Saturday, March 10, 2007

Washington DC

Your humble correspondent is back from the trip to the U.S. capital. It was my first visit to DC. The main point of the visit was great. I only had a couple of hours for tourism so it was fine that only 200 pictures were available on my digital camera's memory card.

Although the bureaucratic hassle with another flight of mine at Boston's international airport was exhausting (and no results so far), Washington DC turned out to be a great plaster for any kind of anxiety although, I must admit, the great impression could have been affected by the perfectly clear sky in Washington (combined with cool weather). The BOS-DCA flight was only delayed by one hour and they only stole my deodorant. ;-) You are not allowed to have any cans with more than 33 milliliters of liquids when you fly to DC.

Washington: what to see and how to see

Their airport is old-fashioned and fancy but I really liked their Metro. It's so much prettier than Boston's subway. The Metro doesn't create any obnoxious noise when arriving to a station. Also, a LED display informs you when the next three trains come (the gap is usually 3 minutes or so). There are about five lines distinguished by colors - and I think that the blue line is the most important one. Various segments of this line overlap with the orange line and the yellow line, respectively. If you need to switch to the red line for some reason, the "Metro Center" station is the place to go.

It is useful to buy a one-day pass for $6.50 in the vendor machines but there are several subtleties that I found confusing. First of all, the machine sometimes sells you an ordinary farecard: I guess that this is always the case after 1 pm or so. The farecard says "farecard value", the paper is purple, and the arrow showing how to insert the farecard is a large white arrow on black background. The one-day pass, on the other hand, is printed on white paper. It says "one-day pass" and the arrow is a small white arrow on orange background. Also, you should know that the one-day pass only works from 9:30 am (exactly).

On the blue line, you find the "Ronald Reagan National Airport" station. One of the next stations is the Pentagon. Pentagon is such a huge building that you can't even determine its pentagon-like shape by local measurements. From a generic perspective, the building looks rather ordinary. The center of the town is organized into a grid of streets, labeled by numbers and letters, respectively. There are always some exceptions that don't respect the grid - e.g. the Massachusetts Avenue.

As far as I can say, the most spectacular part of the city is the vicinity of the "Smithsonian" station on the blue line. The fresh, nearly empty line segment connecting the Washington Monument with the Capitol (the U.S. Parliament) is surrounded by a huge number of museums, memorials, and U.S. government buildings - and the White House is not far either (I couldn't get into the house). I simply loved the Capitol and the Capitol area.

A Czechoslovak guy like myself couldn't miss a rather modest - but not quite modest - triangle between the 22th street and P,Q streets with the statue of the first Czechoslovak president, Prof Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, which was pretty close to my hotel.

The lunch organized by the Czech authorities was very pleasant and I was lucky to meet not only the main person of the lunch but also other people whose names I respect although I have known them from the media and Internet only. A Czech (attractive) waitress called Blanka was serving us. She told me it was a pure coincidence that the restaurant had a Czech waitress. It's a kind of an incredible coincidence, isn't it?

On Friday at 4 pm, I also attended Prof Klaus' talk at the libertarian CATO institute. Their building is very modern and the people who organize the events are very pleasant. The lecture hall was full or almost full and the discussions in the room showed that the participants liked the talk quite a lot. Some people mentioned that it was refreshing to see a talk by a person who speaks like an academician - the Czech president certainly does.

Weblog: chats

It is also very nice to see that there has been a nice discussion of many of you here, thanks for that.

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