Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated by Lucy (lucyjbarclay.wordpress.com) for the Liebster Award–thank you for thinking of me, Lucy!

liebsteraward

The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to bloggers, and it is designed to promote blogs with smaller followings.

The Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Answer questions from the nominator
  • Nominate 11 blogs with a smaller following (under 200 followers)
  • Create 11 questions for your nominees
  • Let the bloggers know they have been nominated

Lucy’s Questions to Me:

  1. If money was no object, where in the world would you travel to first? Such a tough one, especially considering this is a travel blog! I played a similar thought game in a previous post, and I’m going to stick with that and say either the Galápagos Islands or New Zealand.
  2. What is your favourite film and why? This certainly changes depending on my mood, but for right now I’d have to say The Big Lebowski. It’s hilarious, endlessly quotable, has great music, and just generally makes me happy.
  3. If you could change one decision you have made in your life what would it be? Oooh, there are a few answers to this that are far too personal to share here! But I will say that when I was 10 I had the opportunity to go to Russia for two weeks, and I didn’t go because I was terrified of flying. I’ve always regretted that one.
  4. What is your favourite cuisine and why? Chinese, because it’s so versatile, has amazingly complex flavors, and you can find it anywhere.
  5. What is your ultimate goal for your life and career? My ultimate goal is just to be happy, in whatever form that takes.
  6. If you could only have one dream for the rest of your life, what would it be? I’m assuming this means actual nighttime dream, and I think I’d rather have a pretty mundane one because whenever I awake after an exciting dream I’m terribly disappointed to find it wasn’t real.
  7. What do you think makes a person successful? A little corny, but if you enjoy your life than I think you are successful.
  8. If you could learn another language, what would it be and why? Probably Mandarin, because I have attempted to learn it multiple times in my life and have never been particularly successful.
  9. What is the most experimental dish you have ever cooked? Hot Pot!
  10. What has been the most challenging decision you have ever made? There are a lot of them, but one that comes to mind is deciding to go back to graduate school.
  11. What is the most important element of your life? Travel—seeing new places, meeting new people, having new experiences.

My Nominations:

I nominate the following bloggers to take part in this exercise. If I’ve misinterpreted your follower count, or you’ve already been nominated, or you have no interest in doing this, I apologize! (I’m also only nominating three people, because 11 seems like an absurdly cumbersome number.)

My Questions to You:

  1. What destination do you most want to visit and why?
  2. What is your happiest memory?
  3. What book are you currently reading?
  4. What is your ideal way to spend a Saturday?
  5. How many languages can you speak?
  6. What do you do for a living?
  7. What do you want to do for a living?
  8. What is your favorite cuisine?
  9. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
  10. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  11. Beer or wine?

Can’t wait to read your answers!

Mondays in Maryland: The Medical Museum

“All specimens of morbid anatomy.”

For more than 150 years, the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, has collected objects of a peculiar medical nature.

This collection began during the Civil War. Just like today’s medical personnel, nineteenth-century doctors were eager for any new knowledge that could improve how they cared for and treated patients. And so the US Army Surgeon General issued a directive to gather “all specimens of morbid anatomy” from the war’s battlegrounds so that they would be preserved for future study.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine–then called the Army Medical Museum–was established with the mission to acquire photographs, anatomical specimens, bullet fragments, and other objects related to wounded soldiers that might prove educational to medical professionals.

The NMHM has continued this mission for the last 150 years, with today’s collection containing more than 24 million objects that range from human remains to antique prosthetics. The vast majority of these holdings are open only to researchers, but regular folk still have the opportunity to view and learn about some of the museum’s most-important objects.

Picture of the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

I will warn you, visiting the museum is not for the faint of heart. There are dozens and dozens of jars with body parts floating inside. One case contains the skeletons of real children. There are diseased lungs, and brains, and limbs.

But these specimens are not there for shock value. Beyond appealing to a certain macabre fascination, such exhibits educate visitors on the body’s different structures and teach about what happens when those structures become abnormal. Before we can treat disease, we have to first understand what it is doing to the body.

