Hamam al-Basha, i.e., The Old Turkish Bathhouse Museum, Acre, Israel

If you’re ever in the historic town of Acre, Israel (it’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited ones on the planet), I strongly suggest a visit to Turkish Bathhouse Museum. Granted this museum dedicated to the Ottoman Bathhouse tradition (which they inherited from the Romans) is incredibly touristy, but that said, it’s multimedia presentation designed to bring history to life, is in my opinion what makes the Hamam Al-Basha one of the most entertaining and educational tourist attractions in the whole city, and worth at least a full hour’s worth of your time.

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When I first told my Israeli friends I was planning to spend a full 29 days in Acre’s old city, one of them literally blurted out, “WHY?! There’s NOTHING to DO there!” IF what you’re looking for is things like night clubs and theater, then they’re right… however, IF you’re a fan of all things historic… which I am… then they’re entirely wrong.

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The city of Acre is located on the western edge of the Northern district of Israel, just above the modern city of Haifa, and importantly (from the historic perspective) is one the only natural ports along the Holy land’s Mediterranean coastline. That is why it was one of most important port cities in the world during crusader period, when it served as the foothold for the almost all of the Christian Knight’s into the birthplace of their religion during that period. It’s important to remember that while the first Crusade, an attempt to take back the area from Islamic rule, came over land via Turkey, the second and third ones both came over sea, and utilized their heavily defended fortress port city of Acre — which they were able to keep control of the whole time —  as their base).

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As a result of its historically changing ownership, Acre (english)has many different names, in Hebrew it is Akko, while in Arabic it is Akka, and there are a few other names besides. Like I already said, this city is often overlooked by Jewish tourists to the country, because its past is predominantly Muslim and Christian. However, that said, it is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited human settlements on the planet, with most of its pre-crusader heritage still buried under a thousand years of other historically important buildings — and yet to be discovered (although you CAN see some of it if you know where to look).

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That said, the Turkish Bath Museum, also known as Hamam (sweat bath) El Basha (sort of like “The Prince”) in Arabic… (or The Prince’s sweat baths) … can be a bit hard to find in the twisty alley ways of Acre, although you’ll see signs all over town pointing out the way to it.

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The next thing to be aware of is that buying tickets for Acre’s attractions is kind of tricky.

As shown in the photo above, the multi-site ticket includes :
Hospitaller Castle/Knights’ Halls    – the city’s main attraction.
Templar Tunnel – and another, smaller tunnel.
Pasha’s Turkish Bath/Hamam al-BashaOkashi Museum -a small art museum.
Treasures in the Walls Museum
Rosh Hanikra

While these tickets may be purchased at multiple locations, but the main one is the visitor’s center, and if you do it there you get to see a short 15 minute movie on the history of the town.

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Ticket booth at the visitor’s center

The #1 attraction in town is the The Hospitallers‘ Fortress (Aka the Knights’ Halls)… but you can NOT buy a ticket for that which does not includes a mess of other things, the Templar’s tunnel (which it totally worth seeing), the Treasures in the Walls Museum (which is part of the tickets but not mentioned on ANY of the description signs for said tickets… IF you’ve seen everything else and still have time go see it, but if you skip it you won’t have missed out on anything special) … and a pathetic excuse for an art museum displaying all of the lesser pieces of Avshalom Okashi which is a complete waste of time (I graduated from one of the top Art schools in the world, and WHY the city demands you see this collection I don’t know).

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Basically it’s a collection of his works that no museums or collectors wanted (you’re not allowed to take photos while inside the museum, probably because they don’t want word getting out about how bad this collection sucks). Okashi was a painter so influential that while he’s often mentioned alongside other better respected artists, poor Avshalom doesn’t even merit his own Wikipedia page — even though he somehow DID manage to get his own museum. He was a very lessor part of the Ofakim Hadashim or New Horizons art movement in Israel, which helped to develop a distinctively abstract Israeli sensibility to art, which is still highly influential today (Israeli art doesn’t look quite like any other art style, but there is a cohesive feel to most of it). And he chose to live his final years in Acre, so I’m guessing when he died his family were stuck with a bunch of paintings no one wanted, not even them, and they left them to the city.

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To the combined Fortress ticket you can add one to the Baths…. or you can buy a ticket for the baths and the tunnels that does NOT include the #1 attraction… the Fortress… You can NOT however buy a ticket JUST for the #1 attraction, which is Fortress
or a ticket to the #2 attraction: the Templar Tunnels,
Or one for the Baths…
SO, you will HAVE to buy a combo ticket of some sort to see any of those —
And the tickets to the Fortress all include the aforementioned hideous art collection and the Treasures in the Walls Museum (which isn’t bad, but shouldn’t be considered any sort of priority if you’re on a limited schedule).

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With the ticket to the baths comes an audio guide, available in 8 languages

… the good news is it’s good for all of that year (if you buy it Jan 2019 it’s good through Dec 2019… If you buy it at the in Dec 2019 it expires at the end of that month), and it’s fully transferable — you can hand it off to friends or relatives who live in Israel to use whatever bits you haven’t. As such, your best bet is just to buy the either the combined ticket WITH the baths, or IF you intend to go up to Rosh Hanikra anyway (its at the Lebanese border and they do NOT provide transportation to get up there) [However, keep in mind that the ONLY historical attraction in Acre NOT included in any of the combined tickets (which include all the Arab controlled attractions), is the one to the old English Prison, which is controlled by the Israeli military.]

