Citadel travel colum­nist DEEPIKA CHALKE ex­plores the ar­chi­tec­tural and en­gi­neer­ing mar­vels of CHICAGO, which are breath­tak­ing, jaw-drop­ping and awe-in­spir­ing. Take a look at one of the lead­ing busi­ness cen­tres in the world…

Citadel - - CONTENTS -

DEEPIKA CHALKE ex­plores the ar­chi­tec­tural and en­gi­neer­ing mar­vels of CHICAGO

Chicago, the third-most pop­u­lous city in the United States, is a city of ar­chi­tec­tural and en­gi­neer­ing mar­vels. Gritty, artsy, vi­brant, edgy and in­no­va­tive, the city is a thriv­ing me­trop­o­lis sit­u­ated along the shore of Lake Michi­gan, one of the ve great lakes of North Amer­ica, and a lake that evokes a jaw-drop­ping re­ac­tion as it seems more like an ocean that stretches onto the hori­zon and be­yond. One of the most pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tions in the United States, the city of Chicago at­tracts about thirty-ve mil­lion vis­i­tors an­nu­ally. A global pow­er­house of fi­nance,

in­dus­try, tech­nol­ogy, trans­porta­tion, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and art, Chicago is one of the world’s lead­ing cities for top-notch busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and plays an im­por­tant role in the econ­omy of the coun­try. Home to 2.7 mil­lion res­i­dents and the sec­ond busi­est airport in the world, one of the top ve im­por­tant busi­ness cen­tres in the world, a di­verse econ­omy, the third­largest labour pool in the na­tion, the sec­ond largest cen­tral busi­ness district in the United States, head­quar­ters to busi­ness giants and a ma­jor play­ground for some of the most im­por­tant For­tune Global 500 com­pa­nies, For­tune 1000 com­pa­nies and Fi­nan­cial Times 500 com­pa­nies, the city breathes vi­sion­ar­ies and rev­o­lu­tion­ary growth. Of­ten called the Windy City, Chicago is leg­endary for its awe-in­spir­ing sky­line of his­toric build­ings and its mu­se­ums. One May, I made my way to Chicago to run a half marathon and to ex­pe­ri­ence the city’s breath­tak­ing ar­chi­tec­ture. With much tus­sle and willpower, I tore my­self from my bed and in a sleep de­prived haze at the god­for­saken hour of 4 am, I got ready and drove my­self to the airport in the predawn dark­ness, part zom­bie like and part thrilled to bits. The airport bore a de­serted look, which made me feel like I was in an apoc­a­lyp­tic movie of some kind where most of the world had dis­ap­peared into shad­ows. Shufing along, I grabbed my­self a cup of steam­ing cof­fee and sat by a phone charg­ing sta­tion, won­der­ing wist­fully how awe­some it would be if the brainy sci­en­tists amongst us in­vented hu­man en­ergy charg­ing sta­tions where shift­ing the mood and the en­ergy lev­els was sim­ply a mat­ter of plug­ging in, and Zen-like en­ergy would course through your body. As I sat drink­ing the bit­ter cof­fee and munch­ing on a pro­tein bar, I felt some sem­blance of life re­turn­ing to my veins and in­spired by the sud­den surge of en­ergy and a hy­per alert state of wake­ful­ness, I reached out to my lug­gage and pulled out a book and turned my back on the world of re­al­ity, im­mers­ing my­self in the world of ction. The bril­liantly bit­ter cof­fee, the ex­cep­tion­ally crunchy ce­real bar, the nearly empty airport with the oc­ca­sional bleary eyed, yawn­ing, weary and dazed trav­ellers, and my won­drously won­drous book, were the per­fect start to an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ad­ven­ture that awaited me. When the ight left on time at 7 am, I was stumped and eu­phoric, be­cause re­peated ex­po­sure to de­layed ights had made me grit my teeth and make peace with the fact that any ight I am trav­el­ling on would be de­layed, and all my plans would be thrown up in the air. Ex­cited and ner­vous about the day ahead, I tried to get some rest

