I took an overnight bus from Buffalo to Baltimore on the 5th of September. I was kind of expecting the bus ride to be rather chilly because American coaches tend to be cooled down very much, however, it was not only chilly – it was FREEZING. I went on the bus wearing a long pair of jeans, two shirts and both of my jackets and I was very cold. 10 minutes into the ride, the Russian girl sitting opposite my row started folding some old booking confirmations and tried putting them in the air condition gaps above her seat. It was such a great idea and people around us started doing the same thing. We stopped at a rest stop at 1am and almost everyone got off the bus and bought a blanket in the service station. Seriously – it was ridiculously cold! We kept asking the drivers to turn the airco down a little bit, but they kept saying that they can´t do anything about it! Apart from that, the ride was okay and I awoke to a very nice sunrise in Philadelphia at 6am. We arrived our second stop – Baltimore – at around 8am. I got off the bus and felt like bumping into a wall of heat. It was already 27°C and incredibly humid. I had to take a local bus to get to the hostel in Baltimore, which took me about an hour. By the time I entered my hostel, it was already 31°C outside. Luckily I could check in early and was able to store my luggage in the hostel. While waiting for my dorm to be cleaned I met Mauricio, a Brazilian doctor, who was in Baltimore for an internship in trauma surgery. He had also arrived that morning and we kind of bonded over the fact that we were both newcomers in the Charm City. We ended up spending the whole day together trying to find a grocery store and then ending up in one of the strangest places I´ve ever seen: Lexington Market – certainly a cultural experience! That market is basically packed with black people – only black people. We were like the only white people in that building and people were looking at us as if we were aliens. It was quite an experience, though. On the next day we went to the World Trade Center and its observation deck on the 25th floor – Top Of The World Baltimore. Afterwards we went to a Seafood restaurant as Baltimore is very famous for its Crab Cakes. We found a pretty affordable place in a neighborhood called Federal Hill. That neighborhood is basically right next to the stadium and the district was packed with drunk Americans on their way to see a very important American football match of the Baltimore Ravens. Another very cultural experience! 🙂
In the evening we went to Federal Hill (the actual hill), watched the sunset and drank some beer out of plastic cups with a straw… OMG that sounds so pathetic! (For those of you who don´t know: In the US drinking in public is prohibited)
Mauricio had his first day in the ER on Monday, so I had to explore Little Italy on my own. The Italian neighborhood in Baltimore is fairly big and they have many Italian restaurants and gelaterias where you can actually find some real authentic Italian food.
After three days in Maryland I made my way to Washington DC on the 9th of September, where I met my German travel buddy Philip at 10am. He had taken an overnight bus from Toronto and we finally started our US-East-Coast trip at DC Union Station. Since we only had one day in the States’ capital, we pretty much went off immediately after check-in and spent at least six hours walking through the entire city, visiting as many monuments as possible. Washington DC is certainly more than just the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Unfortunately, we didn´t have the time to visit all of the galleries and museums in DC or to go on top of the Washington Monument. Having been to DC for the very first time, I have to say, I didn´t expect the city to be such a historical spot. Basically wherever you look, you´ll find a monument or memorial, which is why you can easily spend the day walking around on the streets, taking pictures, reading plaques, visiting memorials. The Lincoln Memorial with its reflecting pool in the front is really beautiful, especially the view from there towards the Capitol at the very end of the city. However, the memorial I personally liked most was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which shows his statue carved in a huge rock and the line “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope”. I think that line pretty much shows the impact that Martin Luther King Jr. had on the segregated nation back then.
Back at the hostel we met a group of Germans (two cops and a teacher), who are currently traveling around the States together. They told us that our hostel offered a “happy hour” at 8pm and since they didn´t have a license to pour out alcohol for money, they made “happy-beer-hour” free… No ID check. No beer mugs. No costs. Just free beer in blue plastic cups. And again I learned that cops and (some) teachers really are the worst when it comes to drinking and partying…
We took a bus to Philadelphia on the next day and tried to use our time as best as possible. We walked for approximately six hours that day, covering most sights on our tour. We even climbed up Benjamin Franklin Bridge for some night shots of the skyline. We got to see the Museum Of Arts, the Rocky Statue, the Love Statue on JFK Plaza, Philly´s old prison as well as several districts and the harbor front. Of course we also ate the famous Philly Cheese Steak, which is a meat-sandwich topped with lots of cheese. It´s not much bigger than a hotdog, but contains about 850 calories.