The package of tickets that I had initially bought, to my chagrin as I had SPECIFICALLY told the woman at the counter of the visitor’s center (where the Knight’s hall is) that I wanted to see the baths…

only to find when I arrived to the baths that what she had sold me did not include it!! (Be sure to double check your tickets.) So, when I got there… this guy said as far as he was concerned it wasn’t worth the extra price, and offered to quickly first walk me through the whole thing while explaining to me what was going since they couldn’t give me the headset because I didn’t have a ticket.

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He was more than bit annoyed when after he was done, I decided I wanted go ahead and pay for a combined tunnel and bathhouse ticket… which meant seeing the tunnels a second time.

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After you buy your ticket and get your headphones, you’re led into a outdoor courtyard area, where sit and wait for the next introductory overview film to begin — each film lasts about 15 minute, with a few minutes between to allow the room to clear and for the next group to enter

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While there (I had about 14 minutes to wait upon entering) I met and got friendly with one of the local cats, who seemed a great deal more domesticated than most of the cats of Acre …. the place is TEAMING with feral cats. This guy was following me around and demanding more scratches….

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The above picture is the entry room, just as you enter from the patio area …  Here you take a seat and enjoy a 15 minute movie that is projected onto the one empty wall to the right, which you listen to with your headphones…

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The movie focuses on the history of Acre and the building of bathhouse during the Ottoman empire, and the audio tracks come in eight different languages: Hebrew, Arabic, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Russian. (The Chinese and Japanese tourists don’t seem to come here much.)

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In addition to explaining its history, it also explains the cultural importance of the bathhouse to the community (it was much more than just a place to take a bath) up through modern times, when it was it fell into disuse because of the advent of modern plumbing.

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Note the image top right and compare to the tableau below

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After the movie you’re led into a long hallway lined with lithographs that narrate the sorts of things that would take place here…. and if you pay attention you’ll notice that many of the statues arranged throughout the bathhouse (so as to bring the place to life) were based on these drawings.

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After that hallway you turn into what had been another one lined with a series on rooms on either side, but when they converted it into a museum they removed the interior walls  (the ones that would lined the hallway) so that they now serve as the stages for a series of tableaus of what would have occurred within those areas.

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And as you approach some of the rooms, films with dialogue are played on their back walls in order to make the tableaus even more lifelikeUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2c2c.jpg

Notice how this photo (with me in it) is the same room as the one above, only the movie which had triggered upon my first having entered had played out. That said, if you didn’t get to see the little movies, or the sound track was off, I found if you leave the room heading back towards the main film room… and then WAIT for that film to finish for the next group and then reenter this section, you’ll get a second chance to see it all…if you have that time to do that…  the soundtracks and such seem to be timed on how much time they designers believe it will take for people to move through, rather than being triggered by actual movement.

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After you pass through the hallway of small tableaus, you will pass through a doorway into a very large room circular, where the steam bath was located… 7w25W1pASp+%3949t40pgw_thumb_ebae.jpg

… and it has actual steam which is kind of cool. Again in this room there is a sound track that coordinates with a film played on one of the walls, and also from ONE of the statues which a moving face projected onto it, just like the tech you see at Disney world in the Haunted Mansion.

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This larger central room is circular, but sits in a square building… as such at the corners of the square are a series of smaller rooms that you can sort of peer into. I suppose the center of the room was the hottest location, too hot for some, and the side rooms while still steamy brought the temperatures down a bit. All in all I found my visit here highly enjoyable and other people I talked to also said they really enjoyed this museum.

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Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia and The Not Captain Cook’s Cottage

[Updated – forgot to add some stuff before] Melbourne refers to itself as the garden city of Australia, and Fitzroy Garden is one of the city’s many landscaped gardens that earns it that title. The most famous attraction located within the garden is Cook’s cottage, which some sites advertise as having belonged to the famous Captain Cook, the explorer who ‘discovered Australia’; historical buff that I am, this made me excited to see it, but that claim — if you come across it, is wrong. It was never his, it was one of his parent’s homes, and he never lived there. That said Fitzroy Garden where the house is located, is free to explore, but the Cook’s Cottage itself — which has been one of the major tourist draws in Melbourne since it was first moved here in 1934… is NOT, free that is…

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Me, standing as close as you can get to the house without paying a fee

Fitzroy Gardens, in the suburb of East Melbourne. To be technical about it… It’s not actually IN Melbourne, which is one of these TINY dot on the map cities that has never annexed adjacent suburbs so that it could ‘grow’, like Chicago or New York City did, and has ‘neighborhoods’ that are legally separate entities; as such you really have to think of it as the greater Melbourne area when visiting, because Aussies seem to get very irritated when we call East Melbourne, just plain old Melbourne… because it’s not.

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“Technically” considered to be the Oldest building in all of the greater Melbourne area, as it has been dated to at least 1755 [Melbourne was founded in 1835], the cottage had belonged (at one time) to the father of James Cook (1728 –1779), the famous British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy, who was also the first “recorded” European to “discover” Australia…. That said, the man who “discovered” Australia MAY have (we don’t know for sure that he ever did), at best, slept there… when/if he visited his folks in his home town (one has to assume he may have at some point)…. so yes, the connection is a bit tenuous …

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Originally located in the village of Great Ayton in North Yorkshire, where Captain Cook was born, the building was brought to Melbourne in in 1934 by the Chemist and Philanthropist Russell Grimwade, who gifted it to the State of Victoria in honor of the celebration of the upcoming 100 year anniversary of the settlement of Melbourne (1835). The owner had put it up for bid, on condition that it be moved to someplace else “in England”, but (according to Wikipedia) when the highest local bid had been £300 versus Grimwade’s bid of £800, she was ‘convinced’ to change that requirement to “in the British Empire.”

