the hardscrabble side of baltimore

Saturday, March 22:  Today, in honor of Restless Jo’s Monday Walks, I take a photo walk in Baltimore with the Washington Photography Group. Granted, it’s not a Monday, but as Monday is my fruitless job search day, I have to go on the weekend.  A group of nearly 30 photographers heads out to explore and document the gritty side of the city.

Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland and the 26th largest city in the country.  We walk through one of the more hardscrabble neighborhoods, with abandoned buildings, street art, and small neighborhood businesses in various states of disrepair.  Walking around this part of the city feels gritty and real, unlike the gentrified Baltimore Inner harbor and the generic, characterless suburbs found throughout America.  This is an American working class neighborhood at its most interesting.

Baltimore street art
Baltimore street art
Baltimore signage
Baltimore signage
more street art
more street art
Baltimore
Baltimore
Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland
buildings in Baltimore
buildings in Baltimore
fire alarm
fire alarm
building in blue
building in blue
happy boys
happy boys
Braider on duty
Braider on duty
street lines
street lines
monsters and old cars
monsters and old cars
A Tree Grows in Baltimore
A Tree Grows in Baltimore
tree trunk on a brick wall
tree trunk on a brick wall
strolling on a Saturday
strolling on a Saturday

We head into Lexington Market to explore.  According to Wikipedia, Lexington Market is one of the longest continuously running markets in the world, having been around since 1782.  Many people believe Lexington Market shows the “real” Baltimore’s personality, as opposed to the more generic and tourist-oriented attractions found at the nearby Inner Harbor.  The market hosts small eateries and stands selling fish, produce, meat, baked goods, and candy.  There’s plenty of local color to go around here, along with jazz and rock-n-roll music played at Friday and Saturday lunch hours.

After we leave Lexington Market, we stroll down to the Inner Harbor, where it’s a little dreary and not a great day for pictures.  We pass the castle-like turret of the old Emerson Bromo Seltzer Tower, built in 1911 and once the tallest building in Baltimore.  It was supposedly modeled after the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy.  Captain Isaac Emerson, the inventor of the headache remedy, built the Bromo Seltzer Tower.  It now houses studio spaces for visual and literary artists and is known as the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. (Bromo Seltzer Tower)

the old Bromo Seltzer Building
the old Bromo Seltzer Building
Olive Breweries Ltd.
Olive Breweries Ltd.
Outdoor tables at Oliver Breweries Ltd.
Outdoor tables at Oliver Breweries Ltd.
stop and go and leading lights
stop and go and leading lines
the Baltimore Waterfront
the Baltimore Inner Harbor
Baltimore waterfront
Baltimore Inner Harbor

The Inner Harbor is certainly nice, but it’s not what we came here to see today. If you want to see more of the Inner Harbor on a nice sunny day, you can check out my previous post: baltimore’s inner harbor {by day}.

We head back up into the city, passing by more scrubby buildings.

Baltimore streets
Baltimore streets
more wall art
more wall art
steam
steam
China D LL Restaurant
China D LL Restaurant
George the Tailor
George the Tailor
Baltimore Street Art
Baltimore Street Art
more street art
more street art
abandoned Mayfair theater
abandoned Mayfair theater

We meet back at the parking lot at noon, and a few of us decide to return to John W. Faidley Seafood at Lexington Market to sample Baltimore’s best crab cakes.  I can vouch that they are in fact delectable. 🙂

Most of the group decides to go for pizza on the way to Green Mount Cemetery.  They must really enjoy their pizza, because when the three of us who ate the crab cakes arrive at the cemetery, the rest of the group is nowhere to be seen.  I’m tired by this time from all our walking, and so I only drop in briefly at the cemetery, after finding a few interesting buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Baltimore street art near Green Mount Cemetery
Baltimore street art near Green Mount Cemetery
Street art near Green Mount Cemetery
Street art near Green Mount Cemetery

Green Mount Cemetery, officially dedicated in 1839, is the final resting place of more than 65,000 people.  According to the brochure, within its walls are the remains of “statesmen, captains of industry, philanthropists, artists, authors, military leaders, and even a presidential assassin (John Wilkes Booth) and his co-conspirators.”  Elijah Jefferson Bond, patentee of the Ouija Board is buried here.

