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Published: March 4th 2008
Thoughts on DC
Truthfully, I knew nothing about American history or D.C. prior. I could very likely be put into the same category of Americans mistaking Bonhomme or Jean Poutine as the prime minister of Canada. Luckily, America seems to have a fascination with American politics and homeland security as my scant knowledge is derived from fiction romance books (Nora Roberts mind you - a great book about a Senator and a daughter of a former senator hooking up), Lonely Planet and television (CNN, various Hollywood tv shows).
Armed with ignorance and the student approach to traveling - hitting up every and all free attractions - I set out with the aim of keeping my pocket book intact (or at least out of the red) and learning about all sorts of things.
D.C. was able to satisfy my curiosity and attraction to the morbid. Just to clarify as I am by no means a self-proclaimed weirdo, but frankly, museums and churches get boring after awhile and require something a bit more out of the ordinary to educate... and captivate the interest (if not amuse). Before I launch into the epic adventure of getting to the Museum of Science
National Botanic Garden
& Medicine, lets recap the travel highlights of my morbid curiosity (p.s. if you know the correct/more specific names of these places, please feel free to comment... my Lonely Planet books on these places are in storage):
1. Mummy bundles, Nazca
2. Various churches in Europe either containing the mummified saint or various parts of them. Notably, the Cathedral in Budapest containing the wrist of St. Stephen... the lovely box would light up if you put in the right amounts of coins.
3. Church in Rome depicting the various ways one could become a martyr.
4. Catacombs, Paris.
5. Museum of Natural History, Beijing.
6. Parasite Museum, Tokyo.
7. Bodies Exhibit, Las Vegas.
8. And now, the National Museum of Science & Medicine, Walter Reed Military Hospital, DC
And now the epic adventure...
What I envisioned as a quick jaunt into the Northwest of D.C. to and from within an hour and a half turned into a half day adventure. The Lonely Planet was a bit deceptive in its description as the only travel directions mentioned were Tacoma Metro station. I asked the lovely transit man which way to the Walter
Reed Hospital. It turns out there was a shuttle bus to there (which usually implies that the jaunt is further than walking distance).
Having no experience with the military as Canadian military bases are usually located some distance away from the cities, it was certainly strange to step into a large compound heavily guarded by security personnel where all persons walking around had Army labeled tracksuits or fatigues on. The fact that this was a military hospital indicated that they treated injured soldiers... most likely injured abroad. I certainly looked wide eyed like a deer in the headlights being completely out of my comfort zone, nervous about being in a compound and not knowing precisely where the nice bus driver was going to drop me off (or when he was going to pick back up). I did pass quite a few Warrior Transition Units along my scenic shuttle ride.
The Museum was certainly the one with the most amount of security (though no bag check) - requiring ID on the way into the compound and then showing ID and having my photo taken onto a security sticker at the museum itself.
The Museum did not fail to
educate me on medical oddities including an amputated leg with elephantitis in a jar, a large hairball in the shape of a human stomach, to the bloodstained shirt cuff and actual bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln. For those wanting to view something slightly more visually engaging, I think they were showing an autopsy video.
The extent and affordability of the DC Metro & Transit system was quite refreshing. To connect with Old Town in Alexandria from the King St Metro, the shuttle transfer was only 35 cents!
Crossing and re-crossing state lines within the span of a day or even hours can be amusing, especially to people like me, living in land locked states/provinces where the nearest boundary may be a four hour drive away.
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