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Originally sold as the home of Captain Cook’s early days, the cottage is now only called “Cook’s Cottage” because later historians, rightly, called foul. While the initials J.C. and the year of 1755 had been engraved into a lintel above one of the doors… the JC did not denote James Cook the son and Captain, but rather James his father, a farm laborer who was originally from Scotland.

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The engraved lintel (covered in plexiglass, I assume for its protection from vandals)

What is not known for sure, however, is was the house built in 1755, or possibly rebuilt… or just purchased by Cook’s father. Also, since James Cook, the Jr., was born in 1728, and had moved away from home at 16 — which was normal at the time, he would have been 27 by 1755, the year engraved probably with his own home; this, in fact, was was the same year he had joined the Royal Navy in hopes of greater advancement, after having already served in the British Merchant Navy where he had been promoted about as far as he could in that profession, i.e., already an adult man with a career and his own private life…. Therefore, it is HIGHLY unlikely that he had actually ever LIVED in the house, at best he may have visited, it was therefore a misleading to continue to call it “Captain Cook’s Cottage”…

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The laminated 3-ring notebook you can reference if you want to know more about the house

The Cottage itself is open every day from 9 to 5, but you have to buy a ticket. These can be found across the walkway at the information building/Visitor Center and Conservatory, which also has a cafe, where you can have a meal, pamphlets about other things to see and do in the area

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And of course a gift shop…. with some very cute items for sale that I had not seen elsewhere, so worth checking out if you’re shopping for souvenirs

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I think these were hand-made Xmas tree ornaments, but they’re cute enough that even I’d buy them … the seemed to be made of pine prickles shoved into a form, sculpted and painted, or something of the like

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Although a bit steep for a rubber ducky at $14.95 AUD, I was seriously tempted to buy one of these …. afterwards I found a few other museums with sections devoted to Captain Cook that also sell them… for the same price. I might give in and buy one next time see it.

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Once you have purchased your ticket you cross over to the cottage and enter through a gate that scans your ticket (like at the airport). Inside were two docents dressed in period garb whose job it was to help orient you, or have their pictures taken with you (which I didn’t opt to do), or help you into the garb if you wanted to dress up yourself… but for the most part it’s all self guided.

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There were two 3 ringed notebooks of laminated pages devoted to the spot if you bother to take the time to notice them (almost no one did) located just in the doorway of the home (where folks would remove their coats and muddy shoes, I assume). The house consisted of a kitchen/living room/dining room with a running voice narrative that sounds like it’s supposed to be Captain Cook’s mother, talking about what it was like to live and work in the house

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Upstairs there was a narrow flight of stairs that were a lot steeper than we’re used to (most definitely NOT disability friendly), and required that visitors make way for each other going up or down

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You find a master bedroom, with more written explanation (and no voice narrative)

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and two small bedrooms, one upstairs and one down

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And in the back of the house is an herb garden

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Around the back/side of the house is the stable, which has been converted into a sort of museum/movie theater

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I am pretty sure I watched four different movies that were on display there, one about Captain cook discovering Australia, one about the sale and transport of the house, one about the history of the house, and one about his parent’s lives. One of the cool things was there were three screens, one of which was showing the same movie at the same time, on a smaller screen, with Chinese subtitles. Every time Chinese visitors stepped in I would point them towards that, because they tended to walk in, see the main screen, hear the English, and looked a little sad… only to have me point out the Chinese screen and have their faces light up… I’m thinking one of the docents should have been in there doing that.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2526.jpgBeyond the cottage, I found that overall Fitzroy is less of a garden, in my mind (relatively few flowers), and more of an urban green space, with tree lined avenues that before air-conditioning probably offered much needed shade in the summer heat. While it has some boring almost obligatory stuff, like the Grey Street Fountain… UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2514.jpg

…. and the River God Fountain, both of which are perfectly nice

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…these looked pretty much like any old fashioned/classic fountain and garden you’d find in any park …anywhere (especially in France or the UK). What’s cool/different about the garden is that it tends towards things that are a bit more fanciful and fun, such as it’s children’s playground, which has a dragon slide and a giraffe like swing set

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And a model Kentish Tudor village. The story on this is kind of cute in that all the homes were built by an elderly pensioner, Mr. Edgar Wilson who lived in the UK and liked to build these things out of concrete, just for fun, as his hobby. He gifted them in 1948 to Melbourne in appreciation of the food that Australia sent to England during WWII

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The town included a scale model of the house owned by Shakespeare’s wife (the one he quickly abandoned) the widow Anne Hathaway. I will admit that when I read the garden had a Tudor Village, I was expecting something radically different from what I found. In my minds eye I expected to find some full or at least half sized Tudor homes that you could walk through … maybe with some staff, sort of like what I had found at Cook’s cottage…. at least tall enough for small children to enter… but nope

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Instead I found a collection of homes that at best might come to my knee, and the homes are all completely fenced off, so little kids can’t really enjoy them much either… and adjacent to the Tudor village I found the the Fairies Tree

