1999 United States – New York

A Taste of the Big Apple…

What can I say about New York which has not been said already. It’s mesmerizing, stunning, boiling, surprising, entertaining, fast moving and awake 24 hours a day!

In February 1999 I stayed 6 days in the “Capital of the world”. To be honest I didn’t know what to expect so I arrived in the Big Apple without prejudice and with total lack of a fixed plan. It was a bloody cold experience as it was freezing but I can’t complain as on most days the sky was totally clear which offered exceptional possibilities for photographing. During those 6 days I started to discover and appreciate the things NYC has to offer. Wandering through the different neighborhoods I was stunned with the big differences in atmosphere between them.

Lower Manhattan breathes a typical business district atmosphere. Wall Street without doubt being the best known trade mark it was fantastic walking through the narrow streets which are being dominated by the two big towers of the World Trade Centre.

Of course I took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island. I was lucky doing that on a day with a crystal blue sky which made the trip even more special. Finally I was able to see the world-famous skyline of New York with my own two eyes. Yes, I was impressed!

Without doubt the Twin Towers were the dominating factor in the New York skyline so there was no way I could leave the big apple without having had a view from the top. The queue to the elevators was enormous but it was worth the wait.

Another stunning point of view was offered while I wandered over the Brooklyn Bridge. The cables of the bridge created an almost graphical impression.

Walking into northern direction I ended up in Chinatown. It was amazing to suddenly find myself in an area with a total different atmosphere. Nothing reminded of NYC anymore if it was not the ever dominating skyscrapers which could be seen between the houses. With a little bit of imagination I could have been somewhere in Asia. I don’t need to say I enjoyed an excellent lunch over here.

Another favorite neighborhood was Greenwich village, The houses were nicely maintained and created an atmosphere of past times when there were no skyscrapers yet. Washington Square Park was a great place to relax from all the impressions which were constantly attacking me. I enjoyed the little park where dogs were allowed to run free while their owners talked to each other or just relaxed and read a newspaper.

In Midtown the Skyscrapers dominate once again. The most famous one being without doubt the Empire State building. Standing at the balcony on the 102nd floor certainly offers a breathtaking view of Manhattan and beyond. St Patrick’s Cathedral seems to be a dwarf compared with the Rockefeller Center which is only 2 blocks away. I was thrilled finding the Radio City Music Hall and the Carnegie Hall, world famous venues.

On of the most vivid places of New York is without doubt Times Square, located on Broadway in the heart of the theatre district. At night this place is at it’s most beautiful with the amazing collection of billboards and advertising banners screaming for attention. All the big shows are playing in this area, it’s almost impossible to make a choice. I decided to visit Cats, Broadway’s longest running show and it turned out to be a good choice. A wonderful show with fantastic costumes and dance. The only pity is that I had some difficulties of following the storyline.

At one of the evenings I decided to go to a slightly different show and went to see Stomp, an off Broadway. show which played at the Orpheum theatre in east Village. I had vaguely heard of the show and did not know what to expect at all. “a unique combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy” Well, that can be a lot. From the very first minute on I enjoyed the show a lot. In stead of instruments common objects like brooms, matchboxes, sticks and barrels were used to create an astonishing musical experience full of humor, audience participation and unexpected events. Certainly one of the highlights of my stay!

Although it was unfortunately a short one I was fascinated by the guided tour at the United Nations. It was very interesting to get an insight of how the UN works and being in the rooms where the Security counsel, The Economic Council and the General council meet was definitely a special experience.

No visit to New York would be complete without a visit to Central Park. I strolled over the beautifully prepared paths, watched the squirrels, saw people skating, jogging or just enjoying the moment. No wonder this park attracts so many people who just need a quick breath from the high pace of living in New York. Although I’m not a Beatles fan at all it was a special moment to find Strawberry fields with the memorials for John Lennon.

I must admit, I had second thoughts of going to Harlem.Still I decided to do so on my very last day. Walking through the area I found the famous Apollo theatre where a long time ago James Brown was discovered when he played on one of the Wednesday evening amateur nights. Unfortunately the Cotton Club was torn down but instead I enjoyed the numerous “soul food” restaurants, the shops and people. It seemed there was a friendlier, more open atmosphere then in the rest of NYC. People were greeting each other which I hadn’t seen before… Although being white I never felt uncomfortable in this predominantly black neighborhood. I left with the good feeling why I ever was worried to go over there at all.

It’s impossible to describe all the impressions I had of New York within a single page. Mesmerizing, stunning, boiling, surprising, entertaining, fast moving and awake 24 hours a day! Yes, it certainly is, but I was also deeply impressed by the number of homeless people and beggars on the street. Apparently life in the fast lane creates a lot of mental dropouts. People who can’t stand the daily pressure anymore fall out of the system and end up on the street. This is also one of the many faces of New York, not the nicest one but difficult to ignore.

Six days, enough to get a taste of the Big Apple. I must say I really enjoyed it. The amazing amount of impressions are still haunting me and more than a week after my visit I could still feel my tortured feet. It was certainly worth the trip. I arrived with no expectations at all but I left with loads of memories. Wonderful, stunning, beautiful memories but also sad ones. I think that is exactly what New York is about. Next time I see it’s skyline on TV will never be the same again. New York… it’s good to know you a little bit.