Comparing Washington and Philadelphia, I must admit, I liked Philly a lot more.There are certainly more monuments and sights in Washington DC, but I usually also look into other things that make a city appealing to me, such as the atmosphere, the people, the way the city is designed and also the prices. What I noticed about Washington is that everything is pretty expensive compared to other US cities I´ve visited. Moreover, Philly is a real charm-city. People are extremely friendly, the streets are pretty clean, the statues are well-placed, public transport is good…
After just six hours of sleep (for the third time in a row…) we had to get up fairly early on Thursday morning and made our way to Delaware, where we had a quick stop-over before going to the Garden State. When we arrived New Jersey´s metropolis around noon, it was hot and sunny outside, so we decided to spend the afternoon at the beach and just relax. Unfortunately, it took us about an hour to get from the bus terminal to our motel as the motel´s location was more remote than we´d thought, however, we had a room to ourselves and an ensuite bathroom – absolutely amazing after having stayed in 6- to 8-bed-dorms with shared washrooms for weeks…
Eventually, we did spend the entire afternoon stocking up on some sunshine, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean (YAAAAY!!!) and just getting away from sightseeing for a while. In the evening, we took a long walk on the Boardwalk, which is Atlantic City´s main attraction. Walking along the Boardwalk, you pass most of AC´s hotels, casinos and malls. There are many tourists, many visitors, lots of people on their way to become wannabe-millionaires as well as shopping outlets, loads of restaurants, bars and food courts. The whole Boardwalk, which has also been home to several piers over the years, is very colorfully lit up – just like the Strip in Las Vegas. On the next day, we finally had the chance to sleep in a little bit and enjoyed a true continental American breakfast at the motel. Fortunately, we were able to store our luggage at the bus terminal, so that we could enjoy the second day in Atlantic City to the fullest. We spent the day shopping in the outlets, walking down the beach front and comparing restaurant prices until we finally found a proper steakhouse with reasonable prices. Generally, we kind of made Atlantic city a culinary highlight of any kind. After having tried several regional specialties, such as the Philadelphia Pretzels (Pretty close to the German Bretzel), Ben & Jerry´s Ice Cream, some seasoned seafood fries along with our own backpacker delicacies (instant noodles, crispbread and carrots), the real American 9 oz Sirloin steak was just the perfect end to a lovely stay on the Atlantic coast – Amazing weather, amazing city, amazing food.
Tanned and overwhelmed with impressions, we took a bus to Boston at around midnight. It was my second overnight right within a week, however, this one was supposed to be a little more comfortable as we took Greyhound for a change. Contrary to our expectations, the coach to our stop-over city was packed (maybe because stop-over was in NYC) and even the 5-hour-ride to Boston wasn´t much better since that coach was also fully booked and on top of that it was an old, run-down coach. At some point I decided to make most of the ride and finally had a chance to start writing this blog update. 🙂
Unfortunately, we only had one day in Boston (we´ll still return to Boston a couple of times in the next few days, but not for sightseeing), which is why we didn´t have any time to catch up on sleep. Instead we started our sightseeing-tour around Massachusetts’ capital almost immediately after checking in. We walked along the Freedom Trail through downtown, saw the USS Constitution, the Bunker Hill Monument as well as most historical buildings in the city centre. Boston is one of the main historical spots in New England, where many important historical events took place, such as the Boston Massacre or the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Philip´s and my personal highlight in Boston was Quincy Market. It is a historical market complex in downtown Boston, which today is used as a huge (and I mean reaaaaally HUGE) food court, where you can get every kind of food for a reasonable price. After having walked across the market twice, we ended up having a big Panini sandwich each, which filled us up for the rest of the day.
On Sunday morning we made our way to Gloucester, a fishing town on Cape Ann. Gloucester is about one hour away from Boston and a very pretty spot if you want to get out of the big city life. Since it was Sunday, we had some problems going to Cape Ann as planned because trains don´t run as often and most buses don´t run at all. In the end we had to walk from Gloucester train station to our motel, which was quite a walk… we literally ran ourselves in the ground. The reason why we came to Gloucester in the first place was our pre-booked whale watching tour in the afternoon. It was an amazing experience and one of many highlights on this trip. I´d never gone on a whale watching cruise before, so it was one of those new, exciting things for me. Afterwards we found a cool place for seafood and had a huge seafood platter including fried calamari, crabs, shrimps, (…) to complete our day on the cape and make our culinary treats from the past few days even more perfect.
Travelling through New England with just a backpack and a very funny and easy-going travel buddy is fabolous. I officially got to see seven different US states in the last week: New York, Maryland, DC, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts. We´ll be staying around Cape Cod and Boston for a few more days before travelling up north to the northern border of Vermont (almost Montreal), where we´ll be spending some time hiking, relaxing, visiting some local sights and most of all enjoying Indian Summer. The icing on the cake will be New York City for my final leg of the journey before flying back to Germany.
PS: Für diejenigen, die sich mit der englischen Sprache ein wenig schwer tun, hier der deutsche Blog von Philip: http://philip-on-tour.auslandsblog.de/roadtrip-part-i/