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which I was sad to see was ALSO surrounded by a fence, so that you can’t get up close and personal with it. BUT after I got home and studied it I understood why — did NOT find any description of this at the spot. This tree isn’t some modern thing made for kids to play on … The Fairies tree was carved back in the 1930’s by a local artist and author by the name of Ola Cohn, into the stump of a 300+ year old River Red Gum tree which had been original to the garden. Ms Cohn (who was of Danish extraction) was a well known (her portrait hangs in a museum in Canberra, and the link includes an image of her carving the tree) and respected local artist, who went on to be appointed a Member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry — a sort of knighthood, for her work in the service of art. Because she’d carved it into what was then already a dead tree, there’s been issues with degradation and rot over time, so that in 1977, in order to stop the rot, they had to pull the whole thing out of the ground, removed wood that had already rotted — they found a perfectly preserved mummified Brushtail possum at that point (!!!), and then treated the remaining tree with chemicals to stop any further rot… remounted the tree into a concrete base and returned it to the garden.

So I get the history of the things, and why they might want to preserve them… but I have to think little kids don’t really enjoy either of them much as a result. So Nice but kind of meh…

I think my favorite fountain was the Dolphin Fountain, which seemed to be much more modern in construction….

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in fact it turned out to have been built in 1982, and for some reason the park’s website said that it was “controversial” but didn’t explain why…

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After some research I found this website explaining, some of the argument was regarding WHERE in the garden this $30,000 gift payed for by Dinah and Henry Krongold and created by a sculptress by the name of June Arnold should go… or if it was suited to the Fitzroy gardens at all because it wasn’t in keeping with the garden’s naturalism (???)

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Not surprisingly, little kid (according to what I’ve read) LOVE this fountain as it’s the only one they’re actually allowed to interact with… I saw parents lifting their small children up on to the rocks, etc.

The Route 66 Welcome Center & Museum in Litchfield, Illinois

This is NOT one of the better museums along the 66 route, but it’s free. Its more of an excuse for a museum like they felt they had to have one in order to qualify for matching funding from some organization that gives grants to cities wanting to set up Route 66 stuff.

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I’ve seen places like this before, in Georgia, where there’s this one museum to a local African-American musician by the name of Royland Hayes, who had grown up in that town; where you can tell they wanted the funding for and “Arts center” essentially a ladies social center, but could only fund it by having the museum for the local guy most of them probably couldn’t name… so it’s an excuse for a museum shoved into a side room… while the population that uses the building is 90% upper class white ladies.

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That said, this museum is not actually OFFENSIVE, like that one was… (where the white community applied for funding in support of an African-American History — which they clearly could not have cared less about, when what they really wanted was the cash to fund something for themselves). In this case, it’s pretty clear what this community wanted was to build a building for their chamber of commerce and their genealogical society, on a lot that had stood empty for 20 years.  As a result, its less a full fledges museum than a book with its pages placed on horizontal surfaces, so if you wanted to you could spend a few hours standing there, in effect reading said book…. well a book, interspersed with a handful of large items, and a few display cases crammed with smaller items. But mostly, it’s a book.IMG_0562.JPG

Outside of museum along Route 66 is a neon sign for a gas station that had been on this property in the past, but that no longer exists…

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Chandler Oklahoma’s Route 66 interpretive center

Located in Chandler Oklahoma on Route 66 in a beautiful building that once served as their national guard armory, is a museum dedicated to the Route 66 experience. Smartly, its designer looked at the other museums dedicated to 66 (the good and the not so good) and opted to compliment them rather than to repeat them … So, this exhibit is about the experience of some of the local high-points, rather than the road itself — for the low price of $5

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I have got to admit, this is one of the better local attempts at a museum I’ve seen.

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It has a docent, who, as soon as you walk in…. gives you a little tour of the place. First she talks a bit about the history of the building and it’s construction

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Picture of workers mining and working the stone that makes up the walls

Then she showed us the drill hall which has now been repurposed by the community for things like a wedding venue

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and finally she took us into the exhibit hall and explained how the interpretive center works. She told us (me, and two women I had run into previously at Pops), about how they had hired a curator to design the space, and I could have told her that just based on layout. (As you guys all know nothing pisses me off more than museums that don’t even TRY to curate themselves). Less is more people, less is more…

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The suggested way to start the exhibit, is a 20 minute movie (assuming you have the time) about a man originally from IL who made about his first trip on 66 in his 20s (in 1939 going road-tripping with a buddy to their university in Arizona). On that trip he had written letters to parents at every top along the way, and had taken photographs. Years later, when it was time to move his mom into managed care, upon clearing out the family home he found his mother had kept all the letters and post cards… and this stimulated in him a desire to do the trip a 2nd time, in 2000, now that he was retired. He did so, making a point of trying to stop at all the same motels (or finding out what had happened to them) and focusing on the differences between the two trips. With the help of a friend, a documentary was created which is being shown only in this museum (I looked for it on-line and couldn’t find it, other than references saying it was showing at the museum.

Then you move into a section where you can lie on beds (as though you were staying at one of the Route 66 motor homes), or sit in chairs (which were pulled from classic cars), And watch from a large selection of shorts (about 5 minutes or so each) on a variety of different topics

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This one showed either a movie about renovating the Round Barn, that I had visited earlier that day, or a movie about the former icons that are no more — and the changing awareness of local communities and the government that these road side attractions actually need preserving as they are part of our history.

