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Published: April 28th 2008
One happy resident of DC
A close-up of a resident of Washington DC.
Easter vacation in the States - a hectic day in Washington DC
Easter holiday this year we spent in the United States
. We spent part of the time in Washington DC
and the rest of the time in New York City
. For a change travelling and sightseeing was only part of the reason for the trip. The other reason for the trip was to visit friends from previous travels, namely Harvey and Ivan. We met Harvey a few years ago on a trip we made in Ethiopia. That was before we started this blog so you won't find any entry on that trip. In December 2006 Ake, travelling without Emma at that time, teamed up with Harvey for a trip in Yemen. On that holiday Harvey's son Ivan also travelled with us. If you are interested in reading more about that trip you can have a look at the entries I made on that trip. I made five entries in total but strictly the first one is kind of boring since it doesn't feature any photos. But here you have links to all five of them: No 1
, No 2
, No 3
, No 4
and No 5
When arriving at the immigrations at Newark Airport outside New York
Arlington National Cemetery
Graves in Arlington National Cemetery
City Ake was reminded of his old trip to Yemen. When the officer who looked at our passports found the old Yemeni visa he became very interested. He started asking questions on what made me go there in the first place, what I did while I was there etc. I can understand his interest in these matters because Yemen is a well-known hideout for terrorists and in the year 2000 an American Navy vessel was attacked
by terrorists in the city Aden in Yemen. I can understand that a Yemeni visa attracts some interest. Eventually the officer was convinced that Ake was just another tourist and he let us in.
The first day in the States we spent in New York. We will get back to that in a later entry on the blog.
The first day in Washington we had the wonderful opportunity to have a car with a driver and not less than two locals guiding us. They were Harvey and his wife Rochelle. In a hectic day they gave us a thorough tour of Washington DC including most of the highlights. They were in order
* Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Nice view in Arlington National Cemetery
* Vietnam Veterans Memorial
* Korean War Veterans Memorial
* Lincoln Memorial
* Washington Monument
* The White House
* Jefferson Memorial
* Albert Einstein Memorial
* United States Capitol
* National Building Museum
* Watergate Complex
* Old Stone House
When we look back at the list of all we actually managed to squeeze in on this first day in Washington DC it is hard to believe we actually did it and survived to tell the story. Well, most of these sights we had to see but we couldn't see any reason to linger for a long time. At most of the sights we wanted to have a look, snap some photos and then we were happy and ready to leave for the next place. Don't get us wrong now, we truly enjoyed this day. Seeing all these famous places, and some less famous but still very interesting, was really fun. Next time we see a movie shot at Arlington Cemetery or a photo of the White House we can say "been there, seen that" and by doing that we will also annoy everybody who is listening. Uh-oh! We are starting to see
John F Kennedy
The grave of John F Kennedy on Arlington National Cemetery
ourselves a bit more clearly now. We really are pathetic... Arlington National Cemetery
is a military cemetery so only people who have served in the US armed forces are eligible to be interred there. It is not necessary to have died in combat however. It is enough that you at one time in your life have been in the air force, the army or the navy.
The most famous permanent residents of Arlington Cemetery is former president John F Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. There are also a few other notables buried there, such as John F Kennedy's brother Robert F. Kennedy, astronauts Roger Chaffee and Gus Grissom and Joe Louis, a former world heavyweight boxing champion. But none of those graves attracts any large number of visitors.
But not even John F Kennedy's grave sees as many visitors as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier does. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded by soldiers from a specially trained regiment. The changing of the guards is a very popular event often visited by more than a thousand people.
There is one thing I have been thinking of when it comes to the tomb of
Tomb of the Unknown soldier
Tomb of the Unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery
the unknown soldier. There are "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" in many countries in the World and the bodies interred in all of these tombs have never been identified. Let us think a little bit about that. A body is found in the battlefield and there is no nametag on it and no other paper or identification to see who it is. In a normal situation that would make it difficult to identify who the deceased is. But in a war there are always registers on who is fighting in a certain division and when you have identified all the survivors and counted off all the dead that could be identified there can't be many left. Say that there are 10 unaccounted for and there is one dead guy without a name. All you need is a photo or a distinct mark on the body or a friend to see who it is, right? For a dead soldier to be unidentified the body must be in such a bad shape that it is impossible to recognise who it is. My guess is either badly decomposed (basically only a skeleton left) or so badly burnt that the body resembles a roast
Washington DC license plate
The people of Washington DC don't have any representation in the government but still have to pay government tax. They are not happy about that...
turkey rather than a corpse. We can also conclude that the body must be found nowhere near anything else that can identify who it is. If a body is found in a crashed plane you will always expect that the dead person is the pilot and there are records on that too. So the unknown soldiers are probably burnt beyond recognition and they have been found in a context that doesn't give any lead who he/she is. In a war there are usually two sides fighting each other. What I would like to know is how on earth can they be certain that the body is one of their own and not one from the enemy side?
