The Twin Cities and the 10,000 Skyways

I don’t know why but for some reason I feel less safe in Minneapolis than I have in any other place on my travel. Perhaps it is because my first experience in the city was seeing a woman being arrested at the bus terminal of Mall of America, or perhaps that she was very loud and angry. Or maybe it is all the attention that I get from men on the bus. I seem to be a magnet in Minneapolis for weird guys who either really want to know where I am from and what I am doing, or who just like to stare. One guy who looked a whole lot like Steve Buscemi, spent half an hour on a bus asking me random questions, seemingly unaware of my resistant and single syllabus answers. The bus seems to be a hub for unique personalities. One woman in a bus in Downtown Minneapolis in the midst of a long loud chat with the bus driver, turned to me and said; ‘look at those dark Communist clouds, going to Saint Paul!’ I think I prefer trains to buses.

I arrived really late, on an Amtrak train that was 4 hours past schedule. My hosts who had waited all morning had gone out when I came. Being so extremely tired, I fell asleep in their garage. My hosts live in Bloomington near Mall of America. They are a mid-60’s couple. Retired and with so very many electronic devices and virtual spaces in their house that I am sure they know more of this sort of stuff than I ever will. They have two cats. Maisy and Daisy. Maisy in particular is perhaps the most attention seeking cat I have ever met. Sweet as she is, it is impossible to get any sleep when she is around.

But even with the comfort of my host families house, I can’t seem to find the same excitement in the Twin Cities as I have the other places I have been. This is perhaps something I share with the locals, who all mention Mall of America as the top thing to see. And when a consumerist hell becomes the number one attraction of a city, it’s really sad. In this way Minneapolis seems a whole lot like Edmonton, known because of a gigantic mall rather than itself. Moreover, as the Twin Cities are extremely cold in the winter time, just like Edmonton, they too have walkways connecting the buildings. Here they call them skyways and you can see most of the city by passing from building to building, by skyways. They are made for the comfort of the citizens during the cold winter months, but unfortunately they seem to also be in heavy use during the summer. The streets therefore seems deserted, dead. Neither are there any shops on street level as they all hide away inside the different buildings. Minneapolis seems a ghost town in many places.

But here I am complaining about the Twin Cities, which is unfair, because there are good things here too. Hidden away is a nice city. In between the modern skyscraper is an old house and a bit of history. In particular, Saint Paul has a few things worth noticing. In fact a few rather large things. Here lies the impressive Minnesota State Capitol and the huge Saint Paul Cathedral, which surprise surprise has found inspiration in the Saint Peters Basilica in Rome. The area in between the two stately buildings is a huge boulevard. It would be quite majestic in my view if it featured more trees to shadow it from the intense heat of a Minnesota summer, and if it didn’t have to cross above a hwy. But it seems as in all places I have been, except Vancouver, a big fat ugly and noisy hwy has to run in the middle of the city destroying the connectedness and intimate feeling of the place. This however is not a critique of the Twin Cities, but North American cities in general, build for the comfort of the car driver rather than the biker or the pedestrian. On the contrary, as I discovered when I was in Portland, Minneapolis is the number one biking city in the US. Countless bike routes criss-cross the lakes and connect them to each other.

Another building occupy the huge boulevard with to few trees. The Minnesota History Center. With limited time I made it though the permanent collection which featured small exhibitions of countless of Minnesota citizens, companies and events. A lynching, a bus company, a politician who died to young. And my favourite, Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Now for those not familiar with this famous Minnesota based tradition, let me enlighten you. Princess Kay is a title given to the winner of the Minnesota Dairy Industries annual Princess program. She is crowned at the State Fair, and … this is the best part… sculptures of the 12 finalists, who have been chosen to compete at the State Fair, are carved out of butter. 90 pounds of butter is made to create each princess. Ha ha ha, that is so original!

Now I am sure you wonder, whether I took the advice of the locals and went to see that number one tourist attraction. Yes, is the answer. Yes, I did. I went there in the pursuit of a bobble head. I have this dream of getting Madeleine Albright as a bobble head figure. Unfortunately I think I am a decade or two late. And perhaps a few years early on purchasing a Michele Bachmann which would have been my second choice. I could only find Sarah Palin, and she is soooo last season!

Zofka