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Roger “King of the Road” Miller Museum, in Erick, Oklahoma

The king of the road Is no more….‘tis sad. NONE of the web sites that I looked at told me this, heck even GOOGLE… which knows all… didn’t tell me this (when I was charting the trip… between then and now someone informed them, so this closure must be pretty recent) … So when I got there I was pretty nonplussed to discover an empty building with blocked out windows, and when I peaked in all I saw was an empty room.

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you can sort of see where they have scrapped the name off the glass

That said, I was going to seriously cheat on this one anyway. My mom used to bake, that was until she discovered the Sarah Lee factory that was about a 15 minute drive from our house that had an ACTUAL outlet store that sold items that had failed their “perfection” tests… so like the icing was lopsided or the crust was not perfectly flat, etc., which they then sold at a deep discount. From then on, she just bought their stuff and presented it as her own work. That said…

Think of it as a memory of things passed … (pun intended)

The first McDonald’s Museum: San Bernardino, CA

This is a private Museum to all things McDonald’s located on the property that HAD been the location of the first McDonald’s. It is NOT owned or operated by McD’s corporate. The actual building had been destroyed in the late 70s — and this building doesn’t even look like that one did…  but it is on the original property of the burger joint owned by Dick and Mac McDonald, who essentially invented the fast food model… that Ray Kroc took international — AND the sign out front includes elements of the original sign.

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The museum was created by Albert Okura, who owns both a chicken processing empire and a string of chicken restaurants in the California, who bought the property and created this museum. Okura is a philanthropist who has invested a LOT of money into revitalizing sites along Route 66 — in addition to this one he OWNS the town of Amboy where Roy’s Motel is located and is responsible for its renovation and upkeep.

I came here as part of my Route 66 road trip. I have to admit I was kind of let down. The website I found this one did NOT make it clear that this was not the original building.

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What the original building looked like

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And then, I was kind of irritated to discover that the collection is completely un-curated. When you walk in what you see is a collection of display cabinets chock-a-block full of stuff… as though it were a store selling collectibles rather than a museum of them

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                    Less is more people!

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Even the big stuff you can’t really look at cause its just sort of all shoved in there

Essentially… They built the building they put some stuff in it and then over the years people have been bringing and/or sending them stuff to add to the collection… so that at this point they have McD’s related stuff from all around the world. Only they completely lack the space to display it in any sort of meaningful way.

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THESE were my favorite items because we used to have them at our house. I have a feeling my brother ended up with them, which makes me sad… but that’s why G-d made eBay… apparently you can get the full set for like $20

Pony Express Station Museum & Gift Shop: Gothenburg, Nebraska

Located in Gothenburg Nebraska is a historic Pony Express Station (well, as it turned out… the walls are original, the roof is new) serving as a museum and gift store. Now granted, it’s not in its original location, historically, it was on the far side of town [they moved it to a park in the middle of town because that was better for business] …. and most of crucial importance, it has no bathroom… But, that said if what you’re looking for is a decent excuse to stretch your legs while road-tripping down I-80, this is it.

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When I first arrived the exterior of the place met my expectations for a small museum dedicated to the historically important, if short-lived, Pony express

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Most people don’t realize this but while it’s a favored features of Hollywood Westerns, the Pony express only was in service for about 18 months, partially because only the government or insanely rich people could really afford it…

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“the cost to send a 1ounce (14 g) letter was $5.00[32] at the beginning, (about $130.00 to today’s standards). By the end period of the Pony Express, the price had dropped to $1.00 per ​12 ounce but even that was considered expensive (equivalent to $27 in 2017[33]) just to mail one letter.”
— from Wikipedia, but also told to me by the docent…  and the informational signs they had attached to the walls…

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And as I already knew, about 18 month after it began working the first electrical telegraph wires had been set along the same distance, GREATLY reducing the transit time for a message from 10 days by pony express rider

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Who had to ride the whole route on horse back…. albeit from station to station, each time switching to fresh horses

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the messages were locked into the “Mochila” which were designed to sit over the horse’s saddle, and could then be quickly switched from saddle to saddle, rather than on the person of the riders themselves

to the amount of time it took to send out all the dots and dashes of the message.

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That said, on closer inspections, mostly what it is, is a gift shop — with over 50% of the space dedicated to sales, and just enough museum pieces thrown in to justify calling it a museum… that and the woman who works there knows just enough about the pony express to give you a short history of it. To be honest was expecting a bit more than this

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EVERYTHING on this side of the building, which is quite tiny anyways, is gift shop

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Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum: Battle Ground, Indiana

This travel stop was in my opinion a complete let down to the point of being annoyed that it took up so much of my time for that day (So what comes next is a very long RANT). The Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum has got to be one of the worst local community sponsored museums I’ve seen, especially when compared to all of the sites that I’ve been to that focus even peripherally on Native American history. But that said, it had hands down the BEST gift store (priorities, clearly). This place is in DIRE need of a skilled curator… it’s clear they had brought one in for the “white people” stuff, but the Native American areas are a pathetic and almost insulting joke. The focus here is almost entirely on what the Federal government did, including the blow by blows of the battle. [This is probably because the U.S. military officer in charge was the local Indiana boy William Harrison, whose success, in said battle, helped him to go on to become our 9th President — a presidency that only lasted for 31 days before he died of pneumonia making his the SHORTEST term in office]….  IMG_2254

One of the annoying things about this site was, at least with regards to the Native American’s side of the story, you didn’t really learn anything on the inside of the museum (after paying your entry fee) that you hadn’t already learned while reading what was presented on the OUTSIDE of the building from the various signs and plaques.

