Initially we were not supposed to visit the Big Apple during this trip around the world. But New York did in fact end up on our itinerary. We wanted to experience this magnificent city - one of the greatest in the world - with Anton.
But is such a big city even suited for children of his age? Well, many cities may not be for children, but the curious thing about New York City is that it really is so much different from any other city we know of. You can go on a new adventure constantly and all over the place. Adventures that are fun for the entire family.
The first thing you need to know is that New York City really cannot be compared to the rest of the US. In fact it has very little to do with the US at all. This is a world of its own! Everything is a bit extreme here. Like in the rest of the US. Also, the contrasts are huge! Like in the rest of the US. But this is where all comparisons must end. New York is historic buildings, city culture at its very best, and grand scale wealth. Enormous wealth! Side by side with incredible poverty. Also, New York is an international city in the purest sense of the word! Not only because of its many tourists. But because of areas like Little India, Little Italy, Chinatown etc. where the locals speak their own language and where you, as a visitor, truly get the feeling that you are in fact entering another country as you walk around the corner. This is highly fascinating! Suddenly you see signs, clothes and houses in a completely different style. The word “multi-cultural” in the sense that we use it in Europe, simply does not cover it all here! In spite of just having 59,5 square kilometers of land on Manhattan, there is room enough for the entire world. And even if you are not speaking any foreign languages, you will fit in just the same. No one will look at you if you are different from the most. If you act differently. Or live differently. There is always room!
I have always been fascinated by the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Many of which are more than 100 years old. This is yet another sign that it is allowed, well actually a must, to think BIG in the US. About 100 years ago no one would build like that in Copenhagen or Munich - in fact they still don’t. Bell-towers on churches do NOT count! Standing on the top of Empire State Building or The Rockefeller Plaza, both constructed in the 1930’s during the great depression, is simply breathtaking. You do not see anything like this anywhere else in the world. On this world trip alone, we have been standing on top of buildings in Bangkok, Sydney, Melbourne and Seattle. All very impressive and nice. But to see New York a bit from above simply just tops it all! It is all so concentrated! You can look down on the streets and avenues, 80-100 floors down. Within a few hundred meters you have everything you could possibly want and need. At all times! The yellow cabs are cruising slowly through the city. Up here you only hear the constant noise as a distant roar. An occasional siren will break the rhythm. As we were standing on top of The Rockefeller Plaza one evening after darkness had fallen, we could take it all in with millions of lights. The skyscrapers reminded us of giant christmas trees. And Empire State Building was in fact illuminated in red and green lights on that particular evening. Anton was completely ecstatic! This was SO cool! We all stood for a while in silence, taking it all in.
We live on 28th Street East. This is right in the middle of everything. You can walk to Grand Central Station, Empire State Building and Times Square in just about 15 minutes. One of the first things on our to-do-list whenever we arrive in a new city where we do not have a car, is to get familiar with the local public transportation system. In New York this means the metro. The New York Subway. This is yet another world of its own. Down here, below the city, you will meet all types, high and low. Often you sit very close in the subway trains. Constantly musicians dreaming of a future where they can live of their passion, will give small concerts on the platforms or in the trains. They get paid in “dimes” or “quarters” by people passing by in a hurry. Occasionally someone will drop a whole dollar bill in the guitar bag on the floor. When thinking of all this, I have to say that I have actually seen incredibly talented people down here in the endless hallways below the city. The fact that some of them are not famous must come down to lack of luck. We have often stopped, just to look and listen for a while. Enjoying the passion for music or artistry. I have seen way too many people on TV with much less to offer than these people down here! But I guess that’s just how life is sometimes!
We walk a lot. Really A LOT! My sister has flown in from Denmark to be with us during our stay here in New York. And she is an avid walker as well. But she did have enough on a few occasions. The thing is, you do not really feel tired right away as you walk through the city, because there is so much to see around every single corner. So much excitement! Anton is also enjoying the visit. We, his parents, have run out of new ideas of entertaining him about 9 months ago, so he is thrilled to have an aunt here with some fresh ideas!
We went for a walk in Central Park. Unfortunately a great deal of the many playgrounds were closed for the winter. They looked very intriguing though. But eventually we did find an open one. As we walked through the enormous park, taking about 3,4 square kilometers of the city’s landmass, we could see the many beautiful and iconic buildings on the Upper West Side where the rich and famous live. The Eldorado. The San Remo. The Dakota. This is where John Lennon lived until he was shot on the sidewalk just in front of the building. We did not see any famous people, apart from an actress starring in a recent TV series. But if you want to embark on a true “Star Safari Trip” in New York, this is the place to begin.