and catch some sleep, all in vain. So, I kept at the book, even as ex­haus­tion be­gan to creep back into my bones and a sub­tle anx­i­ety be­gan to gnaw at my ex­cite­ment. I ran the lo­gis­tics of the trip in my head, won­der­ing if I could pull it all off in one piece… Sign­ing up for a solo ad­ven­ture to ven­ture out into the maze-like streets of Chicago had seemed like a bril­liant idea not so long ago, but on that ight, the thought made me dizzy with an­tic­i­pa­tion. Rest­less and stuck with a brain that was aw­fully xated on com­ing up with dif­fer­ent per­mu­ta­tions and com­bi­na­tions of dis­as­trous sce­nar­ios that would spell doom and gloom, I called upon some sem­blance of peace through deep breath­ing. Again, all in vain. As it turned out, the sil­ver lin­ing was that it was a short ight of two hours, and it had been time to em­bark on a trail of ac­tions, de­ci­sions and ad­ven­tures. Dressed for summer and look­ing for­ward to bask­ing in the summer breeze and the golden sunshine, my mind reeled as I laid eyes upon a gloomy, rainy, over­cast city from the airport win­dows. As I walked through the Chicago airport, I felt like I was in the Harry Pot­ter world of Di­agon Al­ley, for some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­son. Look­ing back, I think the rea­son was be­cause the airport had a nar­row lane, jammed with scores of peo­ple and anked by a se­ries of cus­tom­ary cof­fee places, eat­ing places and book­shops that made the en­tire place look very Lon­don-like in my mind’s eye, even though I had never been to Lon­don. Af­ter a short walk through the chaotic whirl­wind of one of the busi­est air­ports in the world, I boarded a shut­tle that drove through the rain drenched streets to the car rental cen­tre. Out of the shut­tle and at the car rental cen­tre, at the end of a long line, I waited pa­tiently to get a car as anx­i­ety be­gan to cut through me like a sharp knife blaz­ing a trail through a whole­some ap­ple. A few min­utes later, I stood un­der the vel­vet sky of Chicago in a mild driz­zle, by a car, breath­ing in the grey, gloomy at­mos­phere and ddling with the car keys, try­ing to

gure out how to get the stub­born and ac­cursed car boot to open. Fi­nally, with some as­sis­tance and much swear­ing, the car boot opened and I stuffed the lug­gage in and sat be­hind the wheel, feel­ing over­whelmed and un­cer­tain. With slightly trem­bling ngers, I keyed in the ad­dress of a Chicago down­town park­ing lot, where I would park my car and rage through the streets on my feet, an ex­plorer ex­plor­ing an iconic city. As I drove through the pour­ing rain, I felt a sense of re­newed ex­cite­ment and peace. Through the trafc-laden roads, in the dis­tance, I glimpsed the ur­ban sprawl of down­town Chicago, a city with stunning sky­scrapers. About an hour’s drive later, I en­tered a maze where streets criss­crossed in no dis­cernible pat­tern ex­cept to con­fuse and over­whelm a new­comer, roads ended in dead ends for no good rea­son, and peo­ple drove with reck­less aban­don as if a di­nosaur was on their tail and if they did not tear through the streets in may­hem-like speed or make last minute turns, the di­nosaur would chew them to pieces. In the heart of the com­mer­cial en­clave that is the Chicago down­town, I drove past beau­ti­ful tow­ers, a swiftly ow­ing river and the end­less ar­ray of cars parked by the side of the road, in the steady splat­ter of rain, in end­less cir­cles. Fi­nally, af­ter what seemed like an eter­nity of driv­ing around, I found a build­ing with mul­ti­ple park­ing oors and pulled in, get­ting a ticket and park­ing the car in a ran­dom spot. Tak­ing pic­tures of the park­ing spot, the car and the li­cense plate, I stepped out and walked to­wards Mil­len­nium Park, one of the most pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tions in the city. As I cut through the roads, not quite sure which way to head, I let the GPS lead the way. Turn­ing this way and that way, feel­ing lost in a maze, I walked on and the sud­den sight of a bus at a bus stop made me bolt, breath­less and pant­ing. I made it on the bus and re­quested the gen­tle­man driv­ing the bus to holler when the bus neared Mil­len­nium Park. I sat tight, gaz­ing at the over­cast city where trafc roared through the streets, beau­ti­ful and artsy build­ings soared sky­wards and pedes­tri­ans walked on the side­walks, light on their feet and cut­ting past the streets, car­ry­ing um­brel­las.


