What’s the first thing to cross your mind when it comes to the state of Maryland? Crabs, seafood, ocean, saltwater? These were pretty much the first thoughts that raced through my head when I thought about the place one of my fellow New York friends is originally from. And less so I would have never imagined I would ever make it here, despite that fact that I have a degree from the University of Maryland (their European division offers courses in my German hometown, believe it or not).
I know it’s close to DC, a city I spent one fabulous weekend in only 1 1/2 half years back. But much further reason to venture out to this part of the East Coast I certainly did not have. Until one day my friend spontaneously invited me and another friend to come visit her home place, the city of her student times, to relive many of the crazy nights back when she used to work and study there.
Unfortunately for friend number 3, he never made it on that bus in time and therefore had to miss out on a fantastic weekend in supposedly one of the most dangerous cities of the US. That’s right, this East Coast gem has many hideous but also paradox names attached to it, such as “Bodymore” or “Be-no-more.” Regardless of its humorous label, we certainly stayed away from the ghetto and situated ourselves in the safe downtown area.
Luckily, my friend found a sweet deal at the so-called Mount Vernon Hotel and Café right in, you guessed it, the Mount Vernon neighborhood of town. If you need any directions, it is a 5 minute walk from the famous Washington Monument and only a few additional minutes away from the beautiful Inner Harbor. Peculiarly enough and certainly unknown to me, Baltimore has a monument, similar to the one in Boston and DC. Since it is the tallest memorial in town, it sticks out everywhere you go, be it day or night.
After an exhausting bus ride with the one and only Bolt bus (more to come later), we got off and first had to grab a bite to feed our starving stomachs. By then, it was ten o’clock at night and we certainly gave up hope in finding quality food anywhere close to our hotel. Then we strolled past Never on Sunday and I instantly fell in love with this simple but sturdy dinner. Good food, great price and humorous people taking your order – what else could you wish for during your first encounter with Baltimoreans? After getting a tuna club sandwich with the necessary side of fries (half of it ended up in a wastebasket two hours later) and a grilled sandwich for my friend, we then went on to celebrate the start of our trip with a beer from the Stables, a bar not too far from the first joint. On this particular Friday night, the crowd was mixed – students, elderly, even family-type of groups could be found within that one hour we were sitting at the bar, admiring the tap collection and talking through the main goals of the trip.
After this, we called it a night pretty early and found ourselves back in our now freezing cold hotel room at 1 AM. While we had noticed the low temperatures when we checked in, we didn’t really take the time to see if the heat had been actually turned out. Big mistake! And at 1 AM we certainly did not feel like messing around with the switches and knobs and the confusing looking heater. So we ended up waking up in intervals of every two hours just because it was piercingly cold during the night. Luckily for me (and my friend), I made a point in asking for a partial refund and the hotel was nice to offer us $30 back from a total of $200 (which makes it $100/night, not too bad, eeeh?!).
After a great continental hotel breakfast, we walked south towards the harbor, passing many little coffee and tea shops, which helped warm up things quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, Bmore is still significantly warmer than New York, but even in November it’s necessary to bundle up if you plan on spending some time outside (except for my friend, who seemed to have lost all sense of temperature perception).
The Inner Harbor is a beautiful area for tourists and photographers alike. Of course it’s the main hub, attracting many souvenir collectors, sightseers, and other strangers to take in the best of the city. The view it offers is beautiful and it hosts many different city events, such as a holiday market when we were there. From here, we took in a better panorama above the city at a spot called Federal Hill. It also has a few bars and restaurants, in case you every want to spend your time there. Little Italy is opposite of this neighborhood, way on the other side and closer to the downtown area. It was rather deserted when we swung by, but nonetheless very colorful and offering a variety of quaint Italian restaurants to go to. In the end we opted to take in a late brunch/ lunch at James Joyce, a colorful Irish pub close to the Inner Harbor. The ultimate highlight of this trip: Artichoke-Crab Dip paired with Bloody Mary’s! Yes!
From here we decided to stroll around some more. Our evening plans were to go once again to Never on Sunday for a quick supper and then to pop in a bar where her friend worked at: Brewer’s Art! Unique beers with funny names were offered here and I even managed to try two different types
whose names I’ve forgotten. A bustling joint at 10 PM already, I was harshly reminded how soon spots close anywhere outside of New York: 2 AM is a common, nationwide curfew and that was indeed when we found ourselves transformed back in our hotel rooms, this time with warm temperatures (thanks to complaining). Not without having made friends with some enthusiastic Frenchies, who were thrilled by the city and made fun of the rest of the crowd and other American habits.
The rest of the trip went by in a blink: Brunch at my friend’s former work spot: The Owl Bar at the Belvedere Hotel (this time also deserted, which back in her time was uncommon, as she pointed out to me). Walking among further smaller neighborhoods, doing more window shopping than actually buying anything (although I managed to snag some books for only 50 cents a piece at the most random book store we could find). Our bus back was scheduled to run at 4 PM, so we ran past the Penn Station of Bmore one last time – a gorgeous old building with a hideous modern statue of an oversized woman in front of it.
Yes, Baltimore, together with its crab dip and old school elevators, certainly made a great first impression on me. I can recommend this not so popular town
yet on the East Coast to anyone who wants to dig deep into the colonial history of the US and have a positive vibe attached to it. The Bmore people talk with a sympathetic drawl and are always quick to explain simple facts of their town to you.
Oh, and the Bolt bus? Shaky on the ride to, and smelly on the ride back. A passenger managed to smoke pot during the first hour of our trip towards Baltimore, which we found rather… well, odd?! I guess it’s always an experience to try these types of transportation out. With $50 roundtrip, we couldn’t really complain, though. The rides were between 3 1/2 and 4 hours long. There is also a train that goes there directly but with only one hour less travel time and more than two times the fee, it didn’t make much sense for us to take it.
[For more pictures go to: