farmer’s market by Grow NYC offering locally grown vegetables, lobsters and turkeys from DiPaola Turkey Farm.

Abingdon Square
Abingdon Square

After a turn around the farmer’s market we continued down Bleecker Street enjoying the many little shops before finding our way towards the exterior apartment building of another New Yorker series.

Shops on Bleecker Street
Shops on Bleecker Street

On the corner of Grove and Bedford Streets lies the building known from ten seasons of Friends. Unlike with Carrie Bradshaw’s building, no one was to be found outside here taking selfies. No Ross and Rachel fans.

Apartment building from Friends on Grove and Bedford
Apartment building from Friends on Grove and Bedford
Grove Street
Grove Street
Bedford St and Carmine St
Bedford St and Carmine St
Downing Street Playground
Downing Street Playground

We continued down Bedford Street to Father Demo Square where we got a bagel at Bagels On the Square before continuing onto Washington Square Park. This is a particularly lively and pleasant park full of NYU students.

The Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park
The Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park

Let’s celebrate Columbus Day by walking into someone’s house & telling them we live there now.

I loved the fact that a small group of students were advocating for the rights of Native Americans, and in reference to the upcoming Columbus Day were asking people passing by how they’d like it if someone showed up and took over their house. Well there is something to think about when we will enjoy the Columbus Day Parade on Monday.

Celebrate Indigenous people
Celebrate Indigenous people

As rain started pouring, we made our way eastwards through a lively area of East Village full of young people and students.

Grassroots Tavern
Grassroots Tavern
New Yorker taxis
New Yorker taxis
The Tenth Street Church of Christ
The Tenth Street Church of Christ
A classic walk of shame
A classic walk of shame
East Village Barber Shop
East Village Barber Shop
E 10th Street and 2nd Avenue
E 10th Street and 2nd Avenue
Trump says 'no crossing!'
Trump says ‘no crossing!’

In order to get out of the rain, we quickly found a place on St Mark’s Place called TKettle Kitchen which served bubble tea.

Bubble tea at TKettle Kitchen
Bubble tea at TKettle Kitchen

I love bubble tea, and we spent some time at this Taiwanese place chewing tapiocas and soaking up the atmosphere away from the rain, and before making it the rest of the way home.

 

Zofka

Days in New York: Midtown and a Detour to World Trade One

To realise that we stood by the windows overlooking Manhattan took my breath away.

We woke up feeling better than yesterday and with a clear blue sky over Manhattan. It seemed the perfect day to visit World Trade One after we’d dropped it during our first weekend because of a grey and cloudy sky.

World Trade One
World Trade One

Our original plan was to see Midtown with Times Square and 5th Avenue as central attractions. But while visiting Manhattan for the first time requires a visit to Midtown simply to cross it off the list, it was never a real priority in my eyes. Thus, it felt the perfect time to take a detour south visiting the observatory of Freedom Tower.

Buildings next to 9/11 Memorial Park
Buildings next to 9/11 Memorial Park

When we arrived I was dying from hunger and instead of making our way to Freedom Tower immediately, we headed off towards Brookefield Place across the road for a quick coffee and pastry.

North Cove Yacht Harbor
North Cove Yacht Harbor

After shopping in one or two of the fancy bakeries, we sat down at the large glass windows overlooking North Cove Yacht Harbor and the Hudson River.

The Sisyphean job of cleaning the windows of World Trade One
The Sisyphean job of cleaning the windows of World Trade One

Knowing that we’d have to spent the day in between some of the most recognisable skyscrapers of the world all day, it was fantastic to enjoy the view and a quick tour outside for a slight breeze.

View over Manhattan
View over Manhattan
One World Observatory

When we returned to One World Trade Center a small line had grown, but fortunately we managed to pass through quickly ending up in an elevator which during the 47 second travel time reached 1,268ft (386.5 m) while showing us a time lapse of Manhattan from 1500 AD to now.

I found this one on YouTube, but it can’t really measure with the real thing:

Once we reached floor 102 we were shown a short presentational video on a long and 3D canvas. As the final touch the movie screen open up to the outside view.

View towards Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
View towards Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty

Up until then I had no orientation and felt as if we were hiding in the dark shadows of a presentational hall in the centre of the building. To realise that we stood by the windows overlooking Manhattan took my breath away.

NYPD in the air over Manhattan
NYPD in the air over Manhattan

Reaching the observatory deck, we spent an hour or more enjoying the blue sky over Manhattan. My favourite part was looking north towards Midtown and Central Park with the bridges to the right crossing over to Brooklyn. Such an iconic view.

