Some people want to see famous places from American movies, others want to take a tour around the most important government buildings, and there are also those who can’t get enough of the free museums. Like most Slovak people who worked on the East Coast of the U.S. through the Work&Travel Programme, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Washington D.C.
I’ve only had one day to see Washington D.C., which is a shame because the city deserves a lot more time. The center of Washington D.C. isn’t too big. The well-known Statue of Lincoln, the White House, and Capitol Hill are all located here and you can easily just walk around to see them all. On your walk, you’ll surely recall the scene from Forrest Gump, when Forrest returned from Vietnam and Jenny ran to him through the small pond between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. In the museums, you’ll think of the movie Night at the Museum. Who knows what’s going on behind the walls of the government buildings? I suppose that sometimes it’s better not to know. The city is a display case of American pride. It has a strange atmosphere and I felt a bit like a hippie while visiting. I suppose it’s because of the memories of Forrest Gump.
Government building tours
The American Embassy in Bratislava is very easy to find. The fence and the security around it take up a large portion of the historical square. Strangely enough, the situation in Washington D.C. is the exact opposite. As a tourist, you can easily approach most of the government buildings and even enter some of them without any trouble. The United States Capitol, which is the seat of the United States Congress, even offers tours for visitors. A short movie is part of the tour, but it’s forbidden to record it or to make photos. The tour also includes the portraits and busts of America’s greatest heroes. I liked the painting of princess Pocahontas the most but, sadly, her story wasn’t as romantic as in the animated movie. It’s safe to say that Native Americans didn’t welcome colonization and Christianity with open arms.
You can enjoy a great view of the Washington Monument from Capitol Hill. It’s only a few hundred meters away. When you’re almost at the Monument, turn right to 15th Street Northwest and take a walk down to the White House. You won’t get inside but you can still take a picture and peek into the president’s backyard. I swear I saw some tomatoes growing there. The J. Edgar Hoover Building is also near. Yes, you guessed right, it’s the headquarters of the FBI.
Memorials of presidents and wars
I don’t know why I like D.C. so much. When you think about it, it’s a very sad place. There are memorials everywhere. One memorial is dedicated to those who fell in the Second World War, while another reminds us of the wars in Korea and Vietnam. The words “Freedom is not free” are scraped near one of the memorials and it makes you think when you consider the wars and all their brutality.
Americans also honor their former presidents here. Just about everyone knows the huge statue of president Lincoln that overlooks the Washington Monument. The pond through which Jenny ran to Forrest is right in front of it. When I was there, the pond was being reconstructed, so all I got was a good look at some excavators. You can take an elevator to the very top of the Washington Monument. The numerous windows will give you a good view of many of the most famous sights, such as the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol Hill, and practically the entire city. You can find more memorials around the Tidal Basin, such as the memorials of Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt. There will be buses for tourists trying to lure you in for a tour, but you shouldn’t waste your money. The area is relatively small and you can easily just walk.
Museums are free!
If you love museums as much as I do, you’ll love D.C. Even if museums are not exactly your cup of tea, you’re sure to like some of them. The expositions are everything but boring. In the Air&Space Museum, you can go inside a model of a spaceship and also try to fly on a simulator. You can take a picture with a dinosaur skeleton in the Natural History Museum or, if you’re feeling brave, you can also take a picture of the supposedly cursed Hope Diamond. I firmly believe that even people who don’t like museums will love these two. Great expositions, free of charge! And there are plenty more museums to pick from!
Most of the sights are free to enter. You’ll only need money for the Washington Monument and Capitol Hill. You can spend the rest of your money on some food or on gifts from the gift shops in the museums. If you’re ever in D.C., be sure to visit all of these places.