The San Jose – Washington journey involved two long South West flights -reminding us how HUGE this country is! As we left behind serenity of national parks and comforting company of Californian friends, we looked forward to Washington D.C’s contrasting offerings – museums and monuments capturing the history of USA. With Hillary and Trump battling it out in the presidential races, we cannot but feel that we are visiting the capital city at a special time.
It was interesting to note that the seeds of Washington D.C as a new city were sown due to a compromise between Northern and Southern politicians after the revolutionary war – they wanted a federal city situated BETWEEN the two power bases. Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore were rejected by southern plantation owners as being too urban – leading to the formation of Washington D.C as a compromise formula.
The National Mall (no it’s not a shopping mall!) refers to a 2 mile long beautiful stretch anchored by Lincoln Memorial and Capitol Hill at the opposite ends, with reflecting pool, WWII memorial and Washington monument in between. It is reminiscent of the Raj Path and India Gate in Delhi.
The icing on the cake is world-class and free Smithsonian museums – each heavyweight in its own right! Visit the museums before they start charging for them!!
We started with the Museum of the American Indian which gave us a perspective on how land was systematically taken away from the natives and how young and circumstantial the existence of modern USA is, compared to organic, thousands years old civilizations of, say , India and Egypt.
Next up was Air and Space Museum with popular exhibits such as Wright Brothers’ flyer & Apollo Lunar module. Mika loved the flight simulator.
Too tired, we called it a day. The next day started with the Natural History Museum which is the most popular Smithsonian museum. To be honest, it was too MASSIVE for our feet. But we did enjoy the 3 hours that we spent here. Some snippets follow:
Next up was the National Museum of American History which gives a perspective on how this young nation was formed. However, since there are limited stories to tell, it pales in comparison to national museums of other countries.
My favorite museum, however, was the morbid Holocaust memorial museum. We got an identity card each – of an actual holocaust victim – and the museum takes us through the harrowing story past ghettos and death camps. It does make you wonder how millions got fooled by one lunatic (Are we seeing a similar story in America today ? Crazy stuff !) and how the world leaders were passive bystanders while millions were being massacred.
Every person on this planet should visit this museum or concentration camps in Germany – it has huge lessons in the modern context – unfortunately we are not learning from the past.
We kept the last day for all the memorials – FDR was my favorite but Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, Jefferson & Vietnam war memorials did not fail to impress either.
Thanks to college buddy Rajesh Nair, we also had a chance to travel south to Richmond (Virginia), where we had a mini college reunion with him, Sridhar & Siddhu. What fun !
We also get to taste the legendary southern barbecue at the local authentic joint.
As we drink our beers in Rajesh’s sprawling house, the situation in Istanbul (our destination in a couple of weeks) gets from bad to worse. We decide to cancel. Turkish Airlines does not pick up the phone. Nightmare. We head to their Washington office where the job is not done. Anyway, we head to the airport for our flight to Niagara falls where thankfully the Istanbul tickets get cancelled with full refund ! Thanks for reading and see you at the falls and the Cleveland convention!