Green Mount Cemetery
Green Mount Cemetery
Green Mount Cemetery
Green Mount Cemetery

I head back home after this, my poor legs feeling like rubber.  It’s one of our few days between snowstorms around here, so I’m happy I’m able to get out and explore a part of the city I’ve never seen before.

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weekly photo challenge: one

Sunday, December 22:  The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is One.  Writes Michelle of WordPress: This week, we want to see photos that focus on one thing. Maybe you’ve got a stark photo of a single tree silhouetted against the setting sun, or a lone sandpiper wandering the beach as waves crash. Perhaps you’ve caught your mother sitting by herself in a moment of quiet contemplation. Maybe you saw a basket of wriggling puppies, and got a photo with a single fuzzy face in focus.

I loved the look of this one red lionfish at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  According to National Geographic, if attacked, a lionfish delivers a potent venom via its needle-like dorsal fins. Its sting is extremely painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing difficulties, but is rarely fatal.

Red Lionfish, properly known as Pterois volitans
Red Lionfish, properly known as Pterois volitans

Lionfish, also called turkey fish, dragon fish and scorpion fish, are native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the Indo-Pacific, although they’ve found their way to warm ocean habitats worldwide (National Geographic: Lionfish).

baltimore’s inner harbor {by night}

Thursday, December 19:  After I finish visiting the National Aquarium, I walk back around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in the dark.  I love how the harbor looks at night, with the reflections in the water and the buildings and street lamps all aglow.

Barnes & Noble and Hard Rock Cafe
Barnes & Noble and Hard Rock Cafe

Strangely enough, there don’t seem to be many Christmas decorations here, despite it being only a week before Christmas.

some of the only Christmas lights I find
some of the only Christmas lights I find
Inner Harbor by night
Inner Harbor by night
shopping arcades at the Inner Harbor
shopping arcades at the Inner Harbor
Shopping around the Inner Harbor
Shopping around the Inner Harbor
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
nighttime reflections at the Inner Harbor
nighttime reflections at the Inner Harbor

I stop in at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for an appetizer of Cajun shrimp and a Blue Moon. The Cajun shrimp and the dipping bread are delicious!!  As is the Blue Moon.  I seem to have the restaurant all to myself tonight.

inside the bar at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
inside the bar at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

The waitress tells me that when I want her to come by my table, to flip the sign on the table that says “Stop Forrest Stop.”  When all is well, I should flip to “Run Forrest Run.”

The waitress says in order for me to become a true Bubba Gump patron, I must pass a quiz.  It’s so pathetic how bad my memory can be sometimes.

She asks first: “Who plays Forrest Gump in the movie?”  Of course I know who it is, but for some reason, his name has slipped out of my slippery mind.  She says, his initials are T.H.  I say, “Snap!  Of course, Tom Hanks!”

The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co
The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co

Second question: “Who is Forrest’s girlfriend in the movie?”  Blank mind again!  She says, “Rhymes with Penny.”  Oh… Jenny!

Third: “Who are Forrest’s two best friends?”  Duh.  I can’t seem to remember anything about this movie.  I guess it has been too many years since I’ve seen it.  She has to tell me: “Captain Dan and… Bubba!”  Well, of course.  Here I am in the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, after all.

Love it!
Love it!

Finally: “Which war is being fought in the movie?”  Finally, one question I get: the Vietnam War.

I don’t think I passed the quiz, so I’m doomed to be excluded as a patron from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. 😦

reflections
reflections

When I walk back to my car in the parking garage, I take one parting shot of downtown Baltimore, and I quite like how it turns out.

parting shots
parting shots

I’ve been parked for about 7 hours, and the parking fee?  $20!  I’m telling you, things have really gotten expensive in the USA in my absence. 😦

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baltimore’s inner harbor {by day}

Thursday, December 19:  Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a historic seaport, tourist attraction and landmark.  It was described by the Urban Land Institute in 2009 as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world (Wikipedia: Inner Harbor).”

