Population: 681 000 (metro 6 097 000)
Washington DC, is the capital of the USA and the 6th largest metropolitan area of the USA. But it is only the 22nd largest city proper in the US. The city was named after George Washington, USA:s first president.
There is a special law that forbids the construction of highrises within the city limits, that I find very ironic since USA is the birthplace of the skyscraper. The result is a very open, green city with mostly lowrise buildings, many white monumental neo-classical buildings, monuments, circle squares, parks etc. In Washington you find US Capitol, the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial , Jefferson Memorial, Pentagon (in Arlington, VA), many other monuments and government buildings, a well as numerous great museums, all with free entrance fees. Most of these buildings and monuments are built around a large open area, called the Mall, in a neighbourhood called the Capitol Hill. Just West of downtown there is a nice residential area called Georgetown with beautiful townhouses and the Georgetown Univeristy. I intended to visit Georgetown but the time run out (after all I managed to see a lot in less then one day). All around the city you find large avenues, beautiful townhouses, large government buildings and hotels, greenery and parks. The large avenues are named after the US states, the most famous ones are Pennsylvania Avenue and Massaschussetts Avenue and the street names have letters; K St, M St etc. There are beautiful circular squares/traffic circles with greenery and townhouses; Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and Washington Circle are the most central ones. Potomac River flows just West of downtown and the Mall. The river separates the city from the state of Virginia, where you find the Rosslyn (part of Arlington County) and other suburbs. Rosslyn has several tall office highrises just opposite downtown Washington, where they are not allowed. Virginia and Maryland are the two states that surround District of Columbia (that is what DC in Washington stands for), the small state that consists of the city of Washington and nothing else. The masterplan of Washington was designed by the architect and military Pierre L'Enfant, to replace Philadelphia as the capital of the United States in 1800. The city was built after a symmetrical sytem, and was modelled after European capitals as Rome, Athens and Paris.
The next day I decided to walk towards the Mall, where all the famous government buildings and monuments are. I only had this day to explore the American capital, and was supposed to fly back home in the evening. Talk about a tight schedule! Many shady types, beggars and homeless people started to follow me and tried to make contact. But as soon as I reached The Mall they disappeared and instead lots of tourists appeared. The weather was nice for March, partly sunny but mild (about 10 degrees C). I visited some of the free museums, spent hours in the National Gallery of Art where I watched classical paintings by famous artists, the National Air and Space Museum where I saw rockets and Charles Lindbergh's plane "Spirit of St Louis" in reality, I also made a brief visit to the Museum of Natural History.
I walked along the large green area called the Mall where I walked up the stairs to the US Capitol (US government building) on Capitol Hill, got really close to the White House (residential of the president, at the time Bill Clinton) and looked through the fence (I saw some agents standing at a car) towards what was then president Bill Clinton's residence. When I reached the Washington Monument, I saw that it unforutnately was closed for renovations, making it unable to go up and see the Washington from above at the top. This is the only place to do that for tourists. A girl from Boston sold a Harre Krishnah book to me, unaware of what it was (I didn't read it though, but I got the information that it just started to snow in Boston, lucky I left). Then I walked to the Lincoln monument, looked at the statue, continuing to the Potomac River towards Arlington, Virginia. I walked along Pennsylvania Ave, New York Ave and Massaschussetts Ave and passed by the beautiful Dupont Circle. I saw the Supreme Court, the Hoover Bldg (FBI headquarters) and many other interesting buildings. The metro, that I used once, is one of America's most modern ones (a big contrast to the neglect subway in New York), and the stations have vaulted roofs.
Washington is a very beautiful city, like an American version of Rome or Paris with all the monuments, but still very stiff, it is lacking some sort of natural streetflife and also very dangerous with tons of poor people, some very annoying, some violent. I have heard that has changed since my visit, there are not that many homeless people on the streets any more and the crime rate has decreased a bit.
In the evening I flew home from the Dulles International Airport. I didn't have money left to get there, but I was saved by the staff at the hostel that told me that I could take a bus from the Capital Hilton to Falls Church, and there take the metro to Dulles Airport, and thus saving the last money to be able to get to the airport! It might sound very naive, but I was only 19 years old back then, it the first time in America and the first trip alone ever.
The picture gallery below is a collection of places I visited, during my visit it was sunny with not much greenery on the trees. I didn't visit Pentagon, National Cathedral and Georgetown, but I thought these places were worth showing as well, as they are important parts of Washington. The visit was 3 years before the attack on 9/11 on Pentagon, Arlington, VA. Before arriving in Washington I visited Baltimore.
Source: Wikimedia Commons