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Erected 1974
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This was probably the first thing put up at the site, and is clearly all about the US forces

Adjacent to the museum is this park with a massive monument dedicated to the American Forces, with a uber masculine/sexy statue of what I’m assuming is Harrison, who as I said went on to become our 9th President, in large part because of this battle. (which tells you something of its political relevance in the day). Please note the:
LOSS, Americas Killed 37, wounded 151…. Indian loss unknown …

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And then these small off to the side plaques, added in 1996 — about the forced removal of the Potawatomi Native populations in the area, called the Trail of Death that happened to the in Sept – Nov. of 1838… a 660 mile forced march during which many children died.

[An important note which I did NOT see explained ANYWHERE in the museum (DID I MENTION that the museum sucks?) is that, the Potawatomi were the tribes that were traditionally a settled/farming tribe that lived on this land, while the Shawnee Indians — the ones involved in the battle — were actually a semi-migratory nation whose lands overlapped Potawatomi land in Indiana and Illinois (in low numbers), but who had MOSTLY lived in lands that extended EAST as far as Maryland. As such, they had already been pushed off those lands by American settlers, and were regrouping and building permanent settlements in Indiana (Indian land anyone?) before the battle happened (which probably didn’t make the Potawatomi very happy)]

fullsizeoutput_4205.jpegOnce I paid to go inside it become incredibly obvious to me that most of the focus of the museum is firmly on the white people, with the Native Americans only really given lip service as an after thought… to be honest, I didn’t really read the poster (below) that blocks your entrance into the place like a warning sign until AFTER I had left the place… and was paying closer attention to the photos I had taken.

IMG_2280This attempt at an apology, which as I said was located JUST at the entrance, in the middle of the path, STRONGLY suggests to me that I’m not (by a long shot) the first person to notice this…  “Originally preserved as a tribute to the soldiers who fell here. We recognize today the bravery of both the Native American and United States military forces who died here defending their way of life.” So, what they have there was about the Native Americans is almost a “lip service” nod to them, and is presented in the most boring, cost-effective ways possible, so the likelihood of customers ‘taking it in’ was unlikely.

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So, even though you’ve walked into a museum that is supposed to be focused on the battle, the first section is devoted to the lesser findings of local archeological digs about a a village where the French and the Miami Indians were living together peacefully… which is more than a bit confusing, largely because it’s not properly segregated nor introduced (to that point, the fact that it was Miami AND French was something I figured out later as I put the disparate pieces from the various signs together — really it was NOT clear). I’m guessing the good stuff went to bigger museums or the University’s museum.) That said, what was presented was a bit scattered and a bit hard to make sense of….

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There was VERY little reference to the French traders nor any mention how well they integrated themselves into the local populations, other than by reference (they lived were living side by side)… so NO comments anywhere about how the Native Americans were never threatened by them, and how their presence was almost diametrically opposed to that of the American settlers…. just these few items

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Seriously, this is IT, this is ALL they had on the French traders

and then there is an equally tiny a bit about the later American white settlers who lived in the area other than that they were there (with some bit and pieces of archeological evidence of their lives… ). Again, NO mention or explanation about how they were invaders, from the local populations’ points of view: i.e., the settlers were forcing Native Americans off their ancestral lands, destroying their hunting grounds and converting them to farms.  And again, there’s no discussion of how those white settlers got there or why… nor of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, etc. (I did spot some reference to the Founding Fathers buying land in the area, but it didn’t come with any explanation of how those land speculations — and the fact that the British said, “sorry no, that land belongs to the French so no you can’t claim ownership of it.” Nor was there any good explanation of how this land greed was something that most historians at this point recognize as being part of what motivated the decision to break from Mother England; all I spotted was a one sentence reference to it which most people would likely miss as it wouldn’t make sense to them.

There are a few scattered references to the settlers’ presence being partially responsible for The American, War of 1812, with Britain, (which from the British point of view was a minor theater of what historians argue was actually the first World War) that happened during the same time period as this battle… but very little explanation of what that connection was….

The Native Americans involved in the Tippecanoe battle receive barely enough focus on the Shawnee Indians to make any sense of the motivations of Tecumseh (one of the most famous Native American tribal leaders EVER, whose name is probably better known than Harrison’s) and his brother Tenskwatawa (other wise known as ‘The Prophet”)… that, and their offerings were so badly displayed as to border on nonsensical (it was just stuff, it didn’t tell any sort of story).

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Also, if you DO actually stop and read what’s written on the various posters (make sure you read the one above first) it’s repetitive, and the time lines of the thing are confusing. It’s almost as though they copy and pasted things they found on-line or in books into the various posters scattered almost thoughtlessly on the walls

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Then, you come to what this museum was CLEARLY intended to be focused upon when first created; it is the section where — by far — most of the money was spent, and actually looks like a serious museum rather than a slap dash attempt at one. This section is a glorification of the American soldiers who arrived for the sole purpose of breaking up any last hope attempt on the part of the Native populations of the area to live peacefully.

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Note the concerned look of the Native American looking up the barrel of a rifleman (who is ridiculously decked out, but that’s what militaries did back then)

Right after this is a multi-media sound and light show devoted to giving you an intricate blow-by-blow of the battle.

