I can finally talk a bit about Washington D.C.! That’s the city where I will be studying for the semester (I wish I could stay for the whole year). I’m studying at the Catholic University of America, and I’m trying to live the real American campus life, like the one you have always seen in movies, in a dorm with other two terrific roommates from Australia and France. Campus life it’s the opposite of how I was used to live and experience university. Here life is not boring. Events, meetings, movie nights, and even concerts are almost daily. Plus, Americans are crazy. Everyone here stops you to say hi, to ask you something, to say “I like your shirt”. They get excited about everything, and they have plenty of energy – I still have to discover from where they take it.
But let’s talk about Washington D.C.! Do you think that the District of Columbia is a state? Well, drum roll… it’s not! I was surprised too in discovering that it’s simply a District, and they explained me that’s why some car plates have the written “Taxation without representation”, because they pay taxes but they don’t have the same rights as other states for instance as far as concern the number of government representatives!
Well, Washington D.C. is the Capitol of the United States of America, plenty of museums, green areas and places where to have fun. I think the weirdest side of USA for Europeans are the times. Here museums close at 5 or 5.30 pm, clubs at 2.30 or 3 am, and sometimes it’s difficult to visit everything due to someone’s plans and these timetables. The majority of the museums, on the other side, are free! I still have to see plenty of things, but after my first month here I can proudly say that I’ve explored the most important parts of the city.
Let’s start from the National Mall. The number one attraction and where all the others gather around. It is a landscaped park that extends from the Lincoln Memorial on the west and east to the Capitol, with the Washington Monument dividing the area. So, the Lincoln Memorial was built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Remember? The one who abolished slavery? If not, please revise history! On the opposite side, the United States Capitol, called the Capitol Building, is the home of the Congress and the U.S. federal government.
If you are near the Capitol you’ll also find the U.S. Botanic Garden and the Library of Congress. The Botanic Garden was established by the U.S. Congress in 1820, and it is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. From orchids to rainforests, rare and endangered plants, you will find anything in there! The Garden is so big that is divided into indoor and outdoor and it surely deserves a visit!
The Library of Congress is the research library that officially serves the Congress and it claims to be the largest library in the world with almost 39 million books in more than 450 languages! Crazy, isn’t it? I mean, the idea of entering a library like that and casually studying a book in one of those historic chair drives me nuts!
If from the Capitol you want to go along the Mall rent a bike or a scooter! First, it will be easier to go around, particularly if the temperature is high, secondly the distances here are really big! You think you can make it, but trust me, sometimes it gets difficult. Once you are ready explore the rest of the district step by step. Do everything in one day is physically impossible, you have to come back at least 3 or 4 times. It obviously depends on how many museum you want to see, but in any case the attractions are so many! Along the National Mall you’ll find a great number of museums part of the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian Institution was established from a British scientist to found “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
If you leave the Capitol at your shoulder, at your left you’ll find the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, it may seems not interesting but it actually takes your breath away no matter what’s your age! Right in front of him you’ll find the National Gallery of Art. This gallery is huge. And beautiful. I swear I have to come back there to see every piece of Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh.
So Washington D.C. is a city that can welcome you differently from a standard American city. Here it quite seems to still be in Europe. You still feel the warmth of a big but little city, full of people but quiet. You don’t feel overwhelmed, you feel free and safe. It’s even better than what you can imagine!
Stay tuned for the continuum!