View towards East River
View towards East River
Midtown

We started at Herald Square taking a slow walk down 7th Avenue and Korean Town passing Empire State Building as we turned on to 5th. At 37th street we crossed to Broadway slowly making our way to Times Square.

Hot dog and pretzel stand at Herald Square
Hot dog and pretzel stand at Herald Square
Saxophonist playing on Herald Square
Saxophonist playing on Herald Square
Young Orthodox Jews
Young Orthodox Jews
Fast food stand in Midtown
Fast food stand in Midtown
7th Avenue outside Madison Square Garden
7th Avenue outside Madison Square Garden
7th Avenue
7th Avenue
Starbucks and Church of Saint Francis de Assisi on W 31st Street
Starbucks and Church of Saint Francis de Assisi on W 31st Street
Koreatown

However, we decided to make one more detour of the day crossing into Koreatown which lies on East 32nd Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue. It is a nice little place though I imagine that with more time, we would have gained more from our visit.

Chefs at Mandoo Bar in Koreatown
Chefs at Mandoo Bar in Koreatown

The Korean enclave is a relatively new phenomenon as it started in the 1980’s with the opening of a Korean book store and a few restaurants. Today the area holds more than a 100 shops and eateries and is a centre for the Korean community in the US.

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

I absolutely love the idea that even in modern times it is possible for small and culturally interesting enclaves to pop up in this massive metropolis and that they are offered some sort of recognition in the official nickname of this section of 32nd Street as Korea Way. It shows how this city continues to develop not only from the high-rises, but also from the multi-ethnic groups which call it their home.

Minnie Mouse times two
Minnie Mouse times two
Times Square

As we moved closer to the epicentre of Manhattan tourism more and more cartoon dressed people started to show up. I knew there had been a Comic Con in New York from the 6th to the 9th of October , but all these dressed up people didn’t really fit the profile. Most of those I saw without their Iron Man or Goofy head on were short Mexicans.

Minnie Mouse and Minions on a short break
Minnie Mouse and Minions on a short break

They intermingled with the tourists getting money for pictures. I must admit that I myself fell for a photo with Iron Man mostly because it seemed the thing to do as we neared Times Square.

With Iron Man and Spiderman
With Iron Man and Spiderman

It seemed so similar to the young men with Middle Eastern and North African roots who sell small metal Eiffel Towers in Paris for 1€ at every major tourist attraction.

Statue of Liberty texting
Statue of Liberty texting

Here however, they were standing out in their cartoon customs moving about the tourists or off to the side in groups taking a break. It seemed so sad in my eyes and made me even more reluctant to hang around Times Square.

Dallas BBQ and other neon light advertisements
Dallas BBQ and other neon light advertisements

But we were getting hungry and before we knew it we were finding our way to a massive amount of mediocre American food at Dallas BBQ on West 42nd Street.

NYPD on 43rd Street and Times Square
NYPD on 43rd Street and Times Square

While the food was as all such chain restaurants can offer – nothing special – I did get a massive virgin Piña Colada which gave me an extensive brain freeze. I am still in shock regarding the portion and drink sizes in the US and it is not difficult to comprehend how the country has such major issues with obesity. I must have gain five kilos from just walking in the door at Dallas BBQ.

Times Square and W 44th Street
Times Square and W 44th Street

Once again moving towards Times Square I was surprised at how small it felt and how excessively dirty. Before leaving for the US we’d watched an episode of ‘Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations’ about New York City in which he contemplated on how Times Square had turned into an amusement park far detached from the everyday New Yorker.

Looking south from Times Square and W 44th Street
Looking south from Times Square and W 44th Street

Standing here crushed by tourist masses and Mexicans dressed up like cartoon characters with massive stores for Disney and M&M, I could only agree.

Duffy Square - the northern triangle of Time Squares
Duffy Square – the northern triangle of Time Squares
Ads on Times Square between W 46th and W 47th
Ads on Times Square between W 46th and W 47th

View from Times Square up Broadway
View from Times Square up Broadway

However, we were tourists ourselves and I’ve never claimed not to be a hypocrite in some sense of the word and before long we were enjoying the wonders of the Disney Store considering whether or not to by a BB-8 or R2-D2. A discussion we’d also had while in Tokyo. Disney Stores just bring out that inner child. We’ll probably have the same discussion the next time we see a Disney Store.

