Draped in an aura of power, Washington DC, the capital of the United States of America, is one of the most culturally rich and vibrant cities in the world. Here, where history is embossed in the many marble and granite edifices and monuments that stud the city, we strolled through parks aglow with blooming cherry blossoms. A vast collection of museums, ranging from natural history and space to Native Indian and modern art, offered us a diverse buffet of cultural indulgences. Exploring this young capital with a rich artistic heritage (which includes the Smithsonian museums, said to be the largest museum complex in the world) was like going on an urban safari; we did not know what pleasant surprises awaited us round the next corner. Replete with cutting-edge restaurants, trendy bistros, zany boutiques and funky galleries, the US capital reverberates with a youthful buzz. Indeed, it moved us to awe; even gave us goosebumps and reasons to smile…
Washington DC is not a run-of-the-mill capital that you can take lightly. It straddles your consciousness as the most powerful capital in the world, which the President of the United States, who holds the reins of a superpower, calls home. The city oozes might and mojo, for anything that Washington thinks and does at any given time can create ripples and even tsunamis across the globe. Little wonder then, that the city has a certain hip swagger, an optimistic can-do attitude of being able to change the course of events globally.
The Stars and Stripes whips and flutters everywhere; atop almost every monument ranging from memorials and museums in the National Mall area to the imposing Capitol Hill, the most powerful legislative body in the world, and the White House.
Yet this numero uno capital of the world has an aura of serendipity. If you are lucky enough, you may collide with a Hollywood star protesting some injustice at the embassy of a strife-torn African nation, or perhaps even a former American president savouring a quiet dinner in posh Georgetown. It is a city of corporate honchos and top decision makers, and people wear their hearts on their sleeves here.
Browse the National Mall area, the city’s great public space that has seen several protest rallies over the decades. The 3 km-long lawn, anchored at one end by the Lincoln Memorial and Capitol Hill on the other, is intersected by water bodies, the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument, a 555-ft needle-sharp obelisk. The Mall generally wears a festive look with families and friends sitting around picnic baskets, children playing a game of touch football, and parents and grandparents bonding with their loved ones.
The Smithsonian’s many museums, which line the eastern side of the National Mall, house staggering collections. Since it would take over a week to go through these storehouses of historic, natural and artistic treasures, we had to be selective and checked out just a few. The cluster of memorials on the western arm of the National Mall, on the other hand, is where the nation’s hopes and aspirations are engraved on the walls. They commemorate the leaders who guided the country. At the sprawling Roosevelt Memorial, we found ourselves smiling and our cameras clicking even as a little girl hammed it up, posing with the statues in the memorial. Behind them was a quote from the former president himself: “The test of our progress is… whether we provide enough to those who have too little.”
Inspiring words that shaped the destiny of this nation are everywhere you look. At the Martin Luther King Memorial, where the civil rights activist seems to break free of an enormous slab of rock; at the Lincoln Memorial, where the President who propagated equality and abolished slavery sits on a marble throne like a colossus; at the many-pillared Thomas Jefferson Memorial that overlooks the manmade Tidal Basin, whose shores are painted pink with 3,700 blooming cherry blossom trees…
We had a lucky break when the cherry blossoms, a gift from the Japanese government in 1912, bloomed earlier than usual – and we had the chance to stow away the magnificent sight in our memory banks forever!
A little later, we joined a selfie-clicking crowd behind the grilled fence around the White House. The lawns were empty except for a stony-faced security guard on the roof of the iconic building. In the distance, Capitol Hill flexed its muscular dome at a blue sky even as a reflection pool fielded its likeness in its waters. We were gazing at the twin seats of temporal political power; a power that brooks no contenders and where political theatre is played out day after day to a worldwide audience.
The author duo are seasoned travel writers and the views expressed in this article are their own