You may argue that we are a bit morbid but we actually enjoy visiting cemeteries when we are travelling. One of the few things that are certain in life is that one day you are going to die. So in every culture there is a need to take care of the deceased. By walking through a cemetery you can take a peek into these rituals and thus getting to know the culture a little better. Since Arlington Cemetery is the most famous
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
A black wall with thousands of names of those who never made it back from Vietnam alive.
cemetery in the US it was a given thing to visit it now that we had a chance. The fact that the symmetric position of the graves and the sheer size of the place also makes for superb photos didn't exactly put us off either. The Pentagon
is the headquarters of the Department of Defence in the States. It is named so because the building is built in the shape of a large pentagon, or rather as five pentagon shaped buildings inside each other. On the ground you can't really recognise the building though. The sides of the building are so long that the pentagon shape isn't noticeable. We don't have any photos from the Pentagon since photography wasn't permitted. If you want to see photos click on the link to Wikipedia above.
On the September 11 attacks
in 2001 a plane was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon. We tried to see which wall that was hit by the plane but we could not find it. They have rebuilt it and you have to look more closely than we did to find where the plane hit the building. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
is a memorial over all the American soldiers that died or
Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Korean War Veterans Memorial consists of a group of statues. And none of the statues look like Alan Alda...
went missing in the Vietnam War. The main part of the memorial is a 75 meters long black wall covered with the names of the honoured soldiers. Korean War Veterans Memorial
is a memorial over the soldiers that fought in the Korea War in the 50-ies. It sits a few hundred meters away from Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial made us a bit disappointed. If we would have been commissioned to build a monument over the Korea War we would have made a copy of the camp in the TV series M*A*S*H. But, alas, there was no statue of Hot Lips, Radar or Hawkeye. Lincoln Memorial
is one of the most famous and most easily recognised features in central Washington DC. It is a memorial over the former president Abraham Lincoln. The memorial itself strictly isn't very interesting to a non-American. What makes it interesting is that it gives a splendid view over the National Mall. The National Mall is a large open area in the centre of Washington DC. Many of the most important buildings, monuments and institutions can be found in or near the National Mall. Lincoln Memorial sits in one end of National Mall and in the other end
is the Capitol Building. This vast open space gives Washington DC a feel of being a village or a small town rather than a city. It makes Washington DC feel like the antithesis to New York City. Washington Monument
is another easily recognisable feature of the National Mall. It is a high obelisk, the highest in the World according to Wikipedia, erected in the memory of George Washington. From the top of the Washington Monument it is possible to get a very nice view over Washington DC. But to get one of the preciously few tickets issued every day we would have had to be there before 7 o'clock in the morning. We could not see the point in doing that. Especially since you can get a similar view from the The Old Post Office building. More about that later. The White House
is the home of the American president. Most of you know that already. We were surprised to see how close to the building we could actually walk. There was a high fence around the building and there were police officers and secret service agents all around the place so it was well guarded. There were also snipers positioned
One of the easiest recognisable landmarks in Washington DC - Washington Monument
on the roof so if anyone would try to climb the fence he wouldn't survive to tell anyone about the deed. When we were in Washington DC it was the traditional Easter egg roll
on the White House lawn. That is only for children with parents so we could only watch from the outside. Jefferson Memorial
is a building erected to commemorate the former president and founding father of the United States - Thomas Jefferson. Albert Einstein Memorial
is a statue over the great scientist Albert Einstein. United States Capitol
is the building where the congress of the United States holds its meetings. National Building Museum
is also known as the Pensions Building. The institution handling payment of pensions to soldiers in the Civil War, the Pension Bureau, used to have its offices in the building. As years went by there were fewer and fewer who were eligible to pensions and eventually they decided to relocate the Pensions Bureau to another, smaller building. For a while the Pensions Building was under the threat of being demolished. But today it holds a museum and the building is sometimes also used for exhibitions. Georgetown
is an old part of Washington DC. It is a very charming
The White House
Traditional Easter Egg roll on The White House lawn
place to walk around in. In Georgetown we saw Old Stone House which, as you probably have guessed, is an old stone house. In fact it is the oldest house in all of Washington DC.
From the waterfront in Georgetown we saw the Watergate Complex
. That is where the Watergate scandal took place. The Watergate Scandal was a break-in that could be linked to people working for president Richard Nixon. In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal Richard Nixon decided to resign rather than risking the fate of being forced out of office.
The following days we spent a lot of time in the Smithsonian. We will write more about that in the next entry on the blog. We also revisited a few places we went to on the first day, sights we felt we wanted to see a little bit more of. We also saw a few other places that we don't bother to write about here.
One place we visited on the other days we were in Washington DC was the Old Post Office Building. From the clock tower there it is possible to get a good view over Washington DC city centre. The bird's-eye view
Two snipers on the roof of The White House
of the United States Capitol is taken from there.
Another place we walked by that we would like to mention here is Ford's Theatre
. It was in Ford's Theatre president Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1863.
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