A Bell, a Dietary Nightmare, and No Bus

A Bell, a Dietary Nightmare, and No Bus

A few weeks ago, one of the Belgians had the idea to visit Philadelphia. That is why we all went to Union Station this weekend, at 7:45am. We were all incredibly tired. One of the other Belgians had the idea to organize something on the evening before we were supposed to leave to Philadelphia. I will not bother you with the details of the event, but it was great. Although, the timing could have been a little better. That is what we realized while we were running towards Union Station, desperately trying not to be late for our bus. We made it, but it was close.


Since we were all really tired, this pretty much sums up our bus ride


When we finally arrived in Philadelphia after a three hour bus ride, we were really happy that we made it. Until we got off the bus and started freezing. But there was no time to complain. We had a busy schedule to keep up with. First on the program was the Art Museum of Philadelphia. We didn't go in, as we had a busy schedule, but apparently the stairs in front of the museum are very famous as well. They are called the Rocky Steps, as they appeared in the triple Oscar-winning movie Rocky. It was a little less impressive for me, as I've never seen the movie or any of its sequels. I know; I have like zero cultural background.


Anyway, after the famous stairs we went to a prison. Eastern State Penitentiary is a very famous one. It is the first of its kind and was some kind of trendsetter. The innovative strategy that the Eastern State Penitentiary used to make good people from not so good people, was reform instead of punishment. Inmates had to reflect in silence about what they did, which would make them better people. Prisoners were thus isolated in their room, and for the few times that they could get out, they were not allowed to talk. The model became insanely popular, all over the world. Except in the United States. Because for the U.S., the New York model, which was pretty much the same except for the fact that prisoners had to work during the day, would become the model for most prisons. Another fun fact: Al Capone was one of the inmates in the Eastern State Penitentiary. Judges had him arrested and wanted to send a strong signal to the mafia by sentencing him to jail time. However, the prison guards were a little afraid of him and gave him basically everything he desired.


The cell where Al Capone stayed in 1929. I've heard the WiFi wasn't great. Otherwise, it would have been a pretty nice place!


After some silence and some reflection about what we had done, we realized that we were very hungry. This meant it was time to try the next thing on our list: the Philly cheesesteak! But what is a cheesesteak exactly? It is pretty self-explanatory, but here is some more information. According to Wikipedia, it is a sandwich made from thinly-sliced pieces of steak and melted cheese in a long roll. According to myself, it is a huge calorie boost, a dietary catastrophe, and a nightmare for every single parent who tries to raise his/her child by tirelessly stressing the importance of a balanced and healthy meal. Also, it tasted great!


I was so hungry that I would have eaten my camera too if I tried to take a picture.

But this gives a rather accurate impression of what it looked like.


Philadelphia is maybe best known to have served as the de facto capital of the United States, on several occasions. After a little walk, which was good as we all ate too much cheese steak, we went to Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center and so on. We also saw the Liberty Bell, which was allegedly rung immediately after the U.S. declared its independence. This turns out not to be true, but it is such a cool story that the bell has become insanely popular. Also because the bell did participate in some important events, such as the reading of the Declaration of Independence, but this only happened two years after the actual independence. The bell became so popular, that parts of it were chipped away by souvenir hunters. The bell acquired a large crack two centuries ago, after which there were some attempts to renovate it. They made the crack even larger.


After listening to all the stories about American independence, we went to the Magic Garden. It is some kind of labyrinth built from pretty much everything, such as glass bottles, kitchen tiles, etc. Unfortunately, we were too late to visit the garden. From the outside, it looked beautiful. It is a little strange that it closes that early because when it gets darker, the moon light makes it look even better! That is how we ended up in a typical American bar. As soon as we got in, we noticed something really strange: smoke. For years now, it has been against the law to smoke in bars or restaurants, so the smell of cigarettes is something I am not really used to anymore. As one Belgian celebrity once put it, Belgian bars now smell like people. She was not kidding. Apparently, bars got so many complaints that some of them installed devices that made the place smell better. The smell most bars chose? Tobacco…



The last thing we went to see, was the LOVE Park. Besides the famous sign and the fountain, which is often dyed colors to commemorate events, LOVE Park is also known for its Christmas Village! Apparently, The Christmas Village is known for being modeled on the traditional German Christmas Markets, with a lot of European food and beverages. This is a short impression of the village.






The whole thing wasn't scheduled to start for five more days.


This is where my blog post could have ended. But as you of course notice, it isn't finished yet. Because somehow, we missed our bus. Of course, the departure hour on the website of the bus company was different from the actual departure hour. So we arrived at the bus station 15 minutes late, missed our bus back, and got stuck in Philadelphia. Although it is a pretty nice city, we were all a little tired and not particularly looking forward to spending the night on a bench in a train station. However, we learned two very important lessons that night: if there is no bus, there will be a train. And that train will be incredibly expensive.


You Zany Americans


I would indeed not recommend swimming there. Or at least wait until it rains a little...


"European Republic"? What happened back home while I was in D.C.??


Did you know that Puerto Rico is often called La Isla del Encanto, or Island of Enchantment? Apparently, the name comes from the "many natural and modern wonders" and the "hospitality" of the island's residents, thus, leaving an "enchanting" memory." As I learned at my university never to take anything for granted, I have decided to make this the subject of my next research project. If you would be willing to help fund my field research in Puerto Rico, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Did you know that Belgian pharmaceutical companies are leading the battle against Ebola? The virus was also discovered by Belgians in the first place!


Did you know that Philadelphia literally means "brotherly love",compounded from the Ancient Greek philos (φίλος) "loving", and adelphos (ἀδελφός) "brother"? This has nothing to do with anything else, but I just learned this today and I really wanted to share this fact!

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