52 States in 8 Months

DC’s memorials @ night

Posted in East coast trip by Ulf on February 3, 2009

As I mentioned two posts ago we started our “DC @ night” trip on Saturday evening by departing at our Hostel and walking south-westwards. We had no real plan as the street names were not readable on the map and we had no feeling for the distances. But at one point I suddenly managed to figure out where we were: Right in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

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From that moment on we knew that Washington DC is a small town where you can basically go everywhere by foot. I mean, what do you expect will happen if you just walk through Washington without knowing where you are? Ending up in front of the White House? No.

A few yards ahead we were completely convinced about our location. There were some people with messages for the local resident which at that time was still George W Bush (2001-2009).

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Knowing where we were, navigation turned out to be much easier! We did a little round trip through DC which Pingu has traced on Google Maps.  Our first destination was the Washington Monument:

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If you wonder why they have a tall Hanukkah in front of it: That’s just because there also was the large National Christmas Tree in the Ellipse. And all the states brought their own Christmas trees, too. Pingu has some close-up shots of them. I can only show you how the National Christmas Tree looks like from the foot of Washington Monument:

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Washington Monument itself was built from 1848 to 1884. Quite a long construction phase, isn’t it? George was only president for eight years (1789-1797), but it took them 36 years to build his memorial. Wikipedia has a picture from the construction phase. It was taken around 1860! When I first read this, I was quite astonished about the quality of such an old picture. Later I figured out that they could already take color pictures in the 1860s since photography had taken a very quick development. Anyway, the picture reveals one more thing: The American tradition of building houses from wood instead of bricks already existed in the mid 19th century.

The following pictures have been taken near the foot of the Monument. Accidentally this was about the same place where I stood when I attended Obama’s (2009-2017) inauguration ceremony a few weeks later. As you can see, the monument offers a clear view to the Capitol building:

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We then decided to walk along the National Mall down to the west end (following Andi’s rule that the west is where the sun goes, so it must be good). The first memorial we saw was already one of the largest ones: The World War II memorial (1939-1945). It is right in between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. So far, nothing interesting. But can you believe that this memorial is brand-new? It is just 4 years old!!!!11
Luckily it does not take much of the view, so you can still see the monument in the reflecting pool which is in front of Lincoln’s memorial.

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But let’s come to Lincoln (1861-1865) himself. He got his memorial in 1922. What was the difference between the Lincoln Memorial and the other memorials close by? This one was crowded! Everybody wants to see Lincoln. Wikipedia has photography of him (once again, from the mid 19th century).

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The next memorial on our route was the Korean War Veterans Memorial which was created in 1995. This one looked interesting! They put many life-sized statues of soldiers in one place, so it looked a bit like a war scene. In fact, the statues were just a little larger than normal men are. That makes it even more impressive.

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I have two more thoughts regarding the Korean war. One is obviously the inscription of the memorial:

“Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”

Well, yes. At least they were honest about the American’s lack of education ;-). But concerning the war itself, I found some scary numbers. In the Vietnam War (which the US attended for 11 years), about 60,000 US soldiers died. This is very little compared to almost 5 million overall losses. But do you know how many US boys fell in the three years of war in Korea? Depending on how you count (including those who were missing or those who died on their way back home), almost 50,000! It seems that the Vietnam War only has such a big place in US history because it took so long (and because the US lost). Concerning the number of US casualties, the Korean War was just as bad.

Instead of walking to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (established in 1982), we decided to stay on the presidential route. The next one was Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945, just as Hitler). In 1997 he got a very large memorial with one section for each of his terms. It was, however, not the memorial which he originally asked for.

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When walking along these memorials, we had quite some fun with the bronze statues. On the picture above you see Mila embracing FDR.

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The next one shows Mila flirting with George Mason. This guy was no US president, but in 2002 he got his memorial anyway for writing the “Virginia Bill of Rights” (which should not be confused with the older “Bill of Rights” from Britain.)

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Finally we arrived at Thomas Jefferson‘s (1801-1809) memorial which was erected in 1937. I ran out of battery right when we entered this memorial, so these are the last pictures:

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As Jefferson had written most parts of the Declaration of Independence, the walls in his memorial building are covered with exerpts of the Declaration itself and some letters he had written in those days. They were all about freedom and the rights which people have. Equality, religion, speech. Those things.

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Whew! This was a long blog post! I’m afraid I’ll have to publish it with even less proof-reading than normally required. But If you reached this point… you did it :-).

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2 Responses

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  1. chrissi said, on February 8, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Washington DC. Has been some time that I saw it… Almost 7 years. o.O Seeing the photos I’m a bit sad I didn’t get to see it at night back then. :-) I remember seeing a lot of squirrels back then. ^^’

  2. Ulf said, on February 9, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Oh yes, they still have many squirrels! They are all over the states. We’ve seen them in Georgia as well as in New York. And here in Delaware, of course, and in DC.


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