For any professional tourist, a top 5 of goals –in a random order –from the „must see in Washington” list would look like this:
1. The White House –the place where the current history is written, but also the future of the world;
2. Washington Monument –the tallest obelisk, but also the tallest stone structure in the world;
3. US Capitol –the Beautiful building of the American Congress, located in the eastern end of the National Mall;
4. Lincoln Memorial –Doric style monument, erected at the western end of the National Mall and dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln;
5. The Smithsonian Institute –which gathers 17 museums, galleries and a zoo, a fascinating incursion into the history of space, the planet, the origins of mankind and its evolution.
It is a city designed by well thought-out plans –and it is seen, a green city –and it feels, a living, dynamic city, and yet so „zen” compared to other metropolis.
A monumental city through all its symbols, more or less Masonic, a city where buildings in Neoclassical, Georgian, Gothic or Modern style do not compete by height, color, bright firms or branding, but by the prestige of the stone, the architecture and the reputation of the services.
It is the city of museums whose wealth you have free access, the parks with the grass cut impeccably and, last but not least, the institutions that drive with an iron hand not only a nation, but a whole world.
Named in honor of President George Washington –founding father of the United States –the U.S. capital was the first modernized and beautified city in the urban planning movement of the early 1900, with the aim of encouraging moral and civic virtues, social order and increasing living standards.
The building line is quite low and this is under a law promulgated in 1910, which is in force also today. According to some popular beliefs, no building should exceed Lincoln Memorial or Capitol Hill height, but the reality is something more pragmatic and is all about legislation and… civilization! Buildings over 30 meters or 10 floors are only accepted outside the central area and… it’s a good thing! The city has such a peculiar beauty, an elegance of forms, is a living body that breathes… However, a potential buyer can be breathless when hearing the value of real estate properties, a huge one, surpassed only by Manhattan housing.
Arlington National Cemetery is another landmark worth visiting and has been included relatively recently on the tourist map of the city. It represents the terminus of the fallen heroes within the nation’s military operations and the perfect example of how Americans, when they want to do something, they do it very well! Dignity and unbounded respect in everything that means the eternal oasis of peace dedicated to those who have fallen to duty. The monuments are positioned in such a way that, from any point you look at them, they are perfectly aligned. The park stretches over an area of 253 hectares of land in a smooth slope and has a greater number of over 400,000 monuments, and among the personalities who sleep here the eternal sleep is also the former President John F. Kennedy, whose assassination was one of the greatest traumas suffered by the American people in the last century, but also his former wife and First Lady, Jackie Kennedy Onassis. “The Eternal Flame is the testimony that Jackie left to posterity that even death will not separate her from the former president. The ceremony of changing the guard from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a „must see” and is carried out only in a mandatory and absolute silence of the audience. So, phones and chattering… on silent!
From the hill, the view over the capital is impressive, and getting off to the historic centre is done by crossing the monumental bridge over the Potomac River, the one linking the Arlington National Cemetery of Lincoln Memorial and continuing to the national Mall, until Capitol Building.
And, no, the National Mall is not a… Mall, but another huge park that stretches between Lincoln Memorial, to the West, and US Capitol, to the East. The obelisk of Washington Monument and Jefferson Pier are positioned in the center of this park, somehow dividing the area in two, in relation to the White House –located north.
The memorial dedicated to WW2, the pool reflecting Lincoln’s Memorial, the Korean and Vietnam War Veterans Monument are on the western side, and on the eastern side are positioned the museums of the Smithsonian Institute. Tidal Basin, located near the Mall, is also well-known for its cherry trees alley, which in bloom are absolutely divine-but also for the Canadian geese that are hanging in the „gangs”, impressed, through the water pools in Washington, being fed up lavishly by the tourists who want to make them famous on social networks.
Besides the Smithsonian Institute that shelters countless wonders in several buildings, each dedicated to a research subject, from Natural History, Space and Air, African art, American history or Amerindian, Arts and Industry, to Holocaust and others, there is a wide range of private or national art galleries that bring together beneath elegant roofs priceless treasures of humanity.
Costumes worn by US First Ladies at the inauguration ceremonies or various celebrities, George Washington’s uniform, means of transport, gemstones and priceless jewels, fossils, mummies, paintings, sculptures, documents, the cuisine of Julia Child and maaaaany other exhibits, all impress deeply and are extremely highlighted. However, some of the most sensitive, in all respects, are: the top hat that A. Lincoln bore in the very night he was killed at the Ford Theater and the first flag of the United States –exposed in a separate premises, where no photos can be taken. Washington DC is definitely a national center of arts of all kinds contributing enormously to the cultural life of the US. The fact that the Smithsonian, for example, does not charge entry fees, but only donations, contributes enormously to civic education, by simply fact that everyone has access to information. www.si.edu
The Governmental life is probably the most important chapter and has a special significance in the day-to-day life of the capital. The Pentagon, the star-shaped building of the Defense Ministry and one of the largest buildings in the world, shelters about 30,000 people working in the U.S. military.
Due to its importance, the Pentagon was, unfortunately, the target of a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, when flight AA Flight 77 was deliberately hijacked and crashed over the building, blowing off the West Wing. In that place was erected a memorial to commemorate the victims of the attack, a superb homage to the 184 people who lost their lives in the bombing, 125 of them being employees of the ministry. History also recorded that the youngest victim left in the misfortune near the Potomac was only two years old. Emotion and pain, tranquility and a lot of questions… but to forget we’ll never forget!
The Pentagon is located in the suburb of Arlington, in the vicinity of the Heroes ‘ Cemetery –both objectives can be visited on the same day, and experience brings you closer to the reality of some happenings that you have seen only in documentaries and many films.
There are a lot of things you can do in Washington DC, but also in the surrounding areas, being a destination that gives you absolutely all the comfort, from means of transport and to the safety, but also the reasons for exploring at length. I did it, for a few days, taking advantage of the good weather and green grass… which I stepped barefoot with a trust that I hadn’t in too many countries in this world, thinking that if, by mistake, I would pass a cigarette butt or a chewing gum, perhaps they were „planted” there by some secret agent –when it was „at work”, running with headphones on the ears and extremely sexy, through… Mall. National Mall! 😉
Photo credits: Maria Andrei