Last Tuesday, I made the long trip across the Atlantic to travel to Boston! Somehow, this Bostonian has never managed to walk the entire Freedom Trail, a “2.5 mile path that leads to 16 of America’s most significant historical landmarks.” So Wednesday morning, I got up bright and early (around 10 AM) to reacquaint myself with one of America’s greatest cities.
I convinced my youngest brother Joe to accompany me. My other brother, Richard, who rumor has it is going to be living in Battell, had to lifeguard. On the way to Oak Grove, the T stop closest to my house, Joe and I ran into none other than my friend Ben, who readers of this blog will remember visited me in Berlin. I invited him to come along, but wearing formal attire in 90 degree heat, Ben looked like he was ready to step into a cold shower instead. So Joe and I continued on our way and got on an orange line train heading south. There are two big differences I noticed between local trains in Boston and Germany. First, German trains are a lot smoother and second, I have never heard the conductor yell “the platform is not a playground” over the loudspeakers in Germany. Anyway, we arrived at Park Street in good time and after picking up a map at a visitors’ center, we started off on the red brick road.
The Freedom Trail begins in Boston Common. Joe (who I convinced to be my tour guide) told me some cool facts about America’s oldest public park from the brochure we picked up. Then, we walked up the hill to the State House and cooled down inside the air-conditioned Park Street Church. Next on the route was Granary Burying Ground, the first of three burying grounds we would encounter. The old dates inscribed on these tombstones rivaled even those of cemeteries I had visited in Europe. Afterward, we saw King’s Chapel and the Old City Hall. I really liked how the former had been preserved in the midst of modern day skyscrapers and the latter had a cool sidewalk mosaic marking the former location of Boston Latin, America’s first public school. Just down the street from there was the Old Corner Bookstore, a literary center in the mid-1800s, and the Old South Meeting House, which served as a public forum prior to the start of the Revolution. Then, Joe and I walked by the Old State House, outside of which the Boston Massacre took place. Ever since elementary school, I always remember finding it odd that the event was called a “massacre.” The deaths of five people are indeed a tragedy, but calling it a massacre was surely more for the sake of propaganda than historical accuracy. After Faneuil Hall, one of Boston’s best known landmarks, Joe and I took a moment to visit the Holocaust Memorial, not an official stop on the Freedom Trail, but an important reminder nonetheless of what happens when freedom and responsibility are taken out of the picture. One responsible man (along with two oft forgotten companions) took it upon himself to warn colonists that the “British [were] coming”. His name was Paul Revere and his house and the Old North Church were next on the route. I still remember visiting the Paul Revere House back in fourth grade. The best part was eating lunch as a class in the North End afterward. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the final stop of the Freedom Trail before one crosses the Charlestown Bridge and then if one is feeling really ambitious, one can walk all the way over to the USS Constitution and then up to the Bunker Hill Monument. I was feeling really ambitious and Joe seemed content with going along for the ride. Needless to say, we both were pretty worn out by the time we finally stumbled into Community College station to head home.
As the train rattled back to Oak Grove, I wondered, “was it really worth it to walk the Freedom Trail?” Maybe if I had done it alone, no. But when I looked over at Joe, calmly reading a book beside me, I knew I had made the right decision. Because at a certain point, all the old buildings and monuments lose their appeal and you remember that it isn’t the sights you see or the food you eat that make an experience memorable. It’s the people you’re with. Sure, it’s great exploring a new place on your own, better than not seeing it at all. If you asked me though to describe any of my favorite experiences from when I was abroad, if you go back and pick out your favorite post from my collection of unending prose, you’ll find this to be true. Characters bring a story to life.
I have a very simple strategy for dealing with “reverse culture shock” and you may have noticed it in the first sentence of this post when I wrote “travel to Boston” instead of “return to Boston”. In my mind, I’m still on an adventure! Danke für Lesen und bis nächstes Blog! J