It has been a little while since I visited the USA Capital city, but it still lingers strong in my memory. Considering its political and military importance, I thought they would be a very high army presence and did not expect the wide, clean streets and open parks. I was pleasantly surprised at how safe and at home I felt in Washington D.C. It is a place I would not hesitate to go back to if the opportunity arose.
Washington has so much to offer the curious tourist. As far as museums go, visitors are in for an absolute treat with the brilliant Smithsonian museums offering a window into global and American history, art and science as well as tons of others. Some that may pique interest include the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial museum, International Spy museum and the Ford’s Theatre National Historic site (the location where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated).
The city is joined together with green spaces and pretty parks, perfect for a cycling and sightseeing tour and are home to see of the biggest visitor sites apart from the obvious visitor’s choice, The White House. Today we are going to take a tour of the collection of sites that made the biggest impact on my visit to the capital, Washington’s monuments.
Let us know start at the National Mall where we find one of the most recognisable the fantastic obelisk known as the Washington monument. Built to commemorate the United State’s first President – George Washington, the monument was completed in 1884 and is currently the world’s tallest obelisk at 555 feet. The marble structure is looked after by the National Park Service and is situated in a pretty part of the mall. Less formal but of personal resonance, I could not help but think of the moving scene in the movie Forrest Gump, where soldier and friend greet each other in the water of the reflecting pool in front of the monument to a crowd’s cheer.
Follow the path to one side and you will find yourself approaching the Lincoln Memorial. Well known for the part in the abolition of slavery, presenting the Emancipation proclamation and Gettysburg address, Abraham Lincoln lead the United States through the American Civil War until his death in 1865. After Lincoln’s assassination, an association was formed to take on the construction on the monument. The architect Henry Bacon chose the design of the Panthenon as his model for the monument, with the 36 pillars representing the 36 states in the union at that time. Today, Abraham Lincoln watches over us all like a father from his armchair perch. As I stood in front of the 16th President with his kindly, but stern face, I truly felt that I was in the presence of greatness. It was extremely humbling and I understood why the site has been chosen for many important events since. With Lincoln behind you, how could you fail?
The Jefferson Memorial
To the other side of the Washington monument stands the memorial to another great man. Located on the Tidal basin, the Jefferson memorial in its neoclassical style Roman Pantheon overlooks the lake. Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States and a man of multiple trades. Throughout his life, Jefferson was recognised as a lawyer, politician, architect, scientist and farmer as well as his diplomatic role of President. Jefferson was also the author of the Declaration of Independence, and part of this scripture and many others can be found on the walls of the memorial surrounding Jefferson’s bronze statue.
Martin Luther King J.R Memorial
One of the newer memorials in Washington stands in memory of one of history’s famous speakers, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. A minister and leader of the American civil rights movement, King is known the world over for his speech, ‘I have a dream’, which he gave to over 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln memorial. This memorial is dedicated to that speech and everything it represents, as well as the great man himself. Walking around King’s strong image, there are inspiring quotes from his sermons and speeches, the mountain of despair and stone of hope to be found opposite.
In Washington D.C, you are in the presence of some of the greatest leaders in American history. Let us turn now to another area of the country’s history.
Washington D.C has become a hub for memorials dedicated to those who fought and died in battle. Although sad to experience, the stunning tributes are worthy of their titles and something that every visitor should take some time to see.
The World War II memorial is situated in the National Mall and is dedicated to the millions that served during the war and to the hundreds of thousands that died. With a focus on the sacrifice and spirit of the people, the memorial remains one of the most visited sites in Washington D.C.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
This particular memorial is one that stands out in my memory as having the most impact. The 19 figures on patrol, represent squads from each arm of the Armed Forces. Behind the figures a mural wall show photographs of the men, women and dogs that served in the Korean war. Visitors get a close-up view of war from the soldiers in this exhibition, their faces capturing very human emotions as they tread through the greenery.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam war memorial consists of three parts – the Vietnam women’s memorial, the Three soldiers statue and the Vietnam veterans wall. Each piece shows a different side to the war that claimed so many lives. All three elements are beautifully made, but the wall for me really drives home the number of those that fought, died and went missing in action.
Now for something a bit different…
The Albert Einstein statue is located at the entrance to the National Academy of Sciences. The bronze figure of Einstein holding papers and staring thoughtfully into space, was unveiled on the centenary of the scientist’s birth in 1979. Engraved on the papers in Einstein’s hand are some of his most significant equations and around the back of the bench where he sits are some of his quotes. Lately, Einstein has fallen victim to any tourists who rub the statue’s nose. Perhaps they hope by doing so they will get smarter?
These are just a few of the tributes that you will see along your path through Washington. My biggest regret was not having time to visit Arlington National cemetery. The site that holds more than 250,000 graves, is the burial place of John F. Kennedy and houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Pentagon, located on the other side of the cemetery would also be on my next visit list.
If you are hungry to find more memorials, others worthy of your time include the Marine Corps War Memorial, the Roosevelt memorial and many, many more.
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