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At the Mall, in Washington

20 August 2012 travel stories, USA No comment

Things to do in Washington: see White House

A lazy Saturday morning in Washington D.C. You look out the window , it’s raining outside. You call the White House, Barack is out of the country. You turn on the TV, Hillary’s also somewhere in California. What can you do? There’s only one answer – you go to the Mall!

“Our Nation’s proud capital” is a special city in The United States. First of all there are no skyscrapers, as it is strictly forbidden to build anything higher than the Capitol’s tower. You can see some taller buildings over the Potomac, in the state of Virginia, but Washington doesn’t have those typical American buildings. Besides being the political capital of the United States, Washington does have a special plus – it is the museums’ capital of United States. All along a kilometer long esplanade, between the Capitol and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial there are invaluable collections, super modern and interactive museums, a place in which you can learn so many new things in a funny and attractive manner.

You can spend more than a week in this cultural Makkah of America. However, you might be interested only in a single domain or another, so there’s no need to spend a week in the museums. But before taking it step by step, so that everybody will be able to pick his choice, a little bit of history…

Most of Washington’s museums are Smithsonian museums and belong to the Smithsonian Institution. This organism was founded in 1846 by the president Polk, using funds donated by a British, James Smithsonian. Unrecognized son of a British nobleman, although not having stepped ever in his lifetime in the United States, apparently disillusioned by the secluded British social system, offered all his wealth to the United States for the purpose of building an establishment for “growth and diffusion of knowledge in between people”. The amount doesn’t seem big – in today’s money it’s about almost 10 million dollars, however being very responsibly budgeted, it led to the creation of one of the largest institutes around the world, including 19 museums, 9 research centers and one Zoo Garden, most of them situated in Washington.

But let’s take some of them step by step.

Maybe one of the most spectacular museums is the “National Air and Space Museum”. It’s also among the largest, with tens of missiles exhibited inside. Here there is also an IMAX cinema theatre but also some special exhibits. Some are historical monuments – like the Spirit of St. Louis plane, the first plane that flew over the Atlantic ocean in May 1927, piloted by the world famous Charles Lindbergh. You can see the Columbia module here as well, the module that brought home the astronauts from the Apollo 11, the mission that landed on the moon in 1969. You can also study a replica of Sputnik 1, the first human vehicle that went outside space, and also proudly read references about the Romanians Henri Coandă or Dumitru Prunariu, the Romanian who listed us as one of the Nations that sent people in outer space (on this list I found, to my amazement, Afghanistan, an Afghan astronaut having flown in a Soviet mission at the beginning of the 1980’s).

If you want to learn some things about the short history of the United States the best place is the “National Museum of American History”. Once you enter it you cannot not observe the attention toward the technological development that brought America to where it is today – either speaking about the John Bull locomotive that linked New York to Philadelphia in 1831 or Edison’s discoveries, it’s all there. Obviously there is an area dedicated to the presidents of the USA, and also to the wars fought … sensible subjects aren’t avoided, like the atomic bombing of Japan, presented in a pretty objective manner (kind of strange for the politically correct Americans), or like the Vietnam defeat. You don’t get only a serious, tragic or patriotic tone – you can also see Kermit the frog or Mickey Mouse and many other fictional characters, that made real history…

The “National Museum of Natural History” takes you in a different set… at the entrance you will be astonished facing a huge African elephant, a 12 tons giant, killed in 1954, the biggest mummified exhibit in the world, but also reptiles or birds and dinosaur skeletons. Don’t believe that there are only bones and feathers here… In the museum you can visit the unbelievable “National Gem Collection”, a collection that can be envied by the richest billionaire – the strong points are Hope Diamond, a 45 karate diamond, the largest blue diamond in the world or the 1000 diamonds tiara, that was a gift from Napoleon to the empress Marie Louise on their imperial wedding day.

You think that art might have been forgotten in the Smithsonian. No, there are even some museums – the major one is National Museum of Art“ that contains thousands of exhibits from the western world. Although art is classic the building is super – modern, created by the architect I.M.Pei , the creator of the controversial pyramid inside the garden at the Parisian Louvre. You’ll be surprised to find here works of Italian masters like Giotto, Boticelli or even Leonardo da Vinci (“Ginevra de’Benci”), Rafael, Tintoretto and even the famous self portrait of Van Gogh. A true history book of western art.

If you wish for something local, the “National Museum of the American Indian” is not to be missed, as it gathers testimonies and objects that are relevant for the history of the native Americans.

Although not on the same promenade site worth visiting is also the new Newseum, a museum dedicated to the news, where you can broadcast live from the White House or the Capitol (in spite of being on a set) and then download your own story from the online website of the museum. As a plus, you can visit the photograph collection that made history – from the small naked Vietnamese girl that escaped the napalm attack to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I said at the beginning of this article that you should go to the Mall. The article wasn’t though about clothing sales or how to buy a fancy perfume in Washington. Because in Washington, the museum promenade is called …THE NATIONAL MALL! A mall where you cannot get much shopping, but which is really worth visiting…

How to get to Washington

There aren’t so many European airlines that fly towards Dulles airport in Washington so the prices might be pretty high in comparison to the much more popular New York. One option is to catch an offer to New York (preferably Newark airport and not JFK) and from there on catch a train to Washington. You can’t miss out on seeing New York in any case…

When to visit Washington

During spring time… it’s warm, it’s sunny, it’s pleasant and Washington blossoms literally – it is full of Japanese roses. Japanese roses have been given as a present to Washington almost 100 years ago and barely escaped the anti – Japanese rage in World War Two.

What to eat

Ultra fancy restaurants are everywhere – but they are expensive… You can eat at one of the many delis and fast foods. Do expect a couple of kilos more in a week time, though.

Where you stay

Washington hotels are really expensive – lobbyists, politicians, foreign mobsters are the usual visitors. But over the Potomac, in Arlington, two steps away from Washington you can find some OK deals. And the restaurants are cheaper as well. I stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn.

Visa issues

Most nations need prior arranged visa and the process is quite lengthy, expensive and it requires also some sort of good luck at the interview. For getting a visa, you can fill a visum-usa ESTA form. For the nations which are part of the so-called “Visa Waving Program”, their passport holders do not need a visa.

Pictures of Washington:


Things to do in Washington: see White House

White House

Things to do in Washington: see Hstory Museum

History Museum

Things to do in Washington: see Hstory Museum

History Museum

Things to do in Washington: see Hstory Museum

History Museum

Things to do in Washington: see Hstory Museum

History Museum

Things to do in Washington: see Hstory Museum

History Museum

Things to do in Washington: visit Hstory Museum

History Museum

Things to do in Washington: visit Smithsonian Castle

Smithsonian Castle

Things to do in washington: visit Space Museum

Space Museum

Things to do in Washington: see The vehicle for Mars

The vehicle for Mars

Things to do in Washington: Space Museum

Things to do in Washington: visit Space Museum

Things to do in Washington: see the Space shuttle

Space shuttle

Things to do in Washington: Space Museum

Things to do in Washington: Space Museum

Things to do in Washington: Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Things to do in Washington

Things to do in Washington: Newseum

Newseum

Things to do in Washington: Newseum

Newseum

Things to do in Washington: Newseum

Newseum

Things to do in Washington: Newseum

Newseum

Things to do in Washington: Arts museum

Arts Museum

Things to do in Washington: Space museum - Boeing 747

Boeing 747

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