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It reminded me of a much smaller, and more affordable version of the Battles for Chattanooga presentation in Tennessee that I love so much that I’ve gone there three times in the last 10 years.

And then back to lip service to the Native Americans… a few posters stuck up on the wall

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After these few pieces of paper stuck to walls, the exhibit returns to its true love of the U.S. Military and Harrison

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A case devoted to the medical tools of the day used by army doctors
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A case devoted to what the soldiers carried with them
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If you have a kid who likes guns, just saying….

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As I was leaving the place, the ONE thing the woman running it insisted on leaving her desk to point out to me was the fact that Harrison’s campaign for President was what we today might consider a “modern” one, in that it utilized slogans “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” and the media in order to make Harrison popular and promote his candidacy

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But, let’s talk about the gift store….

… IF you’re searching for a decent source for historic clothing to wear to a historical reenactment of circa 1811, this is the place… IMG_2422Hand made, historically correct round hats selling for $342 are not the sort of items you normally see for sale in local museum gift stores!  While there were some items, cheap knickknacks that are more normal for these sorts of gift stores, the MAJORITY of items this place was selling seemed to be AS focused on historic reenactment. They weren’t selling little rubber Tomahawks for kids, they were selling REAL ones, and historically correct hand-made leather bags, pipes, and either the clothing, or the pattens so you could make them yourself…  as in exactly the sorts of goods for sale (but for a different time period) as what I found at the store of the  SCA Pennsic event I went to last year — which is a medieval reenactmentIMG_2423

APPARENTLY, this is because there are TWO reenactments that happen in the area devoted to this period of history (below is just one of them), one devoted to the pre-revolutionary war period, and one to the Tippecanoe battle.

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Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural center & Bush Tucker Cafe: Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia

Brambuk National Park & cultural centre is about a 3 to 4 hour drive away from Melbourne, and a 5 hour drive away from Adelaide, so if you haven’t made the effort to road trip between the two (or live in the area), odds are you’ll miss this National Park. Along with the natural wonders of the place, and a host of optional activities (which I will discuss elsewhere), there is a must see but ultimately highly disappointing Aboriginal cultural center, a really wonderful little cafe with very unusual foods, and of course a pretty good gift shop.

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From my first days of planning my trip to Ballarat, my friend who was hosting me had been describing this place to me, and it was one of the things I insisted we had to do, in SPITE of the fact that I was pretty much laid up because of the sever concussion I had suffered not two weeks before.

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TThe cafe and gift shop building

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They have a large selection of gelato available in flavors native to Australia fruits and spices… Golden Wattle seed, Quandong fruit, Strawberry Gum,  Desert lime, Macadamia nut (which is actually native to Australia, not Hawaii), Riberry and Davidson Plum

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As part of my experiencing Australian pies, I ordered a “Skippy” pie (you have to love the perversity of Aussie humor — check the link), which I shared with my friends (one of whom at 99% of the chips… I only ate two)

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we passed on the Lemon Myrtle scones and instead opted for the Wattleseed Damper w/Quandong & Peach Jam and Wattleseed cream (because I had no idea what a Damper was). After checking out their menu, we decided to go for the Bush Food Platter

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which had a little bit of everything (Kangaroo, Emu sausages, Crocodile, Wild Duck (Australia has a few different breeds, they never told us which one we were eating), 2 Bush Food Chutney’s (again we never found out which flavors) & a Garden Salad w/Bush Tomato & Balsamic Dressing) which is intended for two people, so we shared it between us. DEFINITELY worth trying, if only for all the new flavors. (see below for what some of these things look like)

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some of the spices and seeds mentioned above

While waiting for our food we raided the gift shop, which had a very good selection of items (many of which were made by Aboriginals with the proceeds going to them).

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At first I thought left versus right-handed boomerangs was a joke on the tourists, but no, apparently they need to be designed differently. That said, I was tempted to buy this map of Australia (below) showing all the native tribal lands… but didn’t.

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Once done at the first building you walk down a path to the cultural center

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The real disappointment of this visit was the thing that should have been the star, the cultural center. Even though pretty much all they have in there is photographs, we weren’t allowed to take any. There was a movie on Aboriginal culture but you had to pay to see it (and it wasn’t cheap, so we skipped it).

According to their website’s description, “The Brambuk Cultural Centre is the longest running cultural centre still operated by Aboriginal people. Come here to explore the culture, its traditions and various multi-award winning architectural establishments.” So, you’d think this would be a place where politically motivated local Aboriginals would choose to work in order to teach interested visitors about the grandeur of their own culture, and share their love of their own history.

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Note how faded and worn the sign is

But here’s the thing… the odds are when you get there, you won’t spot a single Aboriginal …  not even one with an ancestor four generations back so that all of the distinctive, but also  highly recessive, genetic traits have been bred out — lord knows we didn’t find any (and we asked).

