National Mall: The Amazing Museums & Monuments of Washington D.C

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.

The tourist circus is not visible, we saw a guy being removed by secret service
This is what the battle is all about !

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.

Capitol hill – this is where National mall starts
Lincoln Memorial – this is where the National mall ends
Amazing view of the Washington Monument and the National Mall stretch, from the Lincoln Memorial. These are the steps from which Martin Luther King Jr gave his 1963 “I have a dream” speech !

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.

One of the many treaties through with the Modern USA systematically marginalized the Native Indians
This message resonates so much with our soul
The museum is beautifully divided into different tribes
The lovely Quechua people – we saw their live dance near Machu Picchu, Peru !
Lovely dresses of the natives

Next up was Air and Space Museum with popular exhibits such as Wright Brothers’ flyer & Apollo Lunar module. Mika loved the flight simulator.

Wright brothers section is most popular
These early beauties must have been fun to fly in
The space section nostalgically reminded us of the NASA
We paid tribute to Kalpana Chawla – who perished in the Columbia tragedy
That would make Mama and Papa mighty proud !

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:

That is one hell of a jaw !
Jurassic Park memories coming alive !
In Cairo Museum, we paid top dollars to see mummies; here it is free !
Entrance to the fantastic Natural History Museum

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.

The entrance
4 black students had dared to sit on “Whites-only” seats – reminded us of Mahatma Gandhi. Very cool.
The African American section has a fantastic Music sub-section
It is hard to believe USA was behind in Women’s rights . Now I understand why Hillary is finding it so difficult !
Having taught this on guitar a thousand times , I am attached to the USA national anthem
This was a fascinating, “ahead of the times” car displayed in the invention section. Pity it failed.
Teaching gender equality to our darling daughter !

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.

The day after
What can humans do against a degenerated monster ??
Perhaps this came too late ?
Unbelievable !
Jewish people look so stylish !
Lesson: The warning bells for the supporters should start ringing when leaders self anoint themselves as prophets
This is one of the horrible ways it happened
If you are fit, you live and work before perishing. If unfit, you go to gas chambers instantaneously. Either way you are doomed .
Entrance to the dreaded concentration camp
This should put the whole humanity to shame. What were other countries doing while this was on ?
This is how it actually happened 🙁 Shed a tear.
Very poignant – couldn’t agree more
That’s the only place they could go

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.

Jefferson memorial remembers USA’s 3rd president, also the drafter of the declaration of independence.
Reminding us of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr fought for justice and equality. The first black memorial on the National mall, this memorial opened only in 2011 .
Democrat Franklin D Roosevelt, is my favorite of all US presidents. A towering personality stricken by Polio, he was the longest serving US president for 4 terms. He played a key role as a statesman during the depression and war days. He has a befitting memorial spanning 7 acres.
The longest serving first lady of USA, Eleanor Roosevelt was a politician, diplomat and activist in her own right. She also served as USA delegate to the UN General assembly. It would be difficult to find a power couple like the Roosevelts.

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 !

A college reunion of sorts at Richmond, Virginia.

We also get to taste the legendary southern barbecue at the local authentic joint.

Awesome ribs

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!