March was the month of a few trips and one nice Spring weekend I decided to drive down to Washington DC and check out America’s capital. It turned out to be one of the best trips of the year and I cannot wait to come back to look at all the things I didn’t have the time to see.
First of all, the tour to DC by itself was eventful enough. I took the Chinatown bus and it ended up breaking down, forcing us passengers to switch coaches, and having us delayed for a little over one hour. More about these buses and their eventful rides in another blog, though.
I arrived in the midst of Chinatown, not too far from the spot at which I had booked my hostel. After exploring the area a bit, I walked 20 minutes maximum to the HI Washington DC – one of the best American hostels I have stayed at! I recommend anyone staying in Washington to just drop their belongings off and sleep over there. Their standards are highly comparable to Europe and a very mixed crowd from all over the world likes to mingle and share stories.
All the main sights are easily accessible from there and in walking distance. My first stop was at the White House, naturally, after seeing it as a back ground image on the News and on TV for so many years. Not to mention that you might get a good glimpse of the President’s residence, too, of course. I was surprised to find it in the heart of the city – I had expected it to be more on the outskirts. One plus point for this. There was a demonstration going on at the same time I stopped by, just like every day, assumingly. Witnessing authentic protests – who wouldn’t be impressed. Another plus point! I don’t understand Arabic and the Middle-East mentality so well, so I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about, though.
Next I went south towards the National World War II Memorial, passing a few old buildings on my way. The World War II Memorial is located on the National Mall and was built from 2001 to 2004 (yes, pretty recent). It consists of the Reflecting Pool surrounded by 56 Pillars displaying the names of every US state and Commonwealth countries.
From there, it is a nice walk to the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorial. Also, while making your way to the Jefferson Memorial around the river, you will be delighted to find yourself among cherry trees in their full blossom (March and April are the best seasons for this as they reach their peak for 2 weeks straight). It was a gorgeous setting!
Aside from the typical Memorial sites and the Monument, I strolled along the National Mall – the area that is named after the idea of a National Park and reaches from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol – and got an outside glimpse of a serious row of museums (Smithsonian institutions). The ones I didn’t have the chance to check out – yet. I will be back for them, be prepared!
From there you can easily walk down to the Capitol, which is worth the visit. It is more beautiful and magnificent than on pictures or TV and has a nice fountain area in front of it. That would be about all you can get a glimpse of, though, since it is well guarded by sinister looking security personal.
In the evening I retreated back to the hostel, trying to figure out what to do with my first and last night out in town. And alas, as soon as I walked into the door I evidently burst into a vivid and interesting discussion about “Earth Hour”. Must have been one of those great topic nights HI-DC hosts. You can get some free food and drink while voicing your opinion about various things. The group was mixed and only two German people (including me) were present. I have to admit that we were also the least active ones. Earth Hour comes naturally to our country (we are the top energy saver, yes!), no need to elaborate on this.
Right after this, another group formed at the door and, curious to see what was going on, I went straight from our cozy discussion to the group, which was eager to get to know the DC nightlife a bit better. And this is were the fun truly started. Marc, our tour guide, who has been a volunteer for a noticeable time and a native DCer, was kind enough to give us a GREAT and ENJOYABLE tour of the area surrounding the Dupont Circle. Not to mention the visit to the first Scientology Church. Thanks for the insight, Marc! After a good hour of culture we ended up at the Russian House. It totally does not resemble anything Russian I’ve experienced before, but they offered some products and foods native to this country on their menu. Also Russian beer.
Yay for 9% beer that is gonna knock you out after only one of those.
Our group split up after this, some went home, some went on to an eventful night at the Cafe Citron. I do have to say that DC is surprisingly pricy, even compared to New York, and that drinks are well above the normal range.
The next day went by in a blurr: Arlington Cemetery, where I was lucky to catch a ceremony honoring Military Veterans. Georgetown, a cute area a little bit off the normal scene. Adam’s Morgan, which didn’t impress me that much, though.
I met many nice people from Europe, South Africa, Australia, South America and last, but not least, even the US. It was a great weekend, and I wouldn’t have thought that it would enrich my life so much as it did in the end.
I cannot wait to go back and catch up on the next 90 % of culture I probably missed out on! Luckily it is only a bus ride away and I heard summer and fall are always nice seasons to visit. Who knows, I might stop by again sooner than expected….