Back and recovered from the trip to New York City of last week. I think there is no better way to enjoy some days off than travelling to some unknown place and enjoy the sun walking from dawn to dusk.
New York was not an exception. Furthermore, when you get to NYC for the first time, you can only wonder “Am I really here?”. Because everything is really familiar to you, but not real. You have seen it in all kind of movies, TV series, documentaries, etc. There is not a big gap between your expectations and what you get. It’s a trip to realize that everything we see in the movies… is inspired in a real place, and you are there: New York.
It is said that the World’s capitals are London, Tokyo and New York, and this latter was still missing in my list. After having visited all three of them, I think Tokyo and New York are at a different level in terms of size and dynamism, although the fact that Tokyo is in Japan provided some quiet experiences even in the city centre that I did not manage to see in Manhattan.
New York’s transport is great… if we exclude weekends for the evaluation (they do construction works every single weekend and it is a small mess). I think this is mainly a result of a decision back in 1811, when they decided to define a perfect grid for the island. The result is that lines are straight: either north-south, or east-west, and it is very easy to orientate in the city with the streets having numbers instead of names: really practical, isn’t it? There is a big flaw in the subway: you have no indication of when next train is coming (and which one is it): a bit confusing.
Food is no surprise either. American culture and cuisine has been successfully exported to the rest of the world. We all know burgers, pizzas (we know them through the Americans), bacon and pancakes… Well, that’s it. Not really healthy, but trust me, the burgers are awesome over there.
Going to New York, you must also make sure you attend a couple of events and places. If you are into art (not my case), you should not miss MoMA and Metropolitan (very similar to British Museum), but there are some other “musts”.
A basketball match at Madison Square Garden is a great experience. If you are lucky, go for a Knicks match. We could not as the season was over at NBA, but we went for a WNBA’s New York Liberty match: 13,000 people and a lot of fun. Another recommendation is the Gospel service on Sunday in Harlem: a different approach to what we know over here, with people singing and with some visual aids (videos, presentations, karaoke)… And, of course, Central Park: a huge park in the middle of Manhattan to (try to) disconnect from the urban landscape without leaving the city. Just like Retiro in Madrid or Englischer Garten in Munich.
Last long weekend I went with Nes to Kraków, in Poland. It has been my first time in Poland. Even though I was tempted to go during my Erasmus in Germany, I finally did not cross the border. Now, this trip has shown me a very nice city and an interesting country. Some observations during these days:
One of the reasons to visit Beijing is the Forbidden City. To tell you the truth, when I was a child I did not really know what was this about. I knew it was in Peking, and that was some kind of palace (I was right with this) but I thought the entrance was really forbidden. Some years ago, I realized it is just the name it got because the entrance was forbidden for many people when the emperor lived.
Now, it is the one of the biggest and well preserved palaces in the world, and its visit in a normal not too busy winter day takes a good couple of hours. This has been for me one of the most interesting sights in the trip, and a must in Beijing, although some people I met were not specially surprised for this…
Sooooo… Here I am, in Beijing. Also known by many (foreign) people as Peking. I got a very good located hostel, very nice atmosphere… but freezing in Winter, because it was not that well neither isolated nor heated, and the temperature was slightly low: my first day we had a windy day with -16ºC. The second coldest temperature in my life (the other one was in… out of the scope of this post).
Well, as I was saying, the hostel was really well located, in the middle of Beijing, next to Tiananmen Square. Probably, most of you have heard about this square, famous for the protests which took place here in 1989 (with a great picture of a student stopping a lane of tanks) and for holding a record: the biggest square in the world.
Well, this is the geographical center of Beijing, and they also pretend to place it as the center of China, but it is too eastern… But it does not matter, they have the zero point of the chinese highways there.
In the south of the square, you can see one of the old gates of the city, the Front Gate. Next to this gate to the north, you can find Mao Zedong‘s mausoleum, which I did not visit… because I would have had to queue! And because I am not eager to see dead bodies for free… or even worse, paying!
In the north side, you can find the Forbidden City, but before getting there, the National Flag flutters in front of Mao Zedong’s portrait, guarding the Gate of Heavenly Peace leading to the Forbidden City. To both sides, two stands wait for a crowd ready to see a parade, for example (1, 2, 3, repita otra vez), a militar parade. Anyway, this square was built with political purposes…
And they are doing great, with the combination of flags, Mao’s images, the well preserved doors, the Great Hall of the People, one of the main buildings for the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party.
I went through this square everyday… and I was always thinking the impression it must cause to see that square full… either with people or with other stuff… Is it possible at all?
I am back in Tokyo. I am getting used again to the silence of this country, to the big smiles even though they do not understand you, and to the fact of the paying what the price tag says,.reunion with real sushi, plenty of pending housework… :S