Thoughts From Places: Baltimore, Part Two (2013)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

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My Trip to Baltimore!
The view of the Aquarium and the WTC
After the taxi brought us back from Fort McHenry we were walking around the Inner Harbor. There we saw this huge piece of seemingly scrap metal on display in front of a museum. It was twisted and burnt, just before I walked up to the sign I realized what building I was in front of: Baltimore’s World Trade Center. So that piece of metal in front of it was a piece of New York’s WTC, a bit that survived the 9/11 attack. I thought it was so strange to see it outside in the elements in the middle of Baltimore’s harbor instead of in a museum (like the other bits I had seen at the American History Smithsonian).

The licorice Harry and I
Next we went to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, which was amazing. There was so much to see. The unbelievable sights began before we walked in the door. The museum is covered in a 2 story serpent, there’s a 10,000 lbs. granite ball balanced on 1/8 inches of water and a mini cooper covered in over a million Swarovski crystals. We saw exhibits on the royal jewels, an enormous penny made of pennies, and a phoenix made of old cds and dvds. There was a portrait of Heath Ledger as the Joker comprised completely of different colored “such a shame” phrases, a junk mail portrait, a clockwork fish, a t-rex made of pop-tart foil, and a brick from the St. Valentine’s massacre wall. We walked a tightrope a foot from the ground (I got about 25% across), through a kaleidoscope hallway and a room full of famous buildings made of toothpicks.

Matchstick Hogwarts and the Hagrid Shawl
But the very best things were about Harry Potter. They had an optical illusion knitted shawl with Rubeus Hagrid, look at it from the front and you will see nothing, but from the side the Keeper of the Keys smiles back. There was a portrait of young Harry Potter made of licorice. But the most impressive of the entire museum and worth the $18 admission price alone was the to scale “miniature” matchstick marvel by Patrick Acton: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry made of over 500,000 matchsticks. It was immaculate. It had literally everything, the towers, the windows, the Great Hall, the Boathouse. I took a picture of every single inch of the thing. It was massive and perfect. The attention to detail still astounds me a year later. I marvel at the extent people will use their talents for things they are passionate about.

For me the main point of this trip was to see as much of Edgar Allan Poe as possible. While planning it was also pointed out to me that there was a pub devoted to James Joyce too. I like to think of these two things as what got me started as a Literary Tourist and as such each of these adventures will have their own blog posts! (They should be posted on BWE in November and will be linked here and here as soon as it is available.)

The stubborn eel and in the upper right corner you can
see it's feeder desperately trying to catch him
On the third day of our trip we went to the National Aquarium. That place was a labyrinth of wildlife. I can’t even say of fish because they had a rainforest exhibit filled with birds, reptiles and even a monkey or two. The building itself is amazing. They had so many different sections that we actually missed the Australian bit (which still saddens me because I didn’t get to see a puffin). Connecting floors and areas they had conveyor belts like in the cartoon the Jetsons, except these didn’t just go horizontal across the floor but slanted up like flat escalators. They had a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling in between the floors and walkways with windows to see the harbor. If you adore turtles like I do then this was the place for you they had several different kinds. 
A dolphin looking smug because
he just did a pose for a fish
If jellyfish are more your thing look no further they have a room full. If you are a shark fanatic they had an entire multi-story room full of them for you. In that tank they also had a mischievous eel that kept swimming away from the diver trying to feed it from the bucket. That eel wanted nothing to do with food, he was more interested in her chasing him, and he put on quite the show. They also have a dolphin show. We didn’t go to the show but caught a bit of the handlers playing with the dolphins while also trying to teach them tricks (honestly, the dolphins were more interested in playing which was fun to watch).

That small orange and green figure is me.
After we left the Aquarium after a few hours wandering around happily watching fish, we walked down the road a bit to the Star-Spangled Banner house, the home of Mary Young Pickersgill, the woman whose gigantic flag inspired Key to write our anthem at Fort McHenry. The house was cool, but self guided with cellphone calls so it wasn’t all that interesting. I should have did more research. If I had known more about her I might have been more interested in her home. They did have a scale fa├žade of the flag though covering the stairs of the information center next door. That thing was insanely, mind bogglingly big.

Me inside the steampunk B&N
Anne loves visiting the Hard Rock Cafes wherever she travels so we checked out the Baltimore one and as I went to the restroom I saw Chris Daughtry's pants and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz’s bass which was so cool and unexpected that I had to take a picture with it.

The last thing we did on our trip was visit the Barnes and Noble near the Hard Rock. My B&N in our mall is pathetic compared to that thing. It is housed in a converted power plant and the escalators were clear so the gears inside were visible giving it a very steampunk feel. It was so cool that it had two floors and an aquarium in the Starbucks. I would have never left, given the chance.

I loved Baltimore and would love to visit the city again. It gave me a wanderlust that I cannot seem to satisfy. 

To read more of the first half of my Baltimore Adventure, click here!