Washington DC

Population: 681 000 (metro 6 097 000)
Tallest building: Old Post Office Bldg (96m)
Tallest structure: Washington Monument (169m)
1790 (capital 1800)
Washington County
177 km²
Year visited: 1998

Washington DC, is the capital of the USA and the 6th largest metropolitan area of the USA. But it is only the 22nd largest city proper in the US. The city was named after George Washington, USA:s first president.

There is a special law that forbids the construction of highrises within the city limits, that I find very ironic since USA is the birthplace of the skyscraper. The result is a very open, green city with mostly lowrise buildings, many white monumental neo-classical buildings, monuments, circle squares, parks etc. In Washington you find US Capitol, the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial , Jefferson Memorial, Pentagon (in Arlington, VA), many other monuments and government buildings, a well as numerous great museums, all with free entrance fees. Most of these buildings and monuments are built around a large open area, called the Mall, in a neighbourhood called the Capitol Hill. Just West of downtown there is a nice residential area called Georgetown with beautiful townhouses and the Georgetown Univeristy. I intended to visit Georgetown but the time run out (after all I managed to see a lot in less then one day). All around the city you find large avenues, beautiful townhouses, large government buildings and hotels, greenery and parks. The large avenues are named after the US states, the most famous ones are Pennsylvania Avenue and Massaschussetts Avenue and the street names have letters; K St, M St etc. There are beautiful circular squares/traffic circles with greenery and townhouses; Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and Washington Circle are the most central ones. Potomac River flows just West of downtown and the Mall. The river separates the city from the state of Virginia, where you find the Rosslyn (part of Arlington County) and other suburbs. Rosslyn has several tall office highrises just opposite downtown Washington, where they are not allowed. Virginia and Maryland are the two states that surround District of Columbia (that is what DC in Washington stands for), the small state that consists of the city of Washington and nothing else. The masterplan of Washington was designed by the architect and military Pierre L'Enfant, to replace Philadelphia as the capital of the United States in 1800. The city was built after a symmetrical sytem, and was modelled after European capitals as Rome, Athens and Paris.

In March 1998 I made a trip alone to 5 mayor cities on the US East coast. The last one was Washington (after visiting Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore). Since I only had a disposable camera back then, and both films were already full (and my photo interest wasn't big either), I didn't take a single photo of Washington DC back then! So to recreate the memory from my visit, I decided in 2017 to make a gallery of non copyrighted Wikimedia Commons photos, just to provide a presentation of my visit.

I stayed at the cheap Hostelling International at 11th St NW, East of downtown. I left Philadelphia in the afternoon after some sightseeing, hopped on a Greyhound bus and made a one hour stop in Baltimore. In the late evening i arrived at the Greyhound terminal in downtown Washington. It was dark, and I was heading for the Union Station, opposite the bus station, where I planned to take a metro to the hostel. But as soon as I left the building, heading for the station opposite, a strange man who said he had a cab tried to pursuade me to follow him to his car. When I started to walk back to the bus terminal, he admitted that he only wanted some money and someone to talk to! I told a heavy policeman about the problem, and he suggested that I should cross the square with a finger inside my shirt to pretend to have a gun while walking towards the train station. I thought that was no good idea, so I decided to take a taxi. The driver told me that the ID proved that the cab was legal. It headed towards the hostel, that was pretty close, and I got a sneak peak of the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and some other monuments, illuminated in the dark. That was impressive.

The next day I decided to walk towards the Mall, where all the famous government buildings and monuments are. I only had this day to explore the American capital, and was supposed to fly back home in the evening. Talk about a tight schedule! Many shady types, beggars and homeless people started to follow me and tried to make contact. But as soon as I reached The Mall they disappeared and instead lots of tourists appeared. The weather was nice for March, partly sunny but mild (about 10 degrees C). I visited some of the free museums, spent hours in the National Gallery of Art where I watched classical paintings by famous artists, the National Air and Space Museum where I saw rockets and Charles Lindbergh's plane "Spirit of St Louis" in reality, I also made a brief visit to the Museum of Natural History.