There are numerous attractions at the Inner Harbor, including the Maryland Science Center, water cruises, the National Aquarium, restaurants galore and the observation deck on the 27th floor of the World Trade Center of Baltimore.  Since I came today for the Christmas Market, I enjoy just walking around taking pictures of the picturesque harbor, stopping at the National Aquarium and having a light dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

the Baltimore Visitor's Center
the Baltimore Visitor’s Center
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
high rises around the Inner Harbor
high rises around the Inner Harbor
the Chesapeake and Barnes & Noble
the Chesapeake and Barnes & Noble
The Constellation
The Constellation
view of Ripley's Believe It or Not through the rigging of the Constellation
view of Ripley’s Believe It or Not through the rigging of the Constellation
Shopping arcades in the Inner Harbor
Shopping arcades in the Inner Harbor
more reflections
more reflections ~ the World Trade Center of Baltimore & the National Aquarium
marina and businesses
marina and businesses
downtown
downtown
cruise boats
cruise boat
reflections of the Inner Harbor
reflections of the Inner Harbor
reflections
reflections
the moored Constellation
the moored Constellation
the Constellation and the Baltimore World Trade Center
the Constellation and the World Trade Center of Baltimore
Constellation and Baltimore World Trade Center
Constellation and World Trade Center of Baltimore
Chesapeake
Chesapeake
submarine
submarine in front of the National Aquarium

I find the Inner Harbor so picturesque, I think I’m going to spend more time exploring what Baltimore has to offer.

When I come out of the National Aquarium, it’s dark.  The after dark version will follow in another post. 🙂

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the national aquarium in baltimore

Thursday, December 19:  The sign on the counter at Baltimore’s National Aquarium features The Great Salmon Run 4D Experience.  At the bottom of the sign is the price: $5.  I ask the ticket saleswoman, “How late does the aquarium stay open?  What time does this film start?” as I pull out my wallet.  She says that film isn’t playing any more today; the only showing remaining today is Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas 4D at 4:15, and the aquarium closes at 5:30, with 4:00 the last entrance time; it’s 3:30 at this time.  I guess I’m not listening very well, because I’m thinking I’m going to pay for the Salmon film. I pull out my wallet.

Baltimore's National Aquarium
Baltimore’s National Aquarium

I take out the remaining cash in my wallet after having spent most of what I had at the Christmas market.  I carefully count out five ones, leaving me $3.  I say, “I guess I’m cleaned out for today!” after showing her my three remaining ones.  I put the remaining bits away, satisfied that I had enough to pay for the aquarium.

The woman looks at me, holding my five ones in her hand.  She says calmly, “That’ll be $34.95.”

What???

“The $5 only covers the cost of the film.  The entrance fee to the aquarium is $34.95.”

Oh. I better rethink this, I tell her, and I walk outside to contemplate.

Baltimore's National Aquarium ~ contemplating: should I or shouldn't I?
Baltimore’s National Aquarium ~ contemplating: should I or shouldn’t I?

I walk out along the front of the aquarium, looking out over the Inner Harbor.  I’ve been here before but it’s been years.  Should I bother again?  $34.95??!!  As I walk along the walkway in front of the aquarium, I see a mother and daughter exiting the building.  I ask, “Do you mind me asking, is it worth it?  I was going to go in but when I found out the price, I had to rethink.”

The woman says, “Well, there are some really amazing things to see in there.  I know the price is high, but I think it’s worth it.”

I pace a little more back and forth.  And then I take the plunge, going back in to the same ticket lady and handing over my debit card.  “I guess I’m in after all,” I tell her.  “I was just shocked because I’m used to Washington’s free museums.”

She says, “Sorry.  This one ain’t free.”

Later, this incident cracks me up.  When I think about so earnestly pulling out my $5 and handing it to the ticket lady; she must have thought I was crazy, and deluded!

I go in and find the dolphin training session in progress, which honestly isn’t very exciting and is quite warm and humid.  The training session is short, and afterwards I head to the small Jellies Invasion exhibit, with its amazing jellyfish.

Welcome to the Jellies Invasion
Welcome to the Jellies Invasion

Translucent jellies live in every ocean, thrive in coastal and open waters, and even live in fresh water. Because of recent changes to jellies populations including massive swarms, voracious eating habits, and habitat invasions, jellies are changing the balance of the Earth’s aquatic ecosystems.

Moon jellies are translucent white with a saucer-shaped bell.

Jellies Invasion – Moon Jellies

Giant northern sea nettles can have tentacles as long as 10 feet.