Ten min­utes later, I got off the bus and a chilly wind sliced through me, mak­ing me shiver and curse. The rain had stopped and the city had turned into a cold, windy, gloomy global vil­lage. Lo­cals and trav­ellers walked around and I joined them with a smile

as a sense of won­der, cu­rios­ity and a feel­ing of magic coursed through my veins. In front of me was one of the most revered ar­chi­tec­tural jew­els of the city of Chicago: Cloud Gate. An iconic land­mark that cost $ 23 mil­lion, Cloud Gate was de­signed by the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed In­di­an­born Bri­tish artist, Anish Kapoor. Nick­named the Bean by the lo­cals be­cause of its shape, the struc­ture is a gleam­ing stain­less steel force of na­ture. As I walked around it and un­der­neath its arch, I gasped in won­der as I peered at my dis­torted reec­tions and the reec­tions of the city’s build­ings in the struc­ture’s steel sur­face. Im­pec­ca­ble and el­e­gant, bi z a r r e an d ot h e r w o r l d l y, like some­thing one would nd on an alien planet, the struc­ture is a breath­tak­ing and a fas­ci­nat­ing leap of imag­i­na­tion and a tremen­dous en­gi­neer­ing and ar­chi­tec­tural ac­com­plish­ment. Cho­sen from amongst thirty de­sign pro­pos­als, Cloud Gate faced many chal­lenges dur­ing its con­cep­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion phases, some of which in­cluded con­cerns about weather’s ef­fect on the struc­ture, its weight, main­te­nance and as­sem­bly. Fea­tured in sev­eral movies, the iconic struc­ture mea­sures 33 by 66 by 42 feet and weighs 110 tons, and what I found ab­so­lutely as­tound­ing is that the 168 stain­less steel plates that make up the struc­ture have been welded so per­fectly that it feels like the Bean was man­u­fac­tured whole out of a sin­gle stain­less steel plate in­stead of mul­ti­ple plates. As I wan­dered around it, it looked to me like some kind of fan­tas­tic por­tal into an al­ter­nate uni­verse.


Af­ter a few min­utes of gawk­ing and ad­mir­ing the Bean, I set off to ex­plore the leg­endary Mil­len­nium Park. One of the top ten tourist des­ti­na­tions in the United States, with 25 mil­lion an­nual vis­i­tors, the Park is an as­tound­ing uni­verse of com­mer­cial tow­ers with breath­tak­ing el­e­gance and his­toric and im­pos­ing fa­cades that im­part a modern-day fairy tale vibe to this place. As I walked through the fog that came out of nowhere and the bo­nenumb­ing chill that came with a bon­er­at­tling wind, shortly, I ended up at the Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment lo­cated at Wrigley Square. I felt like I was in Rome or Greece as I gazed at the larger than life pil­lars that looked splen­did and for­mi­da­ble. A gi­gan­tic fountain spewed wa­ter while gi­ant con­crete mon­sters with gazil­lion eyes rose in the back­ground, mak­ing me feel a sense of awe for the ar­chi­tects and en­gi­neers that built this king­dom of mon­u­men­tal mon­u­ments. A few odd min­utes later, I con­tin­ued my jour­ney, walk­ing through a won­der­land of tow­er­ing build­ings, some of which were swal­lowed by a dense fog. I felt like I was in a Scooby Doo mys­tery set­ting, or in the mys­te­ri­ous, fog blan­keted Lon­don. As I walked on, the cold be­gan to grow un­bear­able and my nose and hands be­gan to go painfully numb. I passed by a river­front where boats stood wait­ing in the tur­bu­lent ow of the river, ready to take ex­plor­ers into the iconic ar­chi­tec­tural world of Chicago. Due to un­favourable weather and fog and lack of time, I skipped the boat ride and con­tin­ued on­ward, deeper into the maze of ar­chi­tec­tural mar­vels. De­signer brand out­lets, banks, cor­po­ra­tions, res­tau­rants…I passed them all, gap­ing at the ma­jes­tic mag­nif­i­cence and con­tem­plat­ing the colos­sal amount of wealth that went into as­sem­bling such beau­ti­ful build­ings. I looked on at the cap­i­tal­ist, con­sumerist, artsy front, cov­ered in a grey haze and white fog, won­der­ing if I should go in and shop for any­thing specic. Noth­ing called out to me, so I kept on walk­ing un­til the cold made me feel like I might pass out, and I

re­al­ized my phone was about to die. To rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion, I walked into an elec­tron­ics store, ddled with a gazil­lion por­ta­ble charg­ers un­til I nally felt ready to buy one, and then made my way to a cloth­ing out­let, and af­ter much con­fu­sion and fum­bling around, I picked out a light blue sweat­shirt. One of the as­sis­tants at the elec­tronic store di­rected me to­wards the John Han­cock Ob­ser­va­tory, a sort of is­land in the sky that lets you glimpse the jaw drop­ping panorama of Chicago’s sky­line and the shim­mer­ing waters of Lake Michi­gan. Sadly, due to the mas­sive fog and over­cast weather, the ob­ser­va­tory was closed, and so, with a sigh and a heavy heart, I got back on the road and de­cided to visit another fa­mous tourist at­trac­tion: Navy Pier.