Leaving behind the masses at Times Square we made it up Broadway to 57th street and on towards 5th Avenue and Trump Tower. With absolutely no interest in standing around that place, we moved on to 53rd street and the Museum of Modern Art.

Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Louis Vuitton on 5th Avenue
Louis Vuitton on 5th Avenue
Trump Tower
Trump Tower
MoMA

On Friday nights nearby Uniqlo – one of my favourite stores – sponsors free entrance to MoMA between 4 and 8 pm. While I am not much for art museums, I am well aware that a visit to New York is not complete without a stop at MoMA.

MoMA
MoMA

While the museum itself did not fascinate me more than similar museums in Europe, I was happily surprised at how full it was because of the Uniqlo Free Friday Nights.

Repose, 1908 by Pablo Picasso
Repose, 1908 by Pablo Picasso

However there was one exhibition which caught my attention namely Bouchra Khalili: The Mapping Journey Project. I was caught by the travels that these immigrants had been on crisscrossing Europe and returning to Africa before criss-crossing Europe again. All of it in hopes of a better future and through constant exploitation by other.

The Mapping Journey Project
The Mapping Journey Project

One had given up a good living in Italy where he had found a peaceful job in order to pay for a ticket to Barcelona where his uncle could exploit him by forcing him to work under dismal conditions.

But my uncle took all my money
But my uncle took all my money

These fates and their stories as migrant workers was terrifying and the installations through which they told their stories were so brutally honest.

And help my family, so I should go to Libya
And help my family, so I should go to Libya
Uniqlo

And yes, off course I ended up at Uniqlo after our visit to MoMA. Still awaiting the brands arrival in Denmark, I take every chance I can to shop in one of their stores.

St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Evening prayers in St. Patrick's Cathedral
Evening prayers in St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Wedding in St. Patrick's Cathedral
Wedding in St. Patrick’s Cathedral

After intense shopping in Uniqlo we took a few minutes to contemplate in peace at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue, while watching a couple saying I do.

We ended the evening in our own neighbourhood with a well deserved pizza.

Zofka

Gallery: High Line

The High Line might be my favourite place in Manhattan after a two weeks visit. It is the mix of old and new, industry and creativity, and the feeling of walking above the Manhattan grid in a wonderful world of recreation.

View from the High Line
View from the High Line
Fire escapes
Fire escapes
Passing through modern high rises
Passing through modern high rises
Old industrial chimney
Old industrial chimney
Small back alley
Small back alley
Painting on wall and body
Painting on wall and body
The High Line
The High Line
Beautiful old New Yorker complexes
Beautiful old New Yorker complexes
The High Line
The High Line
Rubber car
Rubber car
View of W 23rd Street
View of W 23rd Street
Graffiti
Graffiti
Back alley street art
Back alley street art
Time for a small break
Time for a small break
Blind idealism is deadly
Blind idealism is deadly
The green of the High Line
The green of the High Line
The green of the High Line
The green of the High Line
Car Park
Car Park
Empire State Building in the horizon
Empire State Building in the horizon
W 19th Street
W 19th Street
View towards Pier 57
View towards Pier 57
Star on 18
Star on 18
The Lion King
The Lion King
Nude sunbathers
Nude sunbathers
View of W 17th Street
View of W 17th Street
Looking south on 10 Avenue
Looking south on 10 Avenue
Looking north on 10 Avenue
Looking north on 10 Avenue
W 16th Street and Hudson River
W 16th Street and Hudson River
At W 16th Street
At W 16th Street
View towards Hudson River
View towards Hudson River
People enjoying a coffee on the High Line
People enjoying a coffee on the High Line
View of W 15th Street
View of W 15th Street
Relaxing in the sun on the High Line
Relaxing in the sun on the High Line
New fashion from Giorgio Armani
New fashion from Giorgio Armani
Pier 54
Pier 54
Brass Money
Brass Money
View of W 12th Street
View of W 12th Street
Buildings near the High Line
Buildings near the High Line
Curved building near the High Line
Curved building near the High Line
The green of the High Line
The green of the High Line

Zofka

Days in New York: Gramercy, Flatiron and Chelsea

We passed between modern buildings built to encapsulate the High Line as well as older and crumbled buildings which stood as testament to the industrial area that it used to be.

We’ve slept terribly tonight. The hotel room was draughty and the bed was more than usually squeaky. You only had to breath for it to complain. After a long and late journey from D.C. in a very cold bus this was absolutely not what we needed. However, the hotel staff have been really helpful and offered us a new room – one where the bed is not directly under the window. Thankfully that also meant that we left behind the brown tartar wall paper which made me feel claustrophobic.

