Quick Trip: Baltimore (by Carmen)
Stop # 2 on our July 2015 East Coast Tour.
As we pulled out of the parking lot at the Baltimore train station, we found ourselves in a lively art deco main street full of cozy, dim restaurants beckoning one to come in and stay for a while. Merely a few blocks later we were edging past hundreds of people marching down the street, protesting the legacy of institutionalized racism. A few blocks more and we found ourselves on the set of The Wire. Ok, not really but with the burned out buildings and loitering it certainly felt that way. It was a lot to take in within the first 10 minutes of being in a city – the highs, lows and turmoil of Baltimore are all co-mingling and butting up against one another.
Baltimore hadn’t been high on my list of places to visit but a family reunion brought me, Nathan and my dad to the area. Turns out that a good chunk of my great-great-grandparents’ descendants are now located in or around Maryland. So this past July we met up for the first time in 15 years for a grand picnic in the countryside west of Baltimore. It was wonderful to reconnect and learn about the wonderful accomplishments of extended family – whether it’s the great-great-uncle that still plays softball in his 80s or the distant cousin doing NGO work in Botswana. It always amazes me how strong the bonds of family are, no matter how long it has been or how distant they are.
On our way back to NYC the next day we made a stop in Ellicott City. None of us had heard of this town before; we had merely seen a historic landmark sign marking its exit on the highway. Our curiosity led us to discover a historic valley town that looked like it hadn’t changed much in the past 150 years. We walked down the Main Street, read about the old mill that had instigated the town, and finally ended up at a museum housed in a tiny railroad station. By chance, we had found the oldest railroad station in America! You can imagine this transit nerd’s excitement. A civil war era dressed guide explained that the earliest trains carried a dozen passengers and were pulled by horses at rocking 6 miles per hour. Much faster, apparently, than the road between Ellicott and the ports of Baltimore. Hard to imagine in this day and age where one can fly 3000 miles in 6 hours.
Back in the city, we had just enough time to visit Fells Point, a historic port area full of brick row houses and cobbled streets. We were on a mission for crabs, the seafood Maryland is famous for. Our goal took us to the Thames Street Oyster House where we loaded up on crabcake sandwiches. They were tender and savory, piled on soft buns – everything we wanted.
Thanks Baltimore for giving me new family connections, a train history lesson, and the crabcakes I’ve always dreamed of :)