State 3: Maryland (Baltimore)

July 28, 2018

My trip to Baltimore was a huge success- I really enjoyed it. This was the trip I used my free ticket from Wanderu I won, so I opted for a train trip on Amtrak. I had a ticket worth $50 to anywhere and I was trying to get the most bang for my buck essentially. It was one of my first experiences (that I can remember) on Amtrak, too. The train ride down was absolutely gorgeous, with views of the Susquehanna River. Taking a train is definitely much nicer than a bus, obviously. Amtrak is definitely not much in comparison to the train systems in Europe. It’s a bit strange – they have it almost set up like an airport in Penn Station for Amtrak, just minus the security checks. After this trip, I think it’s worth it to pay the extra money for an early morning train at least on the way there.

Penn Station, and Midtown in general, is pretty spooky around 6 AM. The city is just eerily quiet with relatively empty streets. I stopped by a Dunkin Donuts and headed to the Amtrak waiting area. It was just enough time to eat my donut and then they were calling my train for boarding. It was a 3 hour trek down, so I made sure I got a window seat on the train. I got into Baltimore’s Penn Station around 1030 Am. I’m not sure why but it seems almost every East Coast city has a train station named Penn Station. I’m sure there is a reason – it seems to be too common to be pure coincidence. There is a bizarre statue of a human figure that towers out front of the Baltimore Penn Station. It is the “Male/Female” statue and has been called the “city’s best eyesore”

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Once again, I stopped by a Starbucks to grab breakfast (the usual) and made my way over to Mt. Vernon. It wasn’t too far of a walk and is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. It was originally home to the very wealthy of the city. I sat out front of the original Washington Monument and called my parents while I enjoyed the sunshine a bit. The original Washington Monument pales in comparison to the one in DC, but it is still cool to see nonetheless. I didn’t even know there was another Washington Monument outside of Washington.

Afterwards, I decided to walk down to Fell’s Point. It was a bit of a walk through a couple rougher neighborhoods, but again I feel like walking is always the best way to explore a city. I ended up walking past the Baltimore prison and had a sharp reminder of the city’s reputation and the recent struggles with the police. I will say, Baltimore has a pretty noticeable police force that’s is just everywhere. What really struck me while walking around Baltimore, was how much less “walkable” it is in comparison to cities like Philly and New York. I don’t know if it’s the number of harbors and waterways, but it was definitely harder to get from point a to point b in a straight line.

I finally made it to Fell’s Point and it was absolutely gorgeous. There was a farmer’s market and water taxis zigzagging across the water. I ended up buying myself a souvenir of sorts. I’m in the never-ending process of upgrading my apartment and have found a need for a key/purse hook by my door. I found a woman at the farmer’s market that had metal designs mounted on painted wood blocks. I bought one with a white anchor on baby blue wood. I’m very pleased with it- it’s very sturdy and it looks fabulous on my wall now.

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After checking out a couple more shops and just enjoying the waterfront, I decided to go find the Greyhound Station. Again it was a bit of a walk but I got to see more of the harbor. I also ended up walking by Camden Yards and the Ravens Stadium. There’s a really cool trail walk through some marshes by the stadium that ended up spitting me out right by the station. There was some really cool street art as well, all over the city. I did end up learning about National Bohemian beer as well, or Natty Boh, who’s logo is essentially a one-eye’d version of the Pringles logo. It’s now on the beer bucket list.

Once again I had booked my bus in advance. I got to the station about an hour ahead of my bus. Once I got indoors, I realized just how sunburnt I had gotten. I was luckily able to get on the next bus out, about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. A 3-hour train ride down and a 4-hour bus ride back was ultimately hassle-free and gave me plenty of time to explore the city.

I will admit, I went into Baltimore with relatively low expectations. With the recent news of all the tensions with police and shows, like The Wire, I was really expecting a pretty rough town. Parts of the city are really nice. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely parts you should steer clear of but there are definitely parts that are really pretty and enjoyable. I was also struck by the amount of Revolutionary and Civil War history all over the city. You forget that Maryland was a slave state in the Civil War. Walking around Baltimore, you are really struck by the amount of African-American history as well. I really enjoyed my time in Baltimore and found the Chesapeake Bay region really pretty. I can say I visited the largest city in Maryland and learned some things about my own country along the way too.

Lesson learned:

5. Remember sunscreen

6. Travel Light