Dogs for posing
Dogs for posing

I don’t know if their willingness to help had anything to do with me standing in the foyer crying at 8 in the morning. I’d pretty much lost it after that night. We were both feeling sick and the very idea that we had to spend one more second in that room made me close to hysterical.

Placement of dogs
Placement of dogs

I was so eager to get a new room that I misunderstood the guy at the reception desk when he said we could switch rooms. I thought he meant right now and fifteen minutes later with luggage and a grumpy boyfriend I was eagerly waiting for a new room. However, a room with no window by the bed would not be available until someone checked out.

Posing dogs
Posing dogs

I must have looked wild. Absolutely out of it by the idea that we had to return to our draughty room.

After settling back in the room we took our time to get ready for a day of sightseeing in Gramercy and the Flatiron District as well as Chelsea and the High Line.

Gramercy Café
Gramercy Café

Gramercy Café

We began by fuelling up at the nearby Gramercy Café – a sleazy but well maintained diner. I can’t emphasise how much I needed to get my wits together somewhere outside that hideous room.

Breakfast time at Gramercy Café
Breakfast time at Gramercy Café

I love how in New York every establishment has its regulars filling up the place and how you nearly never see an empty restaurant or drinking hole. Gramercy was one of those places filled with regulars and people who were on first name with the waiters.

New York buildings
New York buildings

The prices were reasonably compared to what we’d come to expect from New York and we ended up with a serving of pancakes, oatmeal and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Looking up
Looking up

Yet again we were reminded that service was not part of the bill. It seems a standard that waiters tell European tourists, and it is pretty tiring to constantly to reminded that they expect for you to find their overcrowding service welcoming and to pay for it. However, these guys had been friendly and were not sitting like hawks checking up on us. Which was a welcome change from our experience at Harry’s in D.C.

Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles

I will never get comfortable with the tipping system. I like to pay a pre-defined amount for both food and service and not have to reflect on how much I might give, feeling bad since I’d constantly find myself between wanting to give a lot and not having the money – thus leaving the restaurant feeling guilty and not really wanting to come back. And I’d prefer the waiters to leave me alone, since I will never feel comfortable with someone chatting with me or serving me for the hope of a large tip.

But while here I’ll tip by the standards and cringe on the inside, while telling myself it is a cultural experience.

Gramercy Park
Gramercy Park

Gramercy and the Flatiron District

We left the diner and had a pleasant walk through Gramercy and past Gramercy Park before reaching Union Square where we sat for a while people watching and baking in the autumn sun. Gramercy is a beautiful area and we have been absolutely fortunate to keep the brilliant weather from Philadelphia and D.C.

Flatiron Building
Flatiron Building

Not soon after leaving behind Union Square we found ourselves soaking up the sun in Madison Square Park. With Flatiron in the background we got to enjoy the buzz of the lunch crowd, people dressed in ties and suits, briefcases and hot-dogs. We’d attempted to take a photo of Flatiron, but it had proven difficult as a photo shoot was in full swing in front of it.

Photo shoot at Flatiron Building
Photo shoot at Flatiron Building

As so many other things in life, I was surprised that it was not larger. I vividly remember it from watching Spin City during my childhood and back then it seemed enormous. But size doesn’t matter! The building is beautiful and I can understand why it has become an icon in Manhattan.

Is Santa real? Oysters!
Is Santa real? Oysters!

After enjoying the buzzing Madison Square Park we came across the SONY building next door, where we got a chance to test their latest in Virtual Reality.

Madison Square Park
Madison Square Park

It is pretty amazing how far they’ve come and though it is still pretty difficult to imagine all of us sitting in the coach with these heavy white helmets on, while thinking we are somewhere else, it is probably not that far in to the future.

I got to explore the depths of the sea and get attacked by a shark, which the guys at the show room found hilarious, since apparently I was very apparent in my fear of the shark.

Lunchtime in Madison Square Park
Lunchtime in Madison Square Park

Returning to Madison Square Park, we once again joined the remaining lunch crowds. I love how the parks are used by New Yorkers. How they are an integrated part of the business life.

Empire State and Macy’s

While the business people left for their offices, we moved further up 5th Avenue to the Empire State building. I’d confused it with the Crystler Building ad was certain that the tall skyscraper in the distance was not Empire State. It wasn’t until we exited Wallgreen, where we’d stocked up on anything to use against the common cold, that we realised that Wallgreen was situated in the Empire State Building.

