Washington DC

Washington Monument

Of course, you cannot miss Washington DC when you are in Virginia and especially not if the motto of your trip has anything to do with history.

As it happened, we were visiting Washington DC on a crucial date for US American politics: On 2 November 2010, American citizens were voting.  Being in the capital of the nation, we had half-hoped to spot election day activities somewhere (perhaps even a helicopter landing in front of the White House???!?) but we were informed that this would be unlikely as every important body would be out doing some serious last-minute campaigning...The Group in front of the Capitol

Us, at the hub of power... ;-)

Experience from the last trip motivated us to reverse the usual order of “business before pleasure” today. Business meaning: the tour of the city with an official guide and pleasure meaning: exploring everything else at leisure. As always on a trip with Carola and me, our fellow travellers are invited to join us if they don’t have specific personal plans. So several of us went first to a museum I had waited to visit for years: The National Museum of American History.

National Museum of American History

Unfortunately, the museum’s significant collection of antique quilts was out of our reach on that day. An enquiry at the museum beforehand had not resulted in the desired “Behind the Scenes” tour, but as we learnt during our visit, you have to ask the right people... ;-)

We were compensated for this by very interesting and very instructive “shop talk” with members of the Annapolis Quilt Guild who were scheduled to give a quilt demonstration at 11 am. The ladies of the Annapolis Quilt Guild are also the people to contact if you would like to get a look into the quilt archives, by the way. They shared valuable advice with us, e. g. which is the perfect marking pencil (a light grey chalk pencil – I will write a review as soon as I have tested it) and how to make quilting stencils for a customized feather design. After exchanging (e-mail) addresses, we finally cleared the field for other museum visitors who hadn’t dared approach before.

After our visit we had a leisurely stroll back towards our meeting point in front of the Space Needle enjoying the wonderful weather and the views of the Washington Monument...

Washington Monument

... and the Capitol as we walked.

Capitol

The Smithsonian Institution’s headquarters is probably less popular with amateur photographers, but not less worthwhile to be committed to celluloid.

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute that manages most of the museums on Washington DC’s famous “Mall” (the stretch between the Capitol and the Washington Monument). It was founded with a bequest by a certain James Smithson, a British citizen who had never actually visited the United States. He intended that his fortune should help create an “Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men" – the Smithsonian Institution. To this very day, museums belonging to the Smithsonian don’t charge entry fees!

In the early afternoon, we met our tour guide in front of the Air and Space Museum to start our tour of the most important cultural highlights in Washington DC. Our guide is German, but has lived in the USA and in Washington for many years. Both her knowledge and her humour made a lasting and very positive impression! We especially enjoyed her stories a little further afield from the “important” dates usually found in history books. And we also learnt that nowadays you can indeed buy Tschibo coffee (a very well known German brand) in Washington DC, should you absolutely need to soothe a serious bout of homesickness… ;-)

Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner waving proudly in the wind…

Appliqué carved in stone

… beautiful Appliqué patterns carved in stone for us so that they wouldn’t be weathered down before our visit…

White House

… the White House in the afternoon sunshine with the Washington Monument in the background…

Famous Words

… famous words on the steps of a famous memorial…

Lincoln Memorial

… with a great view….

Washington Monument

This glorious day culminated in a visit to the roof of the John F. Kennedy Center which allows you a magnificent view over Washington DC, the Potomac River and Georgetown.

View from J. F. Kennedy Center

This seemed a fitting end to a visit that also marked the end of our stay in Virginia. The next day would take us to a very different part of the United States…

A Post Scriptum on Squirrels

Below you can see an exceptionally fine photos Carola took of one of the ubiquitous squirrels in Washington DC.

Sciurius Carolinensis

Personally, I am pulled two ways regarding squirrels.

They are immensely attractive animals with their quick, agile movements, incredible grace, and daredevil acrobatics. They are also rodents, a fact that for me elevated them to rank amongst the most important creatures in the entire universe at one time of my life. When I was twelve, I wanted to become a world famous zoologist preferably specializing in capybaras, the largest living rodent on earth.

I have grown up a bit since then. And, I can tell you that it is VERY frustrating to find your fellow travellers IGNORE all the lovely sights you have spent months and months selecting and arranging, and for what??? For a little guy in grey fur with shiny black eyes and powerful yellow teeth, clutching a nut in its tiny paws, dashing away at the tiniest disturbance, and thus making a photo shoot with over 30 photographers a rather nerve wrecking business for the group’s leaders… ;-)


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