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.

Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court at the Met

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)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

twenty + eight =