4 Park Avenue and Empire State
4 Park Avenue and Empire State

I guess, I can say that I have been inside though not up the Empire State Building.

Madison Avenue
Madison Avenue

We continued up 5th to Macy’s at Herald Square since we’d seen a commercial advertising that Macy’s was readying for Halloween. Our disappointed was pretty great when we realised that their Halloween section was nearly the size of a stamp, while their holiday section was all about Christmas.

A taste of religious US
A taste of religious US

The idea that Americans overdue it with decorating for the holidays and that the department stores were crazy felt nothing more than a stereotypical prejudice. Hopefully they got more crazy when Halloween got closer, because that was sad.

Herald Square
Herald Square

After another break at Herald Square where I realised that pretzels are just as boring in the US as in Germany, we headed off towards the High Line.

High Line
High Line

The High Line

While the Halloween decorations at Macy’s and the pretzel at Herald Square had disappointed, the High Line lived up to everything we’d imagined.

14th Street and 9th Ave
14th Street and 9th Ave

It was so unbelievably fresh to walk the extent of the High Line. A breath of fresh air in the middle of the concrete jungle. With the amazing weather people were relaxing on benches and chairs amidst the greenery. Some spots offered marvellous views of the streets below, where traffic was jammed and people in a hurry. Up here it was peaceful.

The corner of Gaansevoort and Washington
The corner of Gaansevoort and Washington

At some spot we were warned that naked sunbathers were at large while at others we passed small cafés and souvenir shops. Fortunately, these were limited and did not take away from the overall enjoyment of the High Line.

Homestead Steakhouse
Homestead Steakhouse

We passed between modern buildings built to encapsulate the High Line as well as older and crumbled buildings which stood as testament to the industrial area that it used to be.

If ever I return to New York, it will not seem complete with out a walk on the High Line. From this time around, I decided to create a gallery with some of the shoots from the High Line.

Dry Cleaning
Dry Cleaning
Clinton vs Trump
Clinton vs Trump
New Yorker pizza
New Yorker pizza
New York street by night
New York street by night
New York street by night
New York street by night

After a long day exploring the areas Gramercy, Flatiron and Chelsea, we spent the evening with a slice of a real and greasy New Yorker pizza and a night time walk before returning to our hotel, where we had been moved to a new and much more comfortable room.

Zofka

Building a Country – Building a Capitol

A middle-aged woman was monotonously speaking into a microphone about God and the bible with a sign which indicated that she was a write-in candidate for the presidential election. If I was American, I might just have chosen to write her name.

We’d planned for a day in Washington D.C. similar to our amazing day in Philadelphia. In order to get there early we spent the big bucks on an Amtrak ticket. I’ll admit that we also wanted to take the train because of our love for The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon’s obsession with trains.

Union Station
Union Station

The trip was fine, but arriving in D.C. began a stream of bad luck or unforeseen instances.

Equal Justice Under Law - the United States Supreme Court
Equal Justice Under Law – the United States Supreme Court

Washington D.C. is just bigger than what you might handle in one day and since we had the misfortune at our hotel to get a room where the door wouldn’t lock we had to wait quite a long time before we could leave for the centre. Thus, we didn’t get started on our busy itinerary for the day until one o’clock, and wanting to visit two museums alongside the main attractions of the US capital, we were in desperate lack of time.

United States Capitol
United States Capitol

Already as we arrived at the impressive Capitol building we knew our plans would fall through and that we would need to spend most of the next day sightseeing D.C. as well.

Capitol Rotunda
Capitol Rotunda

Our decision to return to New York later was made as we entered the Capitol where we had the chance to join the next tour of the building.

United States Capitol
United States Capitol

E Pluribus Unum

The tour began with a video about the Capitol and the unity of Americans, centred around the phrase e pluribus unum – out of many, one. It was way too sentimental for my taste, but often American movies are.

Dwight D. Eisenhower under the Cupola of United States Capitol
Dwight D. Eisenhower under the Cupola of United States Capitol

I couldn’t stop thinking about those last twenty minutes of Peter Jackson’s Return of the King. So full of heavy words and phrases about the greatness of American democracy and the central role of the Capitol.

Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull 1821
Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull 1821

But apart from that, it was well made and did give a great overview of the history of the Capitol and how it functions.

Charles Carroll statue from Maryland in the Capitol Crypt
Charles Carroll statue from Maryland in the Capitol Crypt

Following the video, our guide took us on a tour of the crypt, the old judiciary as well as the old senate and house of commons.

