Chi- Cha- Chicago! (Part 1)

I’ve made it! I made my first travel of this year come true! And it happened to even be a plane ride away, with a good 2 ½ hours from LaGuardia Airport/ Queens.

Chicago is one of those cities which had been on my list of places to visit for a long, long time. Not only because my paternal side of family originates from here. But also because of its reputation as the city with the most culture in the Midwest. And if there couldn’t be a better time to go, I made my trip out during the year of its 175th anniversary. That’s right, Chitown is only 175 years old. A young city, indeed, with much prospect to grow and to change within the coming 175 years. Albeit its small age, it has already gone through much trauma due to two fires that have partially destroyed the older parts of the city already.

One thing I can really tell you about Chicago is that it is truly in the Midwest. Smack, right there, in the middle of the map that makes out the North of America. It is indeed so Midwestern, it shows its signs of province and suburb even in the city. When I got there, it happened to be a rainy day. Not necessarily cold, but gray, windy, and very wet. I realize that this is of course not the most ideal weather to visit any type of place. Chitown does not pose an exception to this. Instead of going on top of the notorious Skydeck, we were snapped at by a rude employee as soon as we got in. Instead of enjoying the first rays of spring at the Navy Pier, we were dodging puddles and wind right beneath the Ferris Wheel. Weather must have an influence on people’s moods, is the first thing I thought. The second, that amusement parks are really meant for the nice time of the year.

I landed in O’Hare, about 20 mins outside of the city of Chicago. Despite having heard many people finding the airport huge and confusing, I myself have to say I was not impressed by its size but rather by its inconclusive directions and the amount of people that were running in my way when I tried to get out. Even on my flight out, I still did not find this airport immensely huge or even high-populated. But that was later at night, which could possibly be the best time ever to fly out.

My aunt, my two cousins, and my cousin’s girlfriend picked me up, which was all very sweet of them. We parked in Downtown Chicago, also known as the Financial District of the town. One thing I noticed when we drove past the skyscrapers, which had a striking resemblance to New York, I dare say, was that all of the subway lines, which are also called trains, run above ground. Just as they would in Queens or Brooklyn (I know, what a comparison!), a metal frame has been built upon the streets so that the trains can ride in neatly above the traffic. The second thing I noticed about the train system is its and quaint size: The train holds about four cars, which all are small in proportion. I am not sure exactly how often the train runs in Chicago, but I assume there are a lot less commuters than in the Tristate Area, for the only train I can think of which holds less than ten cars is the G from BK to Queens. Fare, I heard, costs 2.25 a ride, but then again, I never took it, so I don’t know how it applies and how far you can go on it.

We parked in a garage that offered a flat-rate fee of ten dollars for the rest of the day. This I found a really good bargain, as we were close to about everything worth seeing and we were not charged an arm and a leg for the excellent location.
Our tour took us past many landmarks of the city. First the Picasso Statue, which was exhibited in 1967. It is an untitled sculpture made by Pablo Picasso and is also defined as the first major public artwork the downtown area of Chicago ever had. During day it shines red but unfortunately there was construction going on all around it, so I couldn’t get a closer look at it. Second, the Willis Tower. Most people, including me, are not familiar with this name. The Sears Tower might ring a bell. It was bought up in 2009 by the Willis Group Holdings and has held that name ever since. For me, it will always be the Sears Tower. To date it is still the tallest building in the US, standing 108 floors high, and blinking at us with its two alien-looking antennas.

Our initial intention had been to go on top of the Skydeck, just like millions of tourists had done before us. However, due to glum weather, fog, and rain, we all came to the conclusion it might not be worth spending 17 bucks on a trip to the top. As soon as we entered the lobby door, an employee was hopefully pushing the elevator buttons, eager to get us in.
“How much can you see once you are on top?” we carefully inquired. “0 to 5 miles visibility today,” she hopefully responded, and thought this answer would satisfy us. It did not, so she eventually tried to kick us out by claiming we were blocking the entrance hall. So much for customer service! Later-on we met with the cousin’s friend, who worked around the Sears/Willis Tower and who said we were right at not taking that expensive trip up, as he could not see much of a view from his office window throughout the entire day. Thumbs up to making us feel better, Mike!

Anyhow, I am still eager to go back to the Skydeck – the top of the Tower. It is the ultimate tourist attraction of course: A square box built entirely out of glass, which makes you feel like you are walking above the city! It must be breathtaking as well as frightening at the same time, but I am nonetheless ready to take in the amazing view featured. Maybe next time!

Next, we walked back towards State Street, a mile consisting of shops and stores. A quick stop at the Art Institute with its beautiful and quirky lions in front. Then along Michigan Avenue, the posh street of Chicago (roughly comparable to the fancy 5th Ave in NYC). Then all the way through Millennium Park, with its main attraction, the Bean. This I had indeed seen in my friends’ photographs before, and I had really been looking forward at taking pictures of it. It is a highly reflective, mirror-like sculpture in the form of an enlarged bean. Standing there in its finished form since 2006, it has attracted millions and millions of people ever since. Not only because everyone likes to look at themselves through a distorted view, but also because it reflects the Chicago skyline on one side and the park and Michigan Lake on the other. Its creator, Anish Kapoor, might not be a native Chicagoan, but he added a great figure to the overall pretty Park, defined by culture throughout the entire year.

[For more pictures of the Bean, go to The Chicago Bean on A Picture Every Day.]

[For more pictures on Chicago, go to Chicago – the Windy City on A Picture Every Day.]

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