52 States in 8 Months

Native Americans, the Capital’s Capitol, Union Station & Music

Posted in East coast trip by Ulf on February 7, 2009


After we left Arlington, we used the Washington Metro for the first time. They have really a nice & clean metro. It’s modern, but it’s not large. They have less than 10 lines, and none of them goes to the Washington Dulles International Airport yet. Luckily however, our destination was not the airport but Smithsonian’s “National Museum of the Native Indian”.


As different tribes have created this museum on their own, one exhibition is completely different to the next one. We started with learning about some Indian traditions. However, it seemed a bit as if either the red skins had stolen ideas from the Western civilizations, or the other way around.
The left stone reminded me a bit of “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis” (I think they called them the “moon stone”, the “sun stone” and there was one more). The picture on the right hand side … well, Wikipedia supports the Native American usage of the Swastika.

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In the history of the Native Americans one has to comment on the weapons. However, they said only very little about the bow and arrow. Instead they put a lot of pistols and rifles on display, even very recent weapons.

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When I took the second picture I had a “quite American”  experience: There was a small boy (maybe 10-12 years old) standing next to me. He pointed at the weapons and told his mother: “M-16 rifle, Uzi automatic gun, AK-47 Kalashnikov”. It sounded very much like video game education.

The next room was more about today’s life. What traditions the Native Indians could preserve, and how they know that they are Natives. On interesting thing were their ID cards. Usually Americans don’t have IDs (besides their driver’s licenses), but the Natives do have them. The Citizenship Cards will also say how much of an Native someone is. The blood of the woman in the center picture is 5/8th native. Since her husband was not from her tribe, the son’s blood is only 5/16 native. I wonder at what point they’ll round down to zero.

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One more interesting thing in the museum were the handrails They were really warm! It’s a strange but pleasant feeling if you touch them. The reason was of course that they had installed lights in the rails.

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Before we left the museum we had a late lunch. They offer many (more or less) native dishes which were all very tasty! Yey! :-)

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Next to the museum there is the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (1869-1877). Before being president, Grant was an important general in the Union troops of the American Civil War.


Mr Grant got a very famous place on the mall. He is right in front of the Capitol itself:

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Since we had no reservation for Capitol tours, we did not see it from the inside. Instead, we walked to the Union Station which is nearby. That turned out to be a very good choice as Mila met president-elect Obama and Alex and could at least marvel at the building. The Americans tend not to be modest when it comes to building railway stations. NYC’s Penn Station looks great, Philly’s 30th Street Station made me take a picture although my train would depart only minutes later (and I still had to buy a ticket), and the Washington Union Station is also a great building!

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If I think about it, the German railroad stations are not so different. I like the Ernst-August-Platz with the Hanover Station just like the station in Bremen. The Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof does not look that nice, but they have a tower which gives you a great view over the city. And the new Berlin Central Station is also great — especially because you can just walk to the Reichstag and the Kanzleramt. That makes Berlin very similar to Washington (although the city of Berlin is six times larger than Washington DC).

Oh, I was off-topic again. So, let’s go back to Washington. Formally, the District of Colombia is not a state (I however do count it, of course). Therefore, they have no senator in the congress, and they also have not representative. They don’t even have their own state government! That means that the US Congress is in charge for DC’s legislature, but the DC citizens can not vote for their congressmen. That’s democrazy! At least they have an elected mayor — since 1975. (In fact, there is a city council, but the Congress can always overrule their decisions.)

This is what the Washingtoners think of their situation. You’ll find such a number plate on about every second car:


In the evening we went to a opera. A volunteer from the hostel organized the trip. It was in the National Gallery of Art. On the way there we went past “Ford’s theater”, the place where Lincoln was shot. However, he did not die in the theater. They still managed to carry him across the road into another building which is now the “house where Lincoln died”:

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As we did not sit in the concert hall itself but in the room next to it, this was quite a different experience. At one point a couple decided to start a dance on the floor. I mean, it could not disturb the musicians as they’ve been in another room, and we were absolutely astonished at their dance.


After the opera we watched some ice skaters (but we did not try to skate it ourselves). I played around with my camera a bit. You’ll notice that the place looks almost empty on the left-hand side picture, while the second picture reveals that the place was crowded. That is the difference between a shutter speed of 4s compared to 1/4s.

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On our way back to the Hostel we saw a “Ruth’s Chris Steak House“. Forget about the “Chris”, that’s only in the name because Ruth had to keep it in the name when she bought her first restaurant. In Germany it’s also a good idea to go to Ruth’s if you want to have something nice to eat ;-).



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