The day after Christmas I ventured to Washington, D.C. to explore the city’s history, museums and monuments for a week. And of course, its food. A first time visitor to the nation’s capitol, I saw all the sites, including tours of the White House and Pentagon, wandered through all the museums, and dabbled in its arts with the ballet and a jazz concert.
Washington DC is a time machine, or more likely a time capsule, a glimpse into generations before us and eras long gone. The city is an obvious living chapter for American history, splattered with the places where our country was shaped and molded, not to mention where it evolves today. What makes the city even more spectacular is that it reaches beyond American history to world and even human history with its diverse collection of museums covering nearly every curiosity conceivable.
I found myself bewildered again and again that so many things I had seen a million times before–iconic images of the White House, memorable paintings of George Washington, moving photos of the World War II Memorial–were suddenly alive and in front of me. I saw the painting of Benjamin Franklin that was used for his portrayal on the hundred dollar bill at the American Portrait Gallery. I saw George Washington’s military uniform and Abe Lincoln’s trademark top hat at the National Museum of American History. Hell, I even saw a section of the Berlin Wall (at the Newseum) and a uniform from a Holocaust survivor (at the Holocaust Memorial Museum).
But don’t let its rich capacity of history fool you; DC is not a city stuck in the past. It’s a modern, fast-paced city well on par with any of my other favorite heavy-hitters like Chicago and New York City, especially when it comes to the food scene. Washingtonians are serious about their food and it shows, from their burger joints and ramen shops to the elaborate molecular gastronomy extravaganzas. I ate my way through the city, with the highlight a 24-course, mind-blowing meal I can’t wait to share.
DC is surprisingly unpretentious for all its grandeur and famousness. Majority of the museums are free. People are helpful and humble. And there are memorials commemorating every war, military general and sacrifice on every corner. With so many examples of the political power densely crowding the city, I was thankful to see the many reminders of what it really takes to execute that power–sacrifice–even though the contrast was striking.
Throughout my trip I felt myself feeling incredibly humbled by those that came before me and fought–both with their lives and with their words–to make the country what it is, for better or worse. It may not be perfect but people sacrificed a lot in the belief that it can be. And that deserves a memorial in my book.