During the years from 1870 to around 1950 millions of immigrants arrived in the US. And often New York would be the gateway to the mighty land. On Ellis Island we could see the reception buildings that would receive thousands of refugees from Europe on a daily basis. People who had spent an average of 10 days at sea, crossing the Atlantic, and who had paid a high price for the ticket to a new and better world. Today an estimated 100 million US citizens have ancestors that came through these buildings here on Ellis Island. That is about one third of today’s US population! Before they arrived on Ellis Island they would sail close by the Statue of Liberty. Since the late 1800’s she has risen above the New York harbour as a symbol of the free world. I always thought that the Statue of Liberty looked a bit small. But I was never really close to her until now. I just realized that she is in fact HUGE! With her total of 46 meters she is only about 10% higher that Rundetårn (Round Tower) in Copenhagen. This is 41,5 meters high. But Rundetårn seems so much smaller because it is surrounded by many other buildings in the center of Copenhagen. The Statue of Liberty stands on a pedestal, alone on an island, watching over the harbour and Manhattan skyline. That makes the difference in perceived height! Unfortunately we could not get all the way up to the crown. It was open, but you have to book your tickets well in advance. So we just walked around her and had a great time at that. We saw all the Japanese tourists making their photos with their right arm in the air, imitating the statue in the background. Another plus was the great view of Manhattan. From Liberty Island it is simply spectacular!
The same can be said of the view from Brooklyn. We did a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge one day in order to be able to enjoy the view from the other side. The day was sunny and we had a clear blue sky. The price for the nice weather was a biting cold wind. It was merciless! As we walked over the bridge we almost got frostbites in our faces. And we only just quickly went down to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade to make the classic “must do” photo shots of Manhattan Skyline with Brooklyn Bridge that can only be made right here, before seeking shelter in a nearby, warm café! But we just HAD to get those pictures! It is yet another iconic motive. The historic houses here in the Brooklyn Heights area are most likely not the cheapest ones around. They are classic town houses from the late 1800’s, as they were usually constructed and decorated back then. Most of them are single family houses. This is as good as it gets! But I dare not think of the value of such a house and such a view!
The last time we visited New York, in 2008, they were already well under way with the construction of the new World Trade Center. It rises just beside the original, where a large memorial site has now been opened, to honor those fallen on September 11th 2001. It makes a huge impression to stand here and read the many names of the fallen. And at the same time the new towers are now rising above the city, as a symbol of resilience and that life must go on. They are really beautiful, those new towers. It will still be a while before Ground Zero is once again turned into the epicenter of international trade. But it is already quite clear, that the new World Trade Center will be even more outstanding than the old one was. “Now that it had to be like this, we might as well make it even better...” - seems to be the motto...
New York is the end of our 90 day trip through the US. And what a grand finale! I could spend many weeks, even months just exploring the city bit by bit. What really fascinates me is that it has so much history. For a large city that is. The immigrants are part of that history of course. But also great and visionary personalities like John D. Rockefeller Jr, Cornelius Vanderbilt and the entire Astor family can be credited for what New York has become today. Some of the largest and most important corporations have generated fortunes - and ruins - for businessmen on Wall Street. The stock market crash in October 1929, leading to the great depression in the 1930´s, certainly had a great impact, not only on New York, but also on the rest of the world. Even today stock markets around the globe are keeping a close eye to the trends on Wall Street, and the nervous effects are not to be under estimated.
On Broadway some of the biggest musicals and theater-plays can be seen. Pop- and rock concerts are bigger here in New York than in most other places. And NONE of the biggest names could ever think of going on a world tour without at least a few concerts in New York. All the stars within sports, music and television will come here to be seen. This is where you are “hip” with all the other “hip” people. This is where you hang out with all the other famous names. And being famous in New York almost automatically means being famous all over the world.
New York City IS truly of its own caliber!
This is our second visit here. And just like the last time, there are many things we cannot make. I prefer to make time to re-visit my favorite places, like Central Park or Fifth Avenue. But on the other hand we have seen lots of new places this time around. Like a bit more of Brooklyn, Liberty- and Ellis Island. But we did not make it to Harlem, Bronx and SoHo. When you are traveling with a child you have to make it all in a slower pace. Then the private flat that we have rented comes in handy. This way we can kick back and just relax for a while, lying on the couch, digesting all the impressions. Watching TV. Play with Anton.
No, we simply have adjust to the fact that New York must be seen MANY times. It is all so concentrated that you would not really get a true, genuine impression if you stressed too much in too little time. We have to come back again.... and then again.... and again...