Part 2? If you missed the first one: Washington DC on a budget (part 1)
The biggest part of this day you could find me at a… cemetery. Across the Potomac river, in the state of Virginia, is located the Arlington cemetery. To be honest, before I started planning my trip, I’ve never heard of this place before. I could already see on a map that it was very big. And yes indeed, when I arrived I found out it is even bigger than I thought!
DC by foot offers great walking tours in DC, and also one in Arlington. Most of their tours are free, you pay what you like. So perfect for everyone’s budget! This tour was really great and like this I really knew what I was seeing.
At Arlington cemetery 25-30 funerals are held every day. Every day! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. All of them served their country. My guide told me that families can either finance their own gravestone, or get one for free. These are all uniform stones, and I believe they weighed 200-300 kg! The financed ones were different from the others, often bigger.
We took a ‘stop’ on the tour at the President J.F.K. Gravesite, where you can also see the eternal flame. For some reason, the flame disappeared on my pictures, but I can guarantee that is was actually burning.
There are many memorials spread all over the cemetery, we passed along a couple such as the Coast Guard Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier left the biggest impression. The Tomb is guarded day and night by The Old Guard. In summer the guard changes every 30 minutes. Normally I’m not into seeing guard changes, but this one felt different. The ones I’ve seen before were always at a palace (such as Buckingham and in Prague), where the guards protect the Royals. Here it seemed to have more of a meaning, a whole different meaning.
I think it’s great that both the ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ soldiers get honored at Arlington. In the US, it seems to me there is more ‘pride’ in serving their country. I’ve heard the 4th of July is celebrated really big. I’ve seen the Memorials for your presidents, the flags people hang proudly on their houses and place them in their gardens… You must know that for me this is strange, this is different. Here, our ‘4th of July’ (our national holiday is on a different day but just to compare), isn’t celebrated that much, people are just glad to get a day of. We don’t have such beautiful Memorials to honor our former kings.
I do have respect for people who join the army, honestly I couldn’t do it, I think in the first place it takes a lot of bravery. But what I’m asking myself: is it really worth it? Those 25-30 funerals a day. People losing their parents, kids, sisters, brothers,.. for what? I guess it’s difficult to live in a world without war, and someone has to fight to defend the others, which is very noble. But I do have my questions about this.
I’m glad I got to see Arlington, it left an impression, and lots of things to think about really.
Temperatures seemed to keep rising every day. But I didn’t let it stop me. On my first day, as you probably already read, I got to visit one part of ‘The Mall’. This afternoon, I strolled from one Memorial to another at the other part, and ended my day with a tour around the Tidal Basin. (Why is it actually called ‘the Mall’, I thought that was English for store?)
The Lincoln Memorial was really pretty, and big. Really everything is big in the USA. The monuments, the buildings, the squares, the parks! I really love that they have more green in their cities, it seems to make them more livable.
The Memorial I appreciated the most was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. For some reason it was way calmer here. Less tourists. The Memorial was divided into different parts, and you could see it was a different style than the other ones, not white to start with. I liked that they displayed phrases Roosevelt said, sort of his quotes. I liked reading them and just taking a break here to get some rest on this busy day. The water of the fountains worked quite relaxing.
Walking along the Tidal Basin gives you a great view over the Jefferson Memorial. I saw some pictures at the hostel of beautiful blossoms! Too bad they were gone at the time I was there.
What is your favourite spot in DC?
← Previous post: Washington DC on a budget (part 1)
Next post: A day trip to Mount Vernon, VA.→
Also read: Backpacking 21 days in the USA