My heart belongs to the South
In just a short amount of time the South managed to steal my heart. It is such an unique place. It might not be for everyone but it is definitely a place for me. Southern people have strong and different characters. They are direct and honest while sweet talking you. You meet such a diversity of people and that makes it very interesting. But for me the most wonderful thing so far has been the endless landscape. You have so much room and space and countryside. You have canyons, beaches, forests and fields. You can do endless outdoor activities and since my judgment of a place always comes down to me thinking: “Would my dogs and me enjoy living here?” That is an important fact for me.
After spending some time in small towns surrounding Atlanta, I finally made it to the big city on Memorial Day.
And it was stunning! For various reasons. Now, I only know Atlanta from TV and I did not really have any imagination about how I would feel in the city and if I would connect with it or not. I did not really have any image in my head of what the city is made of. I only know the apocalyptic version of it.
Well on Memorial Day, I did get to see that exact same version of the city but it still surprised me a lot.
I got picked up at the airport by my wonderful hosts Kim and Jeremy and their kids. The plan was to explore the city by foot. 12 miles. Just us 5 and our feet. And Atlanta.
We drove into the city by train because we were afraid to search for parking lots for hours. We took the Marta into downtown and everything still seemed normal as ever.
You can buy a Breeze card at every Marta station and use the train for the whole day. It will cost you a total of 9 dollars. The train basically takes you everywhere, we just decided to see most by foot.
When we arrived in Downtown we started our tour at the midtown station and walked to Piedmont Park. We noticed that the city was calm but since we were trying to find our way we did not really pay any attention. We made it to the Park and crossed it to go to the Beltline Atlanta.
The Beltline is an unique project you can only find in Atlanta. To give the citizens more room to be active, the city used an old railway line surrounding the city and turned it into a trail.
On this trail you could basically walk, ride your bike, rollerblade or run all around Atlanta. It’s 22 miles long and you can enter or exit it on various locations.
We walked 3 miles on the east Beltline trail to get from Piedmont Park to the Krog Tunnel.
I don’t know why but I never really imagined Atlanta to be so active, but there were athletes all around. The trail was packed. Tons of runners and walkers and bicyclists enjoying the sunny day.
It was a hot and humid Monday morning so it took us a little longer until we reached the Tunnel. The whole neighborhood of Krog Tunnel is a very artful area. You will find graffiti, street art and sculptures. Actually you can find a lot of contemporary art everywhere in Atlanta. That is also something I never expected to see there. It is all in all a colorful city.
Krog Tunnel is plastered with street art. It’s both a pedestrian and automotive tunnel. If you like you might take 100 pictures just there.
I would recommend though not to go there alone at night. Call me paranoid but it’s remote and the area might be upcoming but it is not quite there yet. At least in my opinion.
It may have just been the theme of the city on that day but we went from crisscrossing the huge amount of active people on the Beltline to not meeting a single person on the street. I will let you decide if you feel comfortable doing that alone.
From the tunnel through Cabbagetown (don’t ask me why they call their district that way) we walked right up to the Oakland Cemetery. The whole way is still showing you its best talents with a lot of paintings and art everywhere.
Oakland cemetery is a beautiful place. I’ve seen some fascinating cemeteries in the world and that one is definitely underneath the top ten. Call me creepy for loving cemeteries so much, but I just like the spirit, the old architecture, the feeling of beloved people. And it is not as creepy as the bar & restaurant right across the street called Six Feet Under.
The cemetery is divided in different religions and it’s huge. We could have spend much more time there then we did. From a few points of the cemetery you have a beautiful panorama of the skyline Atlanta’s.
Our next destination was lunch. It’s an Atlanta institution that we chose for s break and we walked to the King Memorial Marta Station to take the train to the Five Point station.
From there we took off a short way through downtown to go eat at The Varsity. That diner has been in Atlanta forever and despite everything else on that day we met a lot of people there as well.
I am going to be honest. I have been to a few diners in my time here in America, a lot of them were quite great and the burgers delicious. The Varsity did not really pay attention to the look of their food. If you don’t move fast enough, people will yell at you and your hot dogs, burger or whatever you ordered will be ready in a heartbeat. But it’s one of the oldest diners and we were hungry.
Originally we planned to walk to the Centennial Olympic Park next but we spontaneously decided we would rather walk more in Downtown.
And that’s when it really registered with us. The fact that we were in a city with millions of citizens and except on the Beltline, on the train and at the Varsity, we were always alone.