[Rant: Firstly, let’s keep in mind that I have spent months of my life, studying, living and working on the Navajo reservation, and to this day still maintain some VERY close friendships with Native Americans I met during that period of my life who are to this day deeply involved with trying to improve things for their people. What I am not is a knee jerk liberal who attends protests and talks the talk, but has never spent more than a day or two being a tourist among said people, and has therefore never really walked the walk, let alone never spent any real-time talking to said people, whose rights they are so moved to protect; and hence doesn’t even really know who they are let alone understand their problems, and what these people might want for themselves vs., what you the privileged white person might want for them. That said, one of the things that kind of annoyed me while visiting was my observation that in the modern-day Australians (who by all appearances as white) seem to take extreme pride in any small amount of Aboriginal heritage they can claim. Keep in mind, in the case of Aboriginal Australians, that by the third generation, such heritage is difficult to identify visually, and unlike with African genes it can’t “pop up” unexpectedly — where two seemingly white parents can give birth to a dark-skinned child, the same way two brown-eyed parents can have a blue-eyed child. So for instance, I, while researching this piece, learned about a European/Anglo member of the Tasmanian government, by the name of Jacqui Lambie, who offended the Aboriginal community by claiming she was one and therefore could represent them, and then went so far as to get her DNA tested to try to prove it. While this on the surface might seem to be not unlike Americans who point to Native American roots that their ancestors would have tried to hide with embarrassment. The difference is that … where as in America that person might take pride in being “part” Cherokee, they rarely if ever have the audacity to claim the state owes them something for prejudice that they themselves never have had to face in their daily lives because of that genetic heritage. In Australia, however, they will; in the current age they will describe themselves as simply Aboriginal, not as ‘part’ Aboriginal, because it is now not only COOL to be Aboriginal, but again it comes with all sorts of benefits designed to provide a ‘leg up’ in a society that has heretofore condemned them. I was for instance more than a little ticked off to see Aboriginal art, which is sold as such rather than just as art, and it’s a big deal to be able to PROVE the authenticity of said art… only for the photo of the artist to be of someone with blond hair and blue eyes. Think Iggy Azalea, the Australian rapper who claims aboriginal heritage who couldn’t understand while Americans took issue to her calling herself, “black” and hence being an ‘authentic’ rapper…

In the US, the TRIBES would never allow such a thing, for the obvious reason that funding is finite and every kid who is part Native, but has suffered none of the deprivations of that ancestry, who takes that funding is in effect taking it out of the mouths of the folks who really need it. And now that the tribes themselves have found creative ways to pull themselves out of poverty, they are getting EVEN FIERCER about who does or does not get to call themselves “Native America” versus, being of Native American ancestry. It would be a bit like the Johnson’s (African American family, founders of Ebony and Jett magazine and first African American to make make the Forbes 400 list), who used to live near me — and walking distance from one of the very best high schools in the country — had mansion on Lake Michigan, with a swimming pool and tennis court, and had the Commodores (Lionel Richie‘s band before he went solo) play for their kids sweet 16 party taking advantage of preferred places and funding at Universities, intended to help cure socioeconomic disparities that exist in the African-American community]

According to the staff member we spoke to, while the Aboriginal community gets the final say on what happens there, and everything is done with difference to them… sadly, their interest sort of ends with that, and is mostly focused on the money generated by the place… although one of the staff members said if we signed up for the classes and performances that we had read about and wanted to see (which weren’t happening at that time, and hadn’t happened in a while, and he wasn’t sure when the next one might be), we MIGHT (but not would) see Aboriginals working those events.

What displays they had were placed kind of hap hazard, so that it didn’t tell any sort of meaningful story. Overall, it was kind of massive waste of time

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having trouble embeding the map (follow link to google maps):

 

Jeffersonville, IN

Louisville Kentucky is one of the myriad of US towns situated on a river that is a state border, so that her ‘suburbs’ effectually spread over multiple states; historic Jeffersonville Indiana is just such a suburb.

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Originally the location of a fort named after Baron Von Steuben (the Gay military genius without whom we would have most likely lost the Revolutionary war), Jeffersonville was most likely named as such the same year Thomas Jefferson became president of the united states, and the settlers of the town used the same grid layout that he had promoted as a way for distributing land.

To the town’s credit, they have embraced the historic nature of their town, and as you walk around it you’ll see numerous historic buildings, and signs attached to walls, that offer you a window into the towns past.

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Ironically, however, when I scanned the QR codes attached to those signs into my phone I was taken to a web page saying that the campaign had been disabled — not sure why they would go to all the effort to produce the signs if the city leaders weren’t committed to at least keep the associated web pages active.

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The town however is full of architecturally interesting buildings that have been, for the most part, well maintained, and was full of cute little restaurants, cafes, etc., including a two different cigar lounges (all leather armchairs and sipping bourbon), and a Cafeteria resturant, which is sort of a dying institution.

img_7068Truth be told, I hadn’t come to Jeffersonville in order to see the town, even though having seen it I would happily categorize it as a destination in and of itself, but rather U had come here because of Schimpff’s Candies, which is historic enough to have been covered by the history channel (it was, ironically, featured in the show, Modern Marvels on an episode devoted to candy production).img_7065

Having celebrated it’s 125th anniversary, Schimpff’s, which was originally opened on April 11, 1891,  is one of the oldest continuously operated, family owned candy companies in the US to still be located in it’s original location. And in case one were to forget the perils of being in a town located adjacent to a river, I found the way that the owners had proudly notated its various floods on the exterior wall of the shop to be interesting.

Schimpff’s Candies is a cute place, a combination store, ice cream and lunch counter, with a museum of the Candy industry located in the back.
img_6847I came here because I thought there was going to be a factory tour but there is not — they just do demonstrations of what they’re making that day.
img_7063They’re famous for their red hots, but today they were making Christmas candy.

While the store itself was worthy of a stop, I think that the it’s more the high point of a cute little historic town visit, rather than a full destination in and of itself.

The day I went was by sheer coincidence veterans day… and I saw this:img_6867