I visited Washington on a one-day trip from New York. I wanted to see the capital of the United States for a long time, actually for three reasons which are not entirely obvious. Most visitors here mainly head towards the White House, Capitol and The Washington Monument. My goal was primarily to visit Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon and the Center. Steven F. Udvar-Hazy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit the last point due to the fact that it’s outside Washington. On the other hand, I have an excuse to get back there.
Washington is about 370 km from New York, so you can easily organize a one-day trip from the Big Apple. The best offer to get there from NYC is Flixbus, I paid a total of $18 for return ticket. My bus to Washington was leaving at 7 am from Allen street in New York Chinatown. I got off in Washington at 11.30 am and I had a return bus at 7.30 pm which meant almost a whole day of sightseeing.
Apparently the first impression is the most important thing. What was mine when I got off Flixbus? I felt like I landed in a completely different reality. Washington is a quiet and incredibly clean city compared to NYC. His exclusive representative character is conspicuous.
After all, here you can see: the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, the Pentagon, the State Department, FBI Headquarters and the World Bank.
The road to Arlington Cemetery led along all the most famous places in Washington. The first one was the White House, it was barricaded at the front side, but there’s no wonder during my visit, some skeptics of the president were protesting 😉
On the other hand, it looked much better from the South Lawn side.
Right next to the White House is the famous Washington Monument. At the time of its construction at the end of the 19th century, it was the largest building in the world, but quickly gave way the Eiffel Tower.
Kilroy was here before me…
The Washington Monument is next to the World War II Memorial.
You can find an interesting graffiti here: Kilroy was here. This inscription gained great popularity during World War II. This is how American soldiers marked their presence on areas where they stationed. Moreover, Hitler was supposed to believe that Kilroy was an authentic character – an American spy. Kilroy’s graffiti can be found all over the world.
For example, the very same year I also saw it in Chisinău – the capital of Moldova.
Nearby a building reminiscent of the Greek temple you can visit Lincoln Memorial. Here, on the stairs, Martin Luther King said famous words: I have a dream.
The most important point of the trip
From the Mausoleum, I went across the bridge over the Potomac River, straight to the most important point of my trip – the National Cemetery in Arlington. It is an American military cemetery where around 400 thousand soldiers and veterans are buried. However, I wanted to visit this place because of one unique grave – President John F. Kennedy. Since I was a child, I’ve been interesting in the history of his presidency and the assassination, to a large extent thanks to my Mother, who often told me about those events. Being in the “neighborhood”, there was no other option, I just had to be there. Arlington Cemetery makes an amazing impression; simple gravestones can be seen as far as the horizon.
Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline’s grave is close to the entrance, but it isn’t easy to find. I admit, my idea of this place failed me. I thought the grave of the President of the United States who died tragically would look at least like the Wawel Crypt in Cracow. According to the map, I came to the spot, around I could see a lot of Kennedys’ graves including assasinated Robert Kennedy – brother JFK, but I didn’t see the presidential grave.
I went through again and it turned out that JFK’s grave is just a simple black gravestone with an eternal flame burning.
Pentagon, planes and a subway
From Arlington Cemetery, you need to ride only one metro station to find yourself right next to the largest office building in the world – the Pentagon. However, there was another surprise… not so much the Pentagon but the subway ride made a huge impression on me 😀 After a crowded, filthy and stuffy New York subway, in Washington subway I felt as if I were in a palace chamber.
The Pentagon itself… I think it would have made a bigger impression on me if I had seen it from a bird’s eye view. There are a lot of soldiers around the building, and taking pictures is forbidden except for one place – a Memorial commemorating the victims of September 11. In this case, I also expected to see something more grandeur…
Being there for a while, because it takes some time go around the building, I was surprised by the frequency of planes which additionally were flying very low. It turned out that right next to the Pentagon is Ronald Reagan airport. Flying planes seem like they’re about to hit the building once again.
Capitol at your fingertips
Another important point on the map of Washington is the Capitol – headquarters of the United States Congress, i.e. American parliament. I expected to see the security gates here like in others Parliaments buildings. Meanwhile, you can approach the Capitol very close without any problem.
Smithsonian – several reasons to visit Washington D.C.
The Capitol is next to the Botanical Garden, founded by the Smithsonian Institution. However, the botanical garden is just a small piece of what the Smithsonian Institution offers in Washington.
Smithsonian Institution is a foundation established in 1846 according to British chemist – James Smithson’s will. Its goal is to popularize knowledge in various areas of science. I have to admit, this foundation did a really great job in Washington. The world’s largest museum complex has been created here. Most of the buildings are located on just a 4 km stretch between the Capitol and Lincoln Mausoleum. You can for example visit here: the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American Indians and the National Museum of African Art.
What’s more, the admission to all these museums is free of charge. In comparison to insanely expensive New York, Washington stole my heart. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to visit all the museums that’s why I decided to choose the two I was the most interested in. I admit that I didn’t have high expectations, you know when something is free, cannot be good. Meanwhile, having entered the hall of Natural History Museum, my jaws dropped.
Apparently, there are over 125 million exhibits in the museum, among which dinosaur skeletons make the biggest impression. Moreover, information about exhibits is presented in an interesting way.
Visiting the National Air and Space was even better experience. Among many exhibits, you can see here the German V2 rocket, the Columbia command module from Apollo 11 mission or the Module LM-2 – spaceship designed to transport astronauts from the Moon’s orbit to its surface.
The best part of the exhibition of this museum is located near Washington in Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, where unfortunately I failed to reach. There you can see the Enola Gay bomber from which in August 1945 a nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, Discovery space shuttle, or the famous Concorde.
Shrine for Prince
Walking around the oldest part of Washington you can see old, non-functioning the police or fire department call boxes. In some of them you can spot some dried flowers or scraps of photos. Some time ago the boxes served as an improvised altar for singer – Prince.
It might seem like Washington is a dignified city. However, you can see some interesting murals here or Colorful Church, built at the end of the 19th century.
Although it no longer serves its original purpose because now there’s an art gallery. While it looks colorful and happy from the outside, inside you can feel the atmosphere straight from the black mass 😉
At the end of my trip, I took quick glance of J. Edgar Hoover building – FBI headquarters. It doesn’t make such an impression as the Pentagon but I thought I should tick it off while being in Washington 😉
Check out another posts about New York!