Friday, November 20, 2009

Bright Lights, Kinda Scary City

Magnet # 97:  Downtown Baltimore

Material:  Wood, Laminated Paper

Purchased By:  Me

I guess I should have planned my posts about the cities I visited on my Mid-Atlantic trip a bit better, as I now realize I have not exactly saved the best for last. While I realize there are plenty of folks out there who love Baltimore, on my trip there, I was regrettably not one of them. My first encounter with one of its citizens - a cabbie who cussed me out for getting held up by traffic -didn't help. That's really not the kind of drivers I've dealt with here in the South. Fortunately, the hotel I was staying at, the Best Western Hotel & Conference Center, had a shuttle that I booked a stay there for specifically, so I did not have to drive through the city again. The shuttle driver was a very nice guy (he was originally from Charlottesville), but one of my companions seemed to scoff at my naivete in visiting there alone and impressed upon me the dangers of this city. By the time he was done, I was a little scared. Seeing some of the worst sections of town during our ride didn't help. Maybe it was good that, during the rest of my short stay there, I was on guard and very cautious about where I went.

The Inner Harbor, pictured on this magnet, is perhaps Baltimore's biggest tourist attraction, and seemed like a pretty safe place to me. I noticed a visible sign of police officers and security officers as I went through the National Aquarium and shopped at Harborplace.  Unfortunately, I only got to spend a couple of hours there until it was time to catch the shuttle so I could move onto Richmond.  In retrospect, it might have been a better idea to travel down there at eight because I probably would have gotten there around nine, when the attractions start to open,  But over the course of my trip, I kept getting to places before they opened and wandering around until then.  I was just too nervous about Baltimore to do that.  But, in retrospect, I think this is one fairly safe area of the city, and it was pretty fun to visit.

I imagine there are some proud citizens of Baltimore out there who might laugh at my trepidation about their city. But, as a friend reminded me when I got back, this place was the setting for The Wire, a very dark show on HBO that was filmed on location and didn't shy away from portraying just how dark the city can be.  He said just watching the show had even made him wary about Baltimore. Of course, there are some great attractions to be seen in this city, but I recommend a bit of caution in visiting it, perhaps even staying at a hotel close to the Inner Harbor or at one with a shuttle. I guess one truth about myself that I learned during this trip is that I prefer charming, small towns to large, bustling cities. And that's good to know as I plan future trips. I won't completely avoid big cities, but I intend to be more diligent in planning my stay in them than in other, less populated locales. And that's not to say that crime just happens in these big cities - even smaller ones can have plenty of crime (a fact I've continually had impressed upon me during my time in Savannah). I think in subsequent visits to large cities, I might not travel alone, or allow myself more time, or perhaps even fly in and stay at a hotel with a shuttle. And I might even try to get back to Baltimore again someday.  It would be nice to have another chance to see the USS Constellation, their Poe House and Museum, and other noteworthy sites of the city.

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