I walked along the large green area called the Mall where I walked up the stairs to the US Capitol (US government building) on Capitol Hill, got really close to the White House (residential of the president, at the time Bill Clinton) and looked through the fence (I saw some agents standing at a car) towards what was then president Bill Clinton's residence. When I reached the Washington Monument, I saw that it unforutnately was closed for renovations, making it unable to go up and see the Washington from above at the top. This is the only place to do that for tourists. A girl from Boston sold a Harre Krishnah book to me, unaware of what it was (I didn't read it though, but I got the information that it just started to snow in Boston, lucky I left). Then I walked to the Lincoln monument, looked at the statue, continuing to the Potomac River towards Arlington, Virginia. I walked along Pennsylvania Ave, New York Ave and Massaschussetts Ave and passed by the beautiful Dupont Circle. I saw the Supreme Court, the Hoover Bldg (FBI headquarters) and many other interesting buildings. The metro, that I used once, is one of America's most modern ones (a big contrast to the neglect subway in New York), and the stations have vaulted roofs.

Washington is a very beautiful city, like an American version of Rome or Paris with all the monuments, but still very stiff, it is lacking some sort of natural streetflife and also very dangerous with tons of poor people, some very annoying, some violent. I have heard that has changed since my visit, there are not that many homeless people on the streets any more and the crime rate has decreased a bit.

In the evening I flew home from the Dulles International Airport. I didn't have money left to get there, but I was saved by the staff at the hostel that told me that I could take a bus from the Capital Hilton to Falls Church, and there take the metro to Dulles Airport, and thus saving the last money to be able to get to the airport! It might sound very naive, but I was only 19 years old back then, it the first time in America and the first trip alone ever.

Since I only had a disposable camera and the film was full I didn't take any pictures in Washington DC back in 1998. So instead I have decided to include pictures from Wikimedia Commons to show the places I visited. During my visit it was sunny but with not much greenery on the trees. I didn't visit Pentagon, National Cathedral and Georgetown, but I thought these places were worth showing as well, as they are important parts of Washington. The visit was 3 years before the attack on 9/11 on Pentagon, Arlington, VA. Before arriving in Washington I visited Baltimore.

Washington_DC_skyline White_House_North White_House_South United_States_Capitol_-_west_frontUS Capitol Dome Jefferson_Memorial Washington_Monument_in_Washington,_D.C. Aerial_view_of_the_Washington_Monument Lincoln-Memorial_WashingtonDC Lincoln_Memorial Eisenhower_Executive_Office_Bldg Old_Post_Office_Building_Washington_DC FBI_J_Edgar_Hoover_Building Library_of_Congress Library_of_Congress_interiorUnion_Station_and_Christopher_Columbus_Memorial_Fountain Supreme_Court Smithsonian_Building_NR National_Gallery_of_Art_-_West_Building Museum_of_Natural_History_rotunda National_Air_and_Space_Museum_apollo_soyouz National_Air_and_Space_Museum_Entrance National_Air_and_Space_Museum_Spirit_of_St._Louis National_gallery_of_art_East National_Gallery_of_Art_interior National_World_War_II_Memorial 14th_and_K_Streets,_NW 15th_Street_NW Andrew_Jackson_sculpture_Lafayette_Square Dupont_Circle,_Washington_DC_01 Dupont_Circle_fountain_-_facing_southwest Grand_Army_of_the_Republic_monument_Penn_AveGrand_Hyatt Hay-Adams_Hotel Hostelling_International_DC Logan_Circle Pennsylvania_Avenue,_NW_-_Washington,_DC Pennsylvania_Avenue_and_K_Street Southern_Building_-_SW_corner_-_850_F_Street_NW Renaissance_Hotel_Washington Washington_Monument_and_Jefferson_Memorial Willard_Intercontinental_Hotel National_Cathedral_in_Washington,_D.C. Washington_National_Cathedral_Twilight Pentagon, Arlington, VA Potomac_River Georgetown,_Washington,_D.C._HDR Georgetown_p_street Rosslyn_VA Washington_D.C._Temple_At_DuskUS_Capitol_dome Landmarks_at_dusk_arriving_by_taxi Metro_Washington_DC Washington_Dulles_International_Airport_at_Dusk

Source: Wikimedia Commons