We’ve renamed it Walkington, DC.
You can walk a long, long time there. We planned to use our Metro cards for everything, but we’ve learned that the Metro in DC isn’t like the subway in NYC. It’s not near as ubiquitous and convenient. It’s OK though; we not only needed the walking (although it would have been nicer in temperatures under 90), it allowed us to really experience the city in a “boots on the ground” sort of way, rather than just from train or bus windows.
Arlington National Cemetery, the American History Museum, the Holocaust Museum and Ford’s Theater were our major destinations yesterday. We had a nice lunch in the Castle, and we’ll go back to the Smithsonian area before we leave tomorrow.
We did the trolley tour at Arlington. I can’t imagine doing it any other way on a hot day — or maybe even on any day. The place is so large (never knew 1 square mile was that big), you’d be walking up and down steep hills all day long. To some, that would be no problem; to these creaky bods, however…Anyway, the trolleys allow you to decide where you’d like to get off and look around, and they stop to pick up folks every 20 minutes at designated areas. It was really convenient for us to stop at the places we wanted to see, and just stay on the trolley for stops we didn’t want to make.
Of course, the highlight was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And to my everlasting embarrassment, the sentinel on duty had to “speak” to the crowd about silence and respect when a group of students wouldn’t shut up. In their weak defense, they were not from the US, but their tour guide should have known. I wonder how many times the guards have to turn in the direction of the noise and (rightfully) scare the crap out of people. We were fortunate to be able to see the changing of the guard — if you’ve never seen it, give it a looksee on YouTube.
After lunch, it was time for our appointment at the Holocaust Museum. We arrived probably 15-20 minutes ahead of time, and a docent approached us and asked if we had tickets. When the Thriller said yes, but we’re a bit early for our appointment, she looked at his hat (it said “Vietnam Era Veteran” on it) and said, “You’re a veteran. Here are some tickets that are good for anytime.” So we traded out our tickets for the others and didn’t have to wait. I thought that was really nice.
You don’t enjoy something like the Holocaust Museum. You endure it. You shake your head in sadness and wonder at it. When you leave, you realize its importance in the international narrative of human rights. I think we’ve become desensitized to the personal toll war atrocities actually take. Suffering is so much a part of the fabric of world news coverage, it’s become easier and easier for people to simply write it off as a crying shame that happens to other people. The Holocaust Museum gives those “other people” a voice, 75 years later.
Walking through a transport car was horrifying. The fact that the museum (for reasons of preservation or realism or both) does not provide light inside this car drove the point home that playing mental games as well as inflicting physical suffering was the order of the day. Train transport of Jews (and Gypsies and Socialists and homosexuals — anyone who was considered an enemy of the state) to the camps often took days, with stopovers as long as a week, with all the inhabitants — 100 to a car — still stuck inside in the pitch black, slowly dying of starvation, disease and suffocation.
We visited a silent chamber of remembrance and reflection after the tour, and lit a candle at the Buchenwald memorial wall. After that, we needed the sun, so we walked to the Smithsonian and had a delightful meal of cheeses, crackers, fruits, drinks and chocolate pudding. Then it was off to Ford’s.
For someone who’d seen Ford’s Theater years ago, I was surprised at how little I remembered. We waited a long time in line outside (even though we’d bought tickets in advance), and enjoyed the museum and the theater. We love the whole “Lincoln was here” feeling the sense that you’re part of history for just a moment. The Thriller commented that he was not surprised that Booth snapped an ankle when he jumped from the president’s box — ouch. That’s gotta be 10 feet up.
After the tour, we were told we could go across the street to Petersen House to see the room where Lincoln died. We went out the theater doors into the 94-degree heat and saw the line of people, snaking down the street, waiting to get in…and said forget it. By that point, it was dinnertime, but we were too hot to eat.
So we Walkington’d back to the Mayflower, stopping en route to grab some salads, fruit and snacks to go, and spent the evening scheming about tomorrow, which is now today.
The Capitol buildings, the Air and Space Museum and the National Cathedral are on the menu. We’ll see what other trouble we can get into as well. Thank you for coming along with us once again — we love the company!