By this time, it had be­gun to rain and there was noth­ing much to do but to tread through the in­sane weather with a stoic mind-set. Af­ter fid­dling with my phone for di­rec­tions, I found my­self wait­ing at a bus stop, and few min­utes later, I was at the des­ti­na­tion. As I stepped off the bus, a tor­ren­tial wave of wind tore through the city, al­most top­pling me over, and a rain­storm swept the city, mak­ing me run for cover. The place was com­pletely de­serted, as if a dooms­day had wiped off all of civ­i­liza­tion. Eerie and haunt­ing, the lake looked like it might spawn a mon­strous crea­ture from its very depths. I walked on be­side the lake­front, pass­ing by a carousel, a Fer­ris wheel, res­tau­rants and shop­ping cen­tres, tak­ing pic­tures. Feel­ing cold, hun­gry and un­set­tled, I walked into a restau­rant to get a bite of the world fa­mous Chicago style deep-dish pizza. The wait time be­ing too long, I gave up and traced my way back through the rain and the wind, to the bus stop and even­tu­ally, I was back at Mil­len­nium Park, walk­ing back to the car park­ing lot. Soaked to the skin and to­tally lost, I walked around in cir­cles, tak­ing in the city’s beauty and the morose weather. I had no choice but to get my phone out in the mad­den­ing rain, to fol­low di­rec­tions and af­ter an hour of search­ing, I was at the park­ing lot. Lit­tle did I know that the ad­ven­ture was far from over, and that a seedy char­ac­ter would pre­tend to be the park­ing lot at­ten­dant and charge me $ 20 and dis­ap­pear with my ticket, leav­ing me stranded. And af­ter this spe­cific in­ci­dent oc­curred, I found my­self on the verge of panic and tears. The sink­ing re­al­iza­tion that I had just been mugged sunk in and the fact that I was stuck with my car in the park­ing lot and my phone was about to die and I knew not a soul in the city, made me al­most keel over with de­spair. I looked around for an on­site at­ten­dant, but

there was no­body around, and as I nar­rated my tale to other trav­ellers who were leav­ing the park­ing lot, they em­pathized with my plight and even apol­o­gized for the sad event, but I was still stuck. Thank­fully, an at­ten­dant did come in a few min­utes later and she swiped her card to let me out of the park­ing lot af­ter I told her what hap­pened. She apol­o­gized and asked me to not be that naïve and trust­ing, the next time around. I cranked on the heater and the mu­sic, shiv­ered and let out a sigh of re­lief, brac­ing my­self for a two-hour drive to my des­ti­na­tion ho­tel. Af­ter driv­ing past de­serted roads along­side empty corn elds that re­minded me of Stephen King’s hor­ror nov­els, af­ter two hours of driv­ing, I was at the ho­tel in a city called Rock­ford. The ho­tel’s lo­ca­tion and my iso­lated ho­tel room, to­wards the end of a long cor­ri­dor, made me feel like I was denitely in the midst of a Stephen King hor­ror novel. Hav­ing been on edge for quite a while and starved for hours, I stepped out to the ho­tel restau­rant, to re­lax and eat. A sump­tu­ous Thai din­ner was the per­fect end to the hy­per­ac­tive, fren­zied, un­pre­dictable day. The next morn­ing, af­ter a tful sleep of four hours, I drove my­self to the race venue and in the bit­ing chill and the un­com­fort­able wind, I pulled on the ex­tra pair of socks I had as gloves and af­ter a wait of 45 min­utes, and af­ter a run­ning and jog­ging spree of 2 hours 16 min­utes, the race was done and dusted, and I drove my­self to the ho­tel and checked out an hour later, mak­ing my way to the airport to head back home. I only ex­plored the tip of the ice­berg in Chicago city, and so one summer, I plan to re­turn to ex­plore its fa­mous art mu­se­ums and its many im­por­tant land­marks. Chicago is denitely best ex­plored in summer, un­less you don’t mind be­ing frosted in its bl­iz­zard like cold and snow dur­ing its in­tense win­ters.

The John Han­cock build­ing

Cloud Gate

The Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment

Navy Pier

Chicago’s lake­front bor­der­ing Lake Michi­gan

The stunning Chicago sky­line

The river­front

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