52 States in 8 Months

01/19/09: The next trip to Washington

Posted in Inauguration trip by Ulf on March 14, 2009

On the day before Obama’s inauguration ceremony, my room mate Alvaro took me to the Greenbelt Metro station near Washington DC. We did not want to go any further by car because we thought that DC would be hopelessly congested.

Well, the Metro station was congested, too. There were several reasons why there were so many people in front of the ticket vending machines:

  • Many people wanted to go to DC by Metro today, obviously.
  • Most of us (including me) were not familiar with those vending machines. To compensate for this, the WMATA had hired some people who explained us how to use these machines. And they explained every detail… which took some additional time.
  • Also, many people didn’t understand the difference between a “farecard” and a “pass”, so they didn’t know what to buy. But the difference was quite obvious: Passes are always valid for a given number of days, like one day, seven days or 31 days. Farecards contain a given amount of money, so you still pay for every ride. I bought a $20 farecard, and it turned out that this was a good choice.
  • Quite often some of the machines went “out of service”, but the local technicians could fix them quickly.
  • The problem which took most of the time: Some people decided to buy about 100-150 one-day passes. I’m not sure why they did this. Maybe this was some bus tour and they forgot to buy the tickets in advance, or they just wanted to sell them for a higher price to those who couldn’t wait…

Anyway, I had a nice chat with some fellow from California who got a Parade ticket from his congressman. He was really funny, I enjoyed it a lot! And he was really American: He didn’t want to buy his day passes on his own. Therefore he asked some other lady who also bought day passes to get three for him, too. Those day passes cost something between $7 and $8. Well, he gave $30 to that lady and said that he didn’t want to have any change…

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When I arrived in Washington, I went to Arlington to Alex. Alex is another fellow student from Stuttgart. He studies mechanical engineering and currently does his master at George Washington University (GWU). After a tasty lunch the two of us went to the Iwo Jima memorial where we met Boris and Flora. Boris is also from Stuttgart, while Flora is from Austria. As Alex and Flora had never been at the Arlington cemetery before, we decided to visit it:

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Boris is the guy with the professional digital camera, and Alex is the tall one without a camera. Flora is the girl, and Ulf is the skinhead.

On the cemetery we visited the major touristic places, such as the Kennedy graves and the Tomb of the Unknowns. You’ve read about both places on this blog before, about a month ago. The only difference was that we attended a ceremony today. Young children laid a wreath for some dead soldier. Hopefully it’s not their father.

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Most soldiers in Arlington are buried on the fields. But there are also special burial chambers for cremated men and women. I’ll give you some details on this place tomorrow. Anyway, we walked around the cemetery for a bit more than two hours. And still we had only seen a few fragments of the overall place. It’s just so large…!

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Near the entrance of the cemetery they have a rain shelter for people waiting for the cemetery buses. Since Americans like queuing very much (although they call it “lining up”), they have even painted some queues on the ground. I wonder who many people obey these lines ;-).


When it got dark we went the the Pentagon (maybe you’ve already seen it on one of the pictures above). The Pentagon is in Pentagon City. Wikipedia says that the Pentagon was the largest building in the US until last year, at least in terms of its floor space. Wow!

Since 9/11, the Pentagon does no longer have a direct pedestrian tunnel to the next metro station, and all photography near the building is prohibited. So instead of taking a photo of the Pentagon, I decided to take a picture of some other memorial in Arlington. I’ve forgotten its name, can someone help me?


Well, not all photography near the Pentagon was prohibited. We were allowed to take pictures of the 9/11 memorial, so this is what we did. Yes, the building on the right-hand side is the Pentagon. It just doesn’t look like a pentagon if you only see one edge at a time ;-).

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In the evening we went back to the GWU (George Washington University). They have a nice “Hippodrome Billiard Parlor”. Please read what the sign says.

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After a nice chat with George Washington and a many billiard matches, we had dinner. I took some chicken burger from Chick-fil-A, but it was not the best burger I ever had. Maybe it was too healthy? The pizza they sell at that place is also not very tasty. They should better call it “Pizza Butter and Oil” instead of Pizza “Pizza Salami” ;-). So whenever you eat at this GWU student center, you might want to go to the local Wendy’s or to the (more expensive) buffet bar.


The last event for this evening was the public demonstration of the GWU float for tomorrow’s presidential parade. There was some music, a few talks, a lot of free coffee from Starbucks (on that time of day…) and the float! The float consisted of a bus and some trailers. All GWU departments hat their own installations on the trailers.

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I’m sure you noted the huge earth ball. This inflatable globe represented the school of international affairs. Please keep this in mind! It will look a bit different during the real parade ;-).

After the presentation was over, we went home. Alex watered his plant, then we went to bed. The last night with Bush being president…



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  1. […] What happened to the inflatable globe for the school of international affairs? You’ve seen it a few days ago. They’ve replaced it with an American flag! What kind of a symbol is that? If the […]

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