9 – 19 April 2013
In Baltimore I stayed with Rachel and her 2 room mates John and Amy. I met Rachel in Sadhana Forest when I volunteered in Haiti during the Winter. She's a clever girl so during my time in Baltimore we had many interesting conversations and became very good friends.
As always when I have been on the road for a while there is a big backlog of practicalities including an update of my always time consuming homepage. Hindsight I did things in the wrong order – I felt like getting the practicalities out of the way, so the first week I spent most of my time inside despite great weather. However, I did take time for bicycling a bit around amongst other visiting Druid Park and Rachel showed me around town one afternoon – many small parks and squares with beautiful blossoming trees, street art, numerous churches, Washington Monument, Inner Harbour, Feel's Hill with a nice view over downtown Baltimore, etc. It's a big city on paper but it doesn't feel like it walking around the many small communities – I think because of the low buildings and many open spaces and green areas. Downtown and the main streets are refurbished (though quite chaotic and confusing with the different architectual styles) while many of the surrounding neighbourhoods are more or less run down being neglected for years – and then again there's no red thred as there are very nice houses in the run down areas. With 70% Baltimore has one of the country's biggest African American populations mixing permanent poverty (outside downtown there are many tragic beings) with an old and influencial middle class.
Rachel and her room mates have an “open door policy” so there are always many friends around the house. One afternoon/evening we went to a park with many of the same friends playing frisbee and having some beers. I also got the chance to experience Daniel Goleman doing a speech at Rachel's old college – he's famous for books on emotionel intelligence and my favourite author when I took an Executive MBA some years ago. However, the speech was a bit boring repeating his books providing no new knowledge.
When I intended going to DC on Friday it was heavy rain and during the weekend tickets were 4 times the price of weekdays (no cheap commuter trains). Consequently I ended up going the following week despite a fairly poor weather forecast. Monday was warm but overcast so I focused on indoor activities – many museums and the Library of Congress. The latter was undoubtedly the highlight of the day – a beautiful building and a good guided tour with intersting anecdotes. The museums were quite mediocre: National Air and Space Museum - nice to see the size and construction of the actual crafts (they look very fragile - incredible they have been in space) but no new knowledge; National Museum of American History - very superficial and some strange exhibit priorities so no new knowledge; National Museum of Natural History - okay to see the famous Hope diamant and minerals collection but in general superficial (many subjects and nothing in depth). Fortunately all the museums are free so there are no considerations before entering – if interesting spend a lot of time; if not just leave. I had lunch by the Tidal Bassin noting that the cherry trees were in the final stage of bloom - the festival was Saturday and since then rain had forced most flowers to the ground. A pity because I had had the opportunity to experience the blooming the week before as cold weather had delayed the time of blooming from normally mid March.
Tuesday it was supposed to be overcast in the early morning and clearing up late morning. Therefore, I visited the National Geographic Explorer Hall first - a big disappointment and misunderstanding; nothing to do with explorers; only exhibits on birds and pirates. Late morning it was still overcast and I was disillusioned having to start walking around town knowing the views and pictures would be mediocre. I walked the whole downtown area amongst other seeing The White House, The Ellipse and the Tidal Bassin as well as everything in between the Lincoln Memorial to the west to US Capitol in the east - including all the war memorials. These monuments still have a big place in people's hearts and minds and are constantly visited by countless people from all over the country – often an emotional experience. Mid afternoon the weather finally improved but I still decided to do the last Capitol tour of the day. An okay experience – a very big group but the headphones enabled me to walk around and study the rooms and artifacts while still listening.
When I finished the Capitol tour around 16.45 it was beautiful weather, so I walked the whole downtown area again finishing at 19.15 when the sun went down. During the day I talked to a number of different people (including some of the many homeless people) and also met a German bicyclist finishing a 10 months trip around Northamerica. And speaking of bicycling I was surprised by the number of bicyclists and bicycle lanes – especially because the Danish Crown Prins Frederik (and numerous other notabilities) were yelled at bicycling around DC some years ago (maybe a lot happened since then or maybe he's just a terrible bike rider).