Jellyfish at Jellies Invasion
Northern Sea Nettles at Jellies Invasion

Next stop: Animal Planet Australia, depicting a typical northern Australia river gorge. Here, I find freshwater crocodiles, turtles, fishes, snakes, lizards, free-flying birds, and flying foxes. Many of these unique and unusual animals are found only in Australia.

reflections: Animal Planet Australia
reflections: Animal Planet Australia

According the Carol of The Eternal Traveller, who’s from Australia, the pink and grey bird shown below is a galah (pronounced ga-lar, with a short vowel sound in the first syllable and the emphasis on the second syllable). Carol loves galahs: “They are very cheeky and their colours are beautiful. They live in large flocks and are infamous for eating farmers’ grain crops.”

bird in Animal Planet Australia
galah in Animal Planet Australia
Turtles in Animal Planet Australia
Turtles in Animal Planet Australia

Stop three, Blacktip Reef: This coral-filled exhibit, replicating Indo-Pacific reefs, is active with life that guests can experience from many vantage points, including a new floor-to-ceiling pop-out viewing window that allows guests to virtually come face-to-face with the animals.

Honeycomb Stingray in Blacktip Reef
Honeycomb Stingray in Blacktip Reef
Blacktip Reef Sharks?
Blacktip Reef Sharks
sharks in Blacktip Reef
sharks in Blacktip Reef

The North Atlantic to Pacific exhibit is quite extensive, with a plethora of feasts for the eye.  I’m glad I’m here on a weekday so I can enjoy the exhibits without crowds.

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slideshow.

Finally, I head to the Amazon River Forest, which portrays an Amazon tributary at the beginning stage of its seasonal flooding into the surrounding forest. One-third of the world’s animal species call the Amazon Basin home, including the emerald tree boa, hungry piranha, and dwarf caiman. Two small displays portray identical slices of the river forest: one in the rainy season, and the other in the dry season.

Amazon River Forest
Amazon River Forest
Turtles in the Amazon River Forest
Turtles in the Amazon River Forest
turtles and fish
turtles and fish
polka dot skate with a turtle friend
polka dot skate with a turtle friend

As I’m departing the aquarium, I find a cool display as you go down the escalator; the view changes as I go down.

escalator down
escalator down
changing views on the escalator
changing views on the escalator
a world of amazing sights
a world of amazing sights

Last, I circle around and around Shark Alley.  Sharks of varying sizes and species slowly encircle visitors inside this 225,000-gallon, ring-shaped exhibit.  It’s hard to get pictures as it’s very dark and the sharks are speedy swimmers.

coral reef and shark
sand tiger shark and coral reef

I loved this shark exhibit with its moody music, taking me on a walk of serenity, almost as if walking a labyrinth.

So, was the aquarium worth the $34.95?  Yes, it most definitely was.  It was one of the most serene experiences I’ve had in a long time. 🙂

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the christmas village in baltimore

Thursday, December 19:  I first read of the Christmas Village in Baltimore in the December 8 edition of the Washington Post Travel Section, in “Two villages of good cheer, in Md. and Pa.”  The article followed the headline article about the Christmas markets in Nuremberg, Germany.  Of course the idea of sampling a bit of Europe here in America enticed me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about when I could squeeze in a trip to visit the market in Baltimore, as well as the one in Philadelphia, a city to which I’ve never been despite it being less than 3 hours from northern Virginia.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

According to the Post article by Andrea Sachs, these are a pair of “German-inflected colonies featuring crafts, local and Deutschland foods, toe-warming beverages and decorative lights as bright as a diamond tiara.”

On this Thursday morning, I deposit myself at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor after about an hour and 20 minute drive.  At first sight, all I see is the harbor, the Legg Mason Building and other gleaming skyscrapers, rippling reflections of buildings and boats in the water, and the Maryland Science Center with a big sign for its Mummies of the World exhibition.  Finally, tucked in a little spot off the wide paved walkway, I find the Christmas market.  It seems a small affair, with a smattering of 14 open front timber shops strung with greenery, colored ornaments and white lights, open to the cold air.  Some of the luckier vendors, 29 out of the 43, are inside a heated tent strung with festive white lights.

Inner Harbor and marina
Inner Harbor and marina
walkway around the Inner Harbor
walkway around the Inner Harbor

In the outdoor part of the market, I find vendors offering landscapes on plexiglass; German Gluhwine, hot chocolate and apple cider; works of art and handmade felts, knits, and wovens, as well as bags handmade from recycled jute, hemp and cotton — all from Nepal; glass Christmas ornaments from Egypt; glass jewelry; Russian Christmas ornaments, nested dolls, wooden ornaments, amber jewelry, wooden carved Santas; homemade soap and body butter; and South American woolens.  It’s a truly international market!