And the museum is also not all human remains, which I’ll admit I personally shied away from. There are immense holdings of historical medical objects, from a seventeenth-century microscope to early prosthetic limbs.

Picture of exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Picture of exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

The Civil War exhibit was particularly illuminating.

Picture of exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

A ship model taught me that watercraft were used as floating hospitals during the Civil War–obviously the wounded soldiers had to be moved off of the battlefields, but it never occurred to me that giant steamships floating down the Mississippi were the method of such removal.

Picture of exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

There are rows of what I at first thought were snail shells but turned out to be bullets, their sheer size giving me a greater appreciation for the trauma experienced by the soldiers they wounded.

Picture of exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

And another piece of ammunition literally dropped my jaw: the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln.

Picture of exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Although there are sections where you may need to advert your eyes, the NMHM is a fascinating place. It yields some surprising facts–like the sophisticated technique of eighteenth-century facial reconstruction–and offers hope that we will be able to combat diseases of the future.

It’s a bit morbid, yes. That said, anyone with even the slightest interest in health, medicine, or history should make the trek. Just maybe don’t bring the kids.

If You Go

The National Museum of Health and Medicine is located at 2500 Linden Lane in Silver Spring, Maryland, just north of Washington, DC. Parking is free, and it is also just one mile from the Forest Glen Metro Station (Red Line).

The NMHM is free and open every day but Christmas. Hours are 10AM-5:30PM. Flash photography is not permitted (hence the deplorable state of the above photographs).

Tuesday Tip: You Tell Me!

For this Tuesday Tip, I’m hoping you will give me some tips!

It’s likely that I’ll be visiting the love of my life, London, in March. As such, I’m keen to hear my British and Anglophile readers’ thoughts on the city. What’s your favorite thing to do in London? Your favorite pub? Restaurant? Event?

Since I’ve seen the big tourist attractions countless times, I’m looking less for sightseer things and more for daily life in the city. That said, if there’s a really cool museum exhibition coming up or a lesser-known tourist spot, please let me know! I love the macabre, historical, and unexpected.

I hope you’ll share your tips with me in the comments! And I will keep you updated on my (potentially) upcoming trip.

Mondays in Maryland: The Shot Tower

Although the skyline is now dominated by contemporary buildings, this 215-foot tower was once the tallest building in the United States.

Picture of the Phoenix Shot Tower in Baltimore, Maryland

The Phoenix Shot Tower in downtown Baltimore soared beyond any other structure for almost two decades, its supreme height not due to an architect’s vanity but rather vital to its purpose.

Picture of the Phoenix Shot Tower in Baltimore, Maryland

The name implies a connection with ammunition, and indeed it was here where hunting shot was made. Molten lead was poured through a sieve at the top of the tower. As the lead pieces fell, they would spin, forming balls. A vat of water at the bottom of the tower caught these balls, where they would cool and solidify in shape.

Picture of the Phoenix Shot Tower in Baltimore, Maryland

Picture of the Phoenix Shot Tower in Baltimore, Maryland

The Shot Tower churned out more than 150 million pounds of shot over the nineteenth century. But, like all technologies, this way of making shot eventually became obsolete, and the factory shut down in 1892.

Today, it is one of three surviving shot towers in the US. Visiting in person, one imagines how impressive this structure must have been upon its completion in 1828. No other building in America would top its sheer size for another eighteen years.

Picture of the Phoenix Shot Tower in Baltimore, Maryland

But, inevitably, its height would be topped, and its relevancy would fade. Like the C&O Canal in western Maryland, the Phoenix Shot Tower now serves both as a historical relic and as a testament to the continuous forward push of technology.

If You Go

The Phoenix Shot Tower is located at 801 East Fayette Street in downtown Baltimore. It is open for tours on Saturdays and Sundays, with tours departing from the nearby Carroll Mansion at 4 PM. Adult admission is $5. There is street parking (free on Sundays); the closest subway stop is Shot Tower Station.