The Abraham Lincoln Bust in the Crypt of the Capitol
The Abraham Lincoln Bust in the Crypt of the Capitol

We got to listen in to whispers from the other side, just like John Adams, and marvel at the absolute masterpiece that is the cupola.

John Quincy Adam's desk location in House of Representatives - now National Statuary Hall
John Quincy Adam’s desk location in House of Representatives – now National Statuary Hall

According to our guide, they had only finished restoring the cupola two weeks earlier, allowing us in to see it as some of the very first.

The Cupola of the United States Capitol
The Cupola of the United States Capitol
National Statuary Hall
National Statuary Hall
Rosa Parks in the National Statuary Hall
Rosa Parks in the National Statuary Hall
Library of Congress

He further suggested for us to continue our tour by checking out the Library of Congress in the Jefferson Building across the street – another stunning building, which I am happy to have had a peak at.

Library of Congress
Library of Congress
Hall at Library of Congress
Hall at Library of Congress
Bookshelves at Library of Congress
Bookshelves at Library of Congress
The Guthenberg Bible
The Guthenberg Bible

Outside we began our long trail down the Mall, enjoying the many Smithsonian Museum buildings on each side. The sun was shining and it was an absolutely gorgeous day to stroll down The National Mall.

Biking at the Washington Monument
Biking at the Washington Monument
The National Mall

One of the museums we’d planned to visit was the National Museum of the American Indian. Unfortunately, a large part of the exterior was undergoing restoration and it was difficult to get an impression of the building which should be very interesting and formed to look like a wind-sculpted rock formation to paraphrase the website.

the National Museum of the American Indian
the National Museum of the American Indian

My wish to see this museum in particular is because I wanted to know more about the original Americans – those who were there before 1492.

The museum offered an interesting exhibition called “Our Universes” on how different Native American tribes understand their place in the universe and how it reflects on their daily lives. It was a beautiful exhibition allowing different tribes to express their understanding of the world and how it integrates with their lives.

Chief Washakie statue from Wyoming in Capitol Visitor Centre
Chief Washakie statue from Wyoming in Capitol Visitor Centre

It was the second exhibition, however, which really caught my attention.

Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations

The exhibition put to the spotlight a central part of how the United States came to be, namely the treaties made between the colonists and the natives.

It began with a short video and a showcase of what looked like a belt made of pearls. So simple and yet so full of symbolism.

Guswenta – the Two-Row Wampum Belt

The Two-Row Wampum Belt embodies an insight of the Haudenosaunee (also called the Iroquois of Six Nations) about how neighbouring nations can coexist.

One row symbolises an Indian canoe carrying everything Indians believe to be true. The other row is the Europeans’ ship, carrying everything they believe to be true.

The belt means: “We are travelling on the river of life together, side by side. One side isn’t going to get ahead of the other; people in the ship aren’t going to try to steer the canoe: people in the canoe aren’t going to try to steer the ship.”

Guswenta - the Two-Row Wampum Belt
Guswenta – the Two-Row Wampum Belt

The belt is a replica of one of the earliest treaties between natives and European settlers. It origins in 1613, as an agreement between representatives of the Six Nations and representatives of the Dutch government in the later Upstate New York, and is a very beautiful proof that European settlers for a very long time had a functioning relationship with a lot of East-American native tribes, and that for a long time, despite the pressure of settlers, the British and later American government attempted to respect those treaties. Not that this was sufficient to any extend, and all ideas of old or new treaties fell out the window with the great move West throughout the 19th century.

Catching squirrels with mobile phones
Catching squirrels with mobile phones

The exhibition explores eight of the approximately 374 treaties that were ratified between the United States and Native Nations. The further along you get, the more gruesome the consequences are for the natives and the less the Americans respect ratified treaties old as new. Most of the time the negotiators came with the intention to do right by the Native Nations, but others in the military and governmental system didn’t care about such small talk and disregarded the treaty or the treaties were forgotten by later generations of colonists. Replacement and death were the most common outcomes for the Native Nation people.

View of the Capitol from the Mall
View of the Capitol from the Mall

At the very end, it says that outside the thirteen colonies almost all US citizens live on treaty land. That really puts it into perspective.

The exhibition ends with the quote:

Great Nations, like great men, should keep their word.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Hugo Black, 1960

I found the National Museum of the American Indian to be a very thoughtful place and full of interesting and terrifying information. I could not agree with the two middle-aged white women in front of me at the elevator, who complained that this was a boring museum. Yet, I understood why they’d say that because as we would discover the next day American museums are rarely boring.