Nepalese hats
Nepalese hats
German houses
German houses
German houses
German houses

My first stop is Alpaca Girl, a shop selling alpaca fashion, scarves and soft teddy bears.  A young woman sits wrapped in a woolen poncho, totally engrossed in her cell phone.  She can’t even look up to offer some Christmas cheer, so although I think of buying a warm wool scarf for my mother-in-law, I don’t want to bother with someone so, well, uninterested in a sale.

I ask the vendor at Norden Arts if he’s Nepalese and he tells me, yes, he is.  I say that I was just there in January, in Kathmandu and Pokhara, and he perfunctorily says, yes, it’s beautiful isn’t it?  Then he goes back to the business of selling. It’s strange because I can’t imagine there are many people in America who have actually visited his home country.

It seems to me that vendors these days need to learn the art of small talk.  At both of the above shops, I considered buying something, but was put off by the all-business attitude of the vendors.

the outdoor Christmas market
the outdoor Christmas market
the entrance to the big tent
the entrance to the big tent

I wander inside the big tent where I find numerous other vendors, but the first one that catches my eye, and my nose, is The German Grill, selling bratwurst and sauerkraut.  As it’s just after noon, I order the bratwurst and sauerkraut, and a Hofbräu Original.  It’s not too early for a beer, is it?

bratwurst, sauerkraut and beer
bratwurst, sauerkraut and beer
Yuengling Beer and Hofbräu Original
Yuengling Beer and Hofbräu Original

Wandering around the inner part of the tent, I find Sylca Designs, a booth selling jewelry and woolen ponchos.  The owner says she designs everything herself and she’s friendly and welcoming without pressuring.  I buy a poncho for my mother-in-law and some earrings for myself (from Santa!).  I find another friendly vendor at Nut’n’better, selling roasted almonds, nuts, and sweets, and offering samples to potential customers.  There I buy four packages of cinnamon encrusted almonds.

I wander into the tent’s anchor shop, Kaethe Wohlfahrt, which sells incense smokers, nutcrackers, pyramids, Schwibbogen, music boxes, wooden and glass ornaments.  I snap a picture of a mural of the medieval town of Rothenburg on the back wall.  As I aim my camera at a pretty display of nutcrackers, the sales girl tells me no photos are allowed.  I say, that’s a shame, because I’m writing a blog about the market.

the mural of Rothenburg at Kathe Wohlfahrt
the mural of Rothenburg at Kathe Wohlfahrt

It seems unless you’re a writer for the Washington Post, you have no clout here.  I don’t know why vendors try to prohibit people from taking photos of their goods; they will only benefit with the wide array of social networking used by most everyone these days.  People will inevitably post their pictures on Facebook, Instagram, blogs, Twitter, or PinInterest, giving their business free publicity.  It seems these vendors could use some marketing lessons.

Meanwhile, in another shop nearby, I find a woman from Ukraine who sells pretty Russian and Ukrainian nesting dolls and Santas. She is very friendly, and not pushy at all, and though I don’t buy anything from her, I’m tempted to support her just because of her warmth and good cheer.

Ukranian and Russian figures
Ukranian and Russian figures
mulled wine and egg nog for sale
mulled wine and egg nog for sale

There are lots of gifts to be found here in the Christmas Market in Baltimore, but to be honest, I had more fun just wandering around the Inner Harbor, visiting the National Aquarium and eating a light dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory (stay tuned for more on the Inner Harbor).

By the time I leave the Inner Harbor, it’s dark and I pass by a sprinkling of festive lights.  Walking back through the Christmas market on my way to the parking garage, I find the only Christmas tree I’ve seen in the entire Inner Harbor.

nighttime at the Christmas market
nighttime at the Christmas market
Gifts from Afar
Gifts from Afar
the only Christmas tree I find at the Inner Harbor
the only Christmas tree I find at the Inner Harbor

Europe it’s not, but it is a nice little outing if you’re looking for some gifts from afar.

The Christmas Village in Baltimore is at the Inner Harbor, 501 Light Street.  Check out Christmas Village in Baltimore for details.  Open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Free weekdays; $1-$5 weekends.  Closes December 24.

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