Mondays in Maryland: Babe Ruth’s Baltimore

The Great Bambino. The Sultan of Swat. The Colossus of Clout. You likely know Babe Ruth for his career with the New York Yankees or his “Curse of the Bambino” on the Boston Red Sox, but did you know Ruth started life in Baltimore, Maryland?

George Herman “Babe” Ruth was born in 1895 in his grandparents’ Baltimore rowhouse, just a few blocks from what is now Camden Yards.

Picture of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Ruth was apparently a difficult child, and when he was seven he was shipped off to the Baltimore-based St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys to learn shirtmaking. It was at this boarding school where Ruth learned to play baseball and was ultimately signed to the Baltimore Orioles minor league. You probably know the rest of the story.

In 1974, the rowhouse where Ruth had been born was converted to a museum dedicated to his memory. For a time the house served double duty as both a shrine to Ruth and the official museum of the Baltimore Orioles. In 2005, the Orioles museum moved to its new home at Camden Yards; the house’s only focus now is the Bambino.

Picture of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum of today is more-or-less divided between the rowhouse’s rooms and its hallways: the rooms are decorated as Babe Ruth would have seen them as a young boy, and the hallways are dedicated to exhibits on Ruth’s time in baseball.

The historic furniture in the rooms is certainly aesthetically pleasing, but I imagine only truly die-hard Babe Ruth fans will really enjoy seeing chairs and beds once belonging to Ruth’s relatives.

Picture of exhibit at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Picture of exhibit at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

The back hallway opens up into a larger space, adjoining properties having been used to expand the original rowhouse’s footprint. It’s auditorily amusing to step from the new to the old–the back hallways lack the front rooms’ time-appropriate creaks of well-worn floorboards.

The hallways hold exhibits much more engaging than staged furniture. There’s a short video explaining why the US National Anthem is played before baseball games (the tradition started during the 1918 World Series in which Babe Ruth was playing). There are rows of sports memorabilia, including rare Ruth trading cards and autographed baseballs.

Picture of an exhibit at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Picture of exhibit at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Picture of exhibit at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

There’s also a plastic case catering to my tactile nature–partially enclosed within are two baseball bats, one actually used by Ruth and the other by Cal Ripken, ready to be touched.

Picture of exhibit at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

The make-your-own-souvenir-penny machine has only the most tangential connection to Ruth, and yet it also succeeds in grabbing my attention (and my 50 cents).

Picture of exhibit at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

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Overall, the museum is far more captivating than I expected it to be. There are enough neat mementos and fascinating tales about Ruth to entertain both fervent baseball fans and casual spectators like me. But even though I run into a few families, I wouldn’t call the museum particularly child-friendly. Consider leaving the little ones at home for this one.

If You Go
The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum is at 216 Emory Street, Baltimore. There are a few street parking spots, but the easiest option is to take the Light Rail to nearby Camden Station. If you’re coming from DC, take the MARC Camden Line from Union Station to Camden Station. Note that the Camden Line does not run on weekends.

Admittance to the Museum is $6 for adults; there is also a combined ticket offering admission to both the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and the Sports Legends Museum for $12.

The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10AM-5PM. Starting in April, it will be open on Mondays as well.

Tuesday Tip: Chinese New Year

Even though you may still be recovering from last week’s over-indulgences, it’s not too early to start planning for the next new year’s celebration. Of course, you don’t have to wait until December 31–ring in the new Chinese year this February!

London boasts the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia, and they are planning a full event schedule that will delight tourists and locals alike.

Although the New Year officially begins on February 19, the festivities in London won’t start until Sunday, February 22. Head to Trafalgar Square for a lively, colorful parade, dragon dancers, and vendors selling traditional food and crafts. Nearby Chinatown will be offering special holiday menus–book now to guarantee yourself a table.

For more information on the London celebration, visit the London Chinatown Chinese Association’s website.

If you’re Stateside, you have several event options, though none will be as robust as London’s festivities. New York City has a firecracker ceremony on February 19 and its own parade on February 22. The Los Angeles parade is on February 21. Other major US cities will also be holding new year’s celebrations–check your local event listings for details.