The Smithsonian Institution Building
The Smithsonian Institution Building

The White House back and front

After our visit we left the Mall to find something to eat. I was dying from hunger and ready to collapse from fatigue. We ended up at a diner called Harry’s Bar, which served the standard greasy diner-food. None of which was every appealing. But what stressed me out the most was the waitress.

Harry's Bar
Harry’s Bar

I really am not very comfortable with the American tipping system and the attention of the waiters when serving. It seems so inherently fake to me, and makes me feel slightly stressed out. But I endure it, because we are in the US and have to abide by American customs. However this waitress was grading my nerves. She was like a hawk looking over our shoulder. She hadn’t really done much in service beyond what was required and asking us if we wanted anything else and how it tasted and all these irrelevant questions. But she highlighted the service-part of the check and nearly looked over our shoulders when it came to paying. Before we even reached the door she was counting the tips at our table. I am sorry to say, but she must have been disappointed.

The White House backyard
The White House backyard

With a slight irritation but less of a hunger we walked towards The White House, reaching it from the back. It was getting late in the afternoon and the sky was turning a slight pink. It was a pretty sight, but the house was much smaller than it seemed on television.

The White House in the evening
The White House in the evening

The view helped a bit as we crossed towards the front end, but again the place seemed so small. I’d always imagined an open area in front of The White House, but instead it lay at the end of a boulevard, making it seem much less grandiose.

Demonstration infront of the White House
Demonstration infront of the White House

A demonstration was taking place in front of the White House and a lot of Ethiopian flags were waving.

Write-in candidate for U.S election 2016 Melody Cromble
Write-in candidate for U.S election 2016 Melody Cromble

A little further down a middle-aged woman was monotonously speaking into a microphone about God and the bible with a sign which indicated that she was a write-in candidate for the presidential election. If I was American, I might just have chosen to write her name.

Demonstration infront of the White House
Demonstration infront of the White House

The last light of the day was quickly dwindling away as we moved towards a metro station taking us north to Georgetown.

St John's Episcopal Church
St John’s Episcopal Church

Georgetown

Now I have a secret fancy for all places with the ending of town or ville. There is something adventurous about such places and in my mind they conjure up ideas about settlers and the discovery of new lands. The Mayflower, Pocahontas, Thanksgiving, Roanoke.

S Austin Avenue in Georgetown
S Austin Avenue in Georgetown

Georgetown is a neighbourhood to the north-west of Washington centre. Though the day had turned to evening and the street lights were turned on as the sun had set, it was not difficult to see what pleasant neighbourhood Georgetown really is.

Bridge Street Books in Georgetown
Bridge Street Books in Georgetown

We arrived on foot by Pennsylvania Avenue crossing Potomac River before entering M street – one of the main thoroughfares of Georgetown. The street is full of beautiful row houses and is what might be termed adoring.

Old Stone House
Old Stone House

At 3051 M Street stands the oldest home and property in Washington DC. Dating back to 1765 The Old Stone House is an absolutely romantic cottage and you can easily imagine a pilgrim stepping outside to clean the dust in front of the door.

Old Stone House
Old Stone House

We crossed up a few residential streets to see the beautiful homes and tree lined streets. Unfortunately, it was quickly becoming too dark and we soon turned on to Wisconsin Avenue – the other of Georgetown’s main thoroughfares. Here we came across the cosy looking Martin’s Tavern and after the fiasco at lunch we hoped for a great home cooked meal.

M St NW in Georgetown
M St NW in Georgetown

Martin’s Tavern seems to be an institution to Washington and according to the backside of the menu the tavern has served every president from Harry Truman to George W Bush. Whether that is senior or junior, the menu didn’t specify, but someone heard on the grapevine that it was at this friendly establishment that John F. Kennedy met Jackie.

Martin’s Tavern
Martin’s Tavern

The food was average, but the atmosphere was great and it was amazing to finally rest my feet in such a historic place.

M St NW in Georgetown
M St NW in Georgetown

Day two: Memorials and the Mall

We began by a visit to the National Museum of National History, which was anything but boring. This Smithsonian flagship was an explosion of activities and exhibitions with kids of all ages running around.

Entry hall of the National Museum of National History in Washington D.C
Entry hall of the National Museum of National History in Washington D.C

It was an interesting place to explore and fascinating to gaze at the Hope Diamond, which is cut from Le Bleu de France owned by King Louis XIV, or as he is better known The Sun King.

