The Capitol or a walk along the Mall might be on top of the sightseeing list of every first-time visitor but our very first stop was at The Folger Shakespeare Library. You see, it was April 23rd, birthday of the great Bard and it didn’t take us long to find out about this annual tradition at the Folger – and join the party. There were concerts, choirs, theatrical performances, open reading rooms, scholars, enthusiasts, cheerful families and… much ado about Shakespeare and his work.
Beginning near Dupont Circle back to Union Station with its massive Columbus Fountain and very own Liberty Bell which, in reality, is a replica of this symbol of independence located in Philadelphia – minus the iconic crack. In D.C., it is called Freedom Bell, American Legion, a public artwork dedicated in 1981.
From the Station, a short walk to the Capitol, passing in front of the Supreme Court which is closed on weekends. Still, one can walk around it and marvel at its dignified neoclassical architecture, tall Corinthian columns and bronze doors, designed by Gilbert and John Donnelly, Sr. and sculpted by his son, John Donnelly, Jr.
Each door is made up of four bas-reliefs which represent significant events in the evolution of justice according to Western tradition in chronological order. The thematic sequence begins on the lower left panel, moves up to the top of the door then continues on the bottom right panel and concludes on the upper right corner.
17 feet high and 9 ½ feet wide, and weighing approximately 13 tons the doors prompted the sculptor to declare:
“Out of all of our monumental projects, spread over two lifetimes, the Supreme Court doors are the only work that we ever signed – that’s how important they were.”
We had been warned, when we first came to New York, that every couple of months we must get out of the City or else we’d risk confusing its inherent surreality for normality. For the reality is, there is no place on earth like New York City. And it can mess up with your perception of time and space.
Taking this advice to heart, two months after visiting Philadelphia we took off on our second trip. A fortnight in three cities, starting with the capital: Washington D.C.
First impressions ~
a) it always strikes me as curious how birds can get so lost as to end up in the bowels of the beast that is Penn Station;
b) 3,5 hours by train on a rainy day and my collection of moody, blurry photos has been largely enriched;
c) D.C. is clean and neat, and it reminded me of those tidy, groomed cities one comes across just about everywhere in Switzerland;
d) all subway stations look alike: grey, concrete, clean, clearly marked, easy to follow even by first-time visitors (as New York subway would have been, in a parallel universe);
e) a local liquor shop with a quirky sense of humour – that was a warm welcome! Made me wonder whether quirkiness is a common feature among Washingtonians?!
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