Alone in Downtown Atlanta. I felt so comfortable the whole day, thinking to myself what a beautiful city Atlanta is and how relaxed and calm. “I could live here” I thought.
But walking through the part of the city that should have been packed was one of the strangest feelings ever.
We walked over highways, through streets full of skyscraper and we did not see cars or people. Everything was closed and the city seemed abandoned. For me as a huge Walking Dead fan, who only ever saw the city in that show in a deserted and abandoned way, that experience was indescribable.
Kim and Jeremy assured me that they have never ever seen the city (or any other big city for that matter) that way and walking through those streets and feeling like the only people in the world, who gets to experience that?
It was creepy, funny, mystical, looming and exciting at the same time.
We walked through Downtown to Jackson Street Bridge because that is one place I had to see. We almost walked onto the Interstate because we saw no cars and took the wrong corner, but found our way out of the rows of skyscrapers in the end.
To add to the apocalyptic feeling, many of the houses we passed on our way to the bridge were really abandoned. They were run down, with spiked fences and wire on top of them and it looked like nobody liver or vacated them in a long time. I suppose that part of the city has a long way to go to becoming nice and friendly again.
There were no kids on playgrounds, no citizens on front porches and no sound to be heard.
I seriously waited to hear the sound of growling Zombies. It would not have been surprising.
We made it to Jackson Street Bridge and I got the view that every Walking Dead fan knows and every visitor of Atlanta should see.
From Jackson Street Bridge you can look down on the Interstate that brings you into or out of the city and in close distance you see the whole skyline in beautiful clarity.
Fans of the show know that view because you could see Sheriff Rick Grimes riding into an abandoned, apocalyptic Atlanta on a horse, all by himself with a cluster of cars on the other side of the Interstate, deserted by people trying to leave the city.
On any other day you see the typical picture of a million citizen city. Tons of cars and congested traffic. On most pictures I saw from that bridge, you saw the same thing.
Not when we stepped onto the bridge. There were a handful of cars coming in and out of the city but every once in a while not a single car was seeable on the highway. So I got a picture of the empty skyline of Atlanta with abandoned streets in front of it.
That was amazing! Freaking amazing.
I will never forget this moment in my life.
We crossed the bridge and walked in the direction of the Martin Luther King Historic Site.
Very close to the bridge and on our way to that area, I found a piece of sidewalk where the name Rick was scratched into the concrete several times. Now I am sure that not THAT Rick was meant but that sight just added to the whole experience. It was eerie and creepy and cool.
Our last walking destination had been the Historic Site for Martin Luther King. We saw his church and made our way to the museum, the pool dedicated to him and the many memorials that were placed in his name.
The most interesting part (except probably the museum from inside, which we did not see out of a time limit) was the everlasting flame that was burning as a symbol for him, while the famous “I have a dream” speech was blasting from hidden boxes, turning you back in time.
The historic site is beautifully done and gives you enough things to see and to do to spend some time there. At the museum we did see people again and where not alone anymore.
We ended our walking tour through Atlanta again at the King Memorial Marta Station to take train back to the airport where we had parked the car.
In the end we did not do 12 but almost 11 miles in a 85 degree hot and humid Atlanta. Which is almost a half marathon that we walked through one of the biggest cities in America.
We were beat and tired but I was so happy with my experience with Atlanta.
Now I know that the city was different that day and going to the airport on a later day I did see how many cars and people there really are, but I still loved it.
I liked the art you can find everywhere even though I did not get every intention behind it and not everything was my style. I love the mixture of old and new. I like the athletic sense of the city and that they are doing things differently there. I love the idea of the Beltline and that you can walk or take easy public transport everywhere you want.
I will most certainly return one day to meet the real citizens of Atlanta, Georgia but until then I will nurture my apocalyptic, abandons exploration.
To celebrate Memorial Day we drove from the airport to Stone Mountain which is close to the city and a beautiful, huge stone with a hanging railway going up the hill to bring you on top of it and overlook the area. You have Civil War participants carved into one side of the stone and a park underneath it.
We wanted to see and participate in the firework and celebration of the fallen American soldiers at that park.
Unfortunately though, in the moment that we spread out of blankets and picnic on the grass, Georgia decided to surprise us and every other guest with a raging storm.
In the end we had to give up and leave, making our way back to the the home of Kim and Jeremy, which is located on the border of Tennessee and Georgia. The storm was so bad it took us hours, lots of water flooding and clouds that looked like they were decided to turn into tornados or not.
It was the majestic end to a mystical day.