We walk down the street to the intersection which is blocked off by yellow tape that reads “Police Line Do Not Cross”. Police officers are standing around inside the tape, talking. A crime scene, bright and early on a cold morning in Washington DC.
I read about many shootings in America, but I never imagined that we would be less than a block away from a man who was shot. The Washington Post had a report - Man fatally shot on street in Anacostia - and of it we have heard nothing more.
We talk a different way to the station this morning, walking down “W” street, instead of “V”. Walking down the streets, past houses and people as they get ready for their days.
Body scans. Bags open. Belts off. Walk through the X-ray machines. Talk to the guards, who are poking a stick around in my bag, to make sure I am not hiding anything illegal. I don’t feel safer entering, I feel a little violated.
Every building of interest in Washington DC requires a scan to enter. We have two days to see the sights, and we are visiting many of the major memorials and museums, we have been scanned so many times that it feels normal. Been searched this frequently shouldn’t feel “normal”. I guess this is the Freedom that I have heard America talk about so much…
We were told in North Carolina to visit the Holocaust Museum. We find the building, have our belongings, as a planned stop we It was an overwhelming experience, fantastic in how it was presented and devastating in the size and scope of the lives that were murdered. I knew about the brutality in the war, but I never imagined just how big, and devastating it was; how planned and precise the murders were.
We enter the display via an elevator that takes us up to the top floor. We are given a small card that tells the story of a person that survived the horrors of a Concentration Camp. Then we are lead into the museum, which tells us the story of how the Nazi regime got into power.
The displays are engaging and explain step-by-step how things got so bad. We spend time reading displays, watching short movies and moving through the museum not saying many words.
American History Museum
The Smithsonian Museum of American History is a wonderful place. From the first display I was hooked by the stories and displays around the place. Walking into the darkened section to see the original Star Spangled Banner was just the start. 13 metres long and under a blue light to preserve the fabric of the flag. It was huge, an inspiration, a surprise to be standing beside a piece of history.
Then walk from the Tea Party and some Boston history, through life in the 1800’s, to General Washington. We stop and look at General Washington’s actual uniform, and along side in a glass case, his sword. We read history, consuming the words and the visual artefacts.
The Civil War showed us nonpartisan history. It seemed strange to have no bad guy in the process - usually wars have a Good side and a Bad, fighting against each other. Yet the Civil War was presented in a way that both sides had heroes, and the villains were absent.
We finished for the day in the Second World War display and vowed to return the following day to continue on into the Cold War.
The Capitol Building is surrounded by tourists, walking in small groups with a guide leading them around. In pairs, dotted about the building are guards, probably discussing their lives, but standing with rifles waiting for the slightest situation to begin. Despite all the tourists, this is a place of business.
Once again the scale of this place sends me into a mental shock. From a distance it looks small, up close it appears majestic, regal and huge. It gets bigger was we walk behind the building. A huge stone covered square extends behind the magnificent sandstone building. Tall columns hold up the roof, the has a statute carved above the main entrance. The American flag waves in the wind, a gentle breeze pushing it in the wind.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has limited viewing area on the inside, but what we can see is beautiful. The paintings on the roof, the gold leaf covered plaster flowers covering the domes, the patterns on the floors. I recall All The Presidents Men, a movie I love, as we look down upon the main reading room.
The Gutenberg bible, read about exploring the Americas, and have a look at Jefferson’s library.
Air and Space, Naturally
The afternoon we went through some museums. The NASA Air and Space museum kept us occupied for there hours. We took in the engineering elements of the space and flight exhibits at a slow pace, reading the details about flight and looking at the displays with interest.
After that we spent time walking through the Museum of Natural History. Again the size of the exhibits and the detail that they went into was fascinating.
We were kicked out of the Museum of American History as they were closing early. This was most disappointing as we were catching up on what we missed out on yesterday. Through the World War 2 memorial and just getting started on the Cold War when we were ushered out.
We walk into downtown and find a taco place to stop for dinner. We enjoy the lingering evening and discuss heading back earlier to get some rest, because of travel the next day and so we aren’t out in the streets after dark.
Back to the station and while we on the train a public announcement comes over that there is a ball game on tonight. Red caps and jackets stand on the platform of the next station and with a brief discussion we decide that we will go and see what a ball game is like.
We follow the caps and jackets off the train, up the escalators and to the stadium. Washington are playing Miami Marlins in opening week. We buy tickets, grab a cap and jacket (so we don’t feel left out) and find out seats. We are a long way up in the stadium, but it gives us a good view of the game.
The game drags. Washington down on the score board and not bringing a good showing. Wind blows through the stadium as the game wears on. We are charged too much for a hotdog, and getting bored like the other spectators around us. A hit in the eighth inning turns the game around, Washington gets the lead and the stadium erupts.
We get home later than we had planned, but it was worth it to see a ball game.