Hope Diamond at the National Museum of National History
Hope Diamond at the National Museum of National History

Another natural wonder which the museum had on display was a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton on display. Too sad it was only a cast. The real T. Rex will not be on display until 2019.

Tyrannosaurus Rex at the National Museum of National History
Tyrannosaurus Rex at the National Museum of National History

We continued down the Mall seeing the part we cut off the day before. It was an absolutely gorgeous day with sunshine and blue sky. When we reached the World War II memorial we happened upon what seemed like a ceremony of sorts.

View toward Lincoln Memorial with the people of Honor Flight Chicago at the WW2 Memorial
View toward Lincoln Memorial with the people of Honor Flight Chicago at the WW2 Memorial

The place was crammed with people in bright green shirts and loads of elderly in wheel chairs. Looking on at the proceedings, I got chatting with one of the people wearing green. It seemed she was a volunteer for the Honor Flight Chicago section.

Ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago
Ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago
Honor Flight

In 2004 when the World War II Memorial in Washington DC was finished a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain Earl Morse asked those of his patients that were World War II veterans, if they planned to visit it. Many of them dreamt of visiting the memorial, but Morse soon realised that none of them ever actually went.

Salute at the ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago
Salute at the ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago

So, he organised for two veterans to go with him to D.C. It was as they broke down in tears in front of the memorial that he began the non-profit organisation Honor Flight, which flies veterans from all over the US to the capital in order for them to visit their respective memorials.

WW2 veterans in front at the ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago
WW2 veterans in front at the ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago

At present they focus on World War II veterans, but as there are fewer and fewer of these the organisation slowly shifts to Korean War vets, but also offer place for vets with terminal disease. Later on it is going to be Vietnam and then they’ll start on the post-Cold War wars.

Ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago
Ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago

We had stumbled upon the ceremony in honour of 100 Chicago vets – 25 from World War II and 75 from the Korean War.

Veterans from the Korean War in the back at Ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago
Veterans from the Korean War in the back at Ceremony for Honor Flight Chicago

It was very moving to watch these old men and women being honoured in a military ceremony with someone singing the national hymn. For the rest of the day we collided with several green t-shirts and wheelchairs as we moved on to the different memorials.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Jefferson and Lincoln

At Independence Avenue a bit off  the Mall, I got a glimpse of the beautiful Thomas Jefferson memorial across the Tidal Basin. I’ve always been fascinated with his writings and would love to one day see his home Monticello down in Charlottesville – another ville. But for now I’ll enjoy the beauty of his memorial and the fact that I got a bubble head of him in Philadelphia.

We ended where everyone walking the Mall ends up at the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial. If ever there is a Washington monument which has been present in films and television, it is the massive statue of a sitting Abraham Lincoln. To see it in real life was surprisingly enough a very big moment.

At the Lincoln Memorial
At the Lincoln Memorial

I had not beforehand had any expectations, but there is something about the classical room centred on the majestic marble statue of Lincoln. On the walls are two of his most famous speeches The Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address.

Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, 1863

The Vietnam Memorial
The Vietnam Memorial
Vietnam Veteran Memorial

After enjoying the peacefulness of the Lincoln Memorial, we moved on to the close by Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I had been looking forward to this in particular, because I’d seen a documentary about its design several years ago, and I’d been touched by the fact that a young woman of Chinese descent won the contest. The simple beauty of the piece is haunting and cuts through the landscape.

Stars and stripes at the Vietnam Memorial
Stars and stripes at the Vietnam Memorial

According to the documentary many conservative forces had been against the design and had pushed for a more traditional memorial leading to the in my view boring three servicemen memorial. The sculpture of this small statue of three soldiers received the double in commission to Maya Lin, the designer of the main memorial.

Maya Lin was ahead of her time and today I can’t imagine many complaining about The Vietnam Veteran Memorial. In fact, the 9/11 memorial in New York seems to draw on her idea of cutting into the landscape – in New York by adding pools of water where the towers stood – and of listing the names of everyone who lost their life during the event in a very simple and touching manner.

The fact that Maya Lin was on the selection jury in 2003 when the design was chosen can either be seen as a reason for the commonalities or a proof that her thoughts on design has won influence in society since 1981.

Leaving the Vietnam Veteran Memorial, we walked up to the White House where the presidential write-in candidate still stood speaking monotonously about God and the bible. Saying good-bye to the White House we headed towards the metro to get to the bus station and back to New York.

Zofka