US state GEORGIA has some surreal beauty to mesmerise its visitors, says DEEPIKA CHALKE
Citadel columnist DEEPIKA CHALKE traverses the popular tourist destinations of GEORGIA, USA, where scores of tourists flock to the state for witnessing its surreal beauty.
In t he summer of 2017, my mother and I explored some of the most famous landmarks in the US state of Georgia- the Georgia Aquarium, which is one of the world’s largest aquariums; the CNN headquarters; and the most haunted city in United States: the city of Savannah. Georgia, a state with fairy tale like forests, rollercoaster like roads, mind boggling hills, and towering mountains, is a beautiful state in southeast United States. Known as the Peach State, because of its ability to produce good quality peaches, the capital city of Georgia is Atlanta. A major centre for IT, healthcare, art and media, TV and film production, Atlanta is known for hosting the 1996 Olympics, for its top-notch University, Georgia Tech, for being the city where Coca-Cola was invented by a US pharmacist and was sold in a pharmacy, and for having the busiest airport in the world - Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Atlanta’s flourishing economy is home to headquarters of Fortune 100 companies like Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, the Coca-Cola Company and AT&T Mobility, to name a few. Some of the most famous horror themed TV shows like The Walking Dead, Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf have been shot in Atlanta, along with the horror-comedy movie: Zombieland. The classic novel Gone with the Wind was written by an Atlanta native, Margaret Mitchell. Atlanta also has one of the most brilliant Halloween themed half-marathons, which I
ran one chilly November morning in 2016, dressed as a character from the animated movie, The Incredibles.
Georgia Aquarium: One sunny morning, after a short drive and scrambling to find a parking spot in Downtown Atlanta, my mother and I were at an iconic attraction, The Georgia Aquarium. Home to thousands of species that swim in 10 million US gallons of marine and salt water, and the largest aquarium in the world until 2012, the Georgia Aquarium makes you feel like you are in a submarine, deep in an ocean. One of the first things that dazzled our senses was a sea lion show. In an auditorium, we sat on front row seats; bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to watch the sea lions do their thing. Soon, three instructors came onto the stage and with them were gigantic sea lions that performed unbelievable acrobatics and interesting howling sounds. Just as I was beginning to wonder if these animals were being harmed for training purposes, the instructors mentioned that these animals had been rescued from near death situations and were being fed and cared for in this aquarium. As the sea lions lunged into the water, they splashed us all with waves and delighted us with their brilliant performance and energy. My mother and I spent the next several hours walking the maze-like terrain of the aquarium and marvelling at its strange inhabitants with a child-like enthusiasm
and a deep sense of wonder and awe. There were such mindboggling, fascinating, bizarre creatures that I felt like I was on an alien planet: mushroom shaped creatures, alien octopus like creatures, creatures that looked like a lit-up moon; there were creatures steeped in rare bright colours, creatures with weird shapes, and creatures that I wouldn’t have realised were living things had they not been in an aquarium. My favourite thing was a gigantic tank with a mind boggling marine ecosystem: whale sharks, beluga whales, manta rays and scores of other species, large and small, swam around; I sat in front of the tank, sinking deep in utter fascination, contemplating the creative power of nature, the mystery of life, and the many profound wonders of the Universe; the aquarium put me in a trance like mode, opening my consciousness to the incredible beauty and magic of the Universe. Mainly built from a donation of $250 million from a businessman called Bernard Marcus over a period of 27 months, the Aquarium is an expensive excursion, but it’s worth a visit to dive deep into the wondrous wonders of the Universe. CNN Center: Situated in downtown Atlanta is the world headquarters of CNN, where a plethora of cutting edge newsrooms and studios are located. As soon as
you enter, you notice a gigantic globe, an unusually long escalator, a mindboggling array of flags from around the world, CNN logos, the US flag, a vast number of windows that make you curious about what top notch news recording or editing might be unfolding in there, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and the large number of tourists. The only way to explore this place is through a 50-minute paid guided tour. As part of this tour, we took the world’s longest free-standing escalator; visited a couple of studios and newsrooms; learnt about anchors using teleprompters and green screens to deliver news and glimpsed from afar the control room where editing, processing and discussions about the footage occur. It was fascinating, observing everything from a distance, and it made me wonder how exciting and creative and fulfilling and potentially stressful a career in news broadcasting might be. CNN, the first all-news 24 hours cable television channel, was founded in 1980 by Ted Turner, and it went on to set industry standards for news coverage by covering important events like the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and 1991 Persian Gulf War among its early history. While most of the broadcasting is done from stations in New York, LA, Washington DC, Atlanta is mainly used for weekend programming.
In Georgia is one of the most unique, peculiar and charming cities: the city of Savannah; a city known as the most haunted city in United States and a city where quaint boulevards, Spanish moss sprinkled giant oak trees, beautiful mansions with old-fashioned architecture, cobblestoned squares, and historic parks whisper wondrous things to your soul. One sunny morning, my mother, a family friend and I set off for Savannah and after driving for four hours from Atlanta to Savannah, we checked into our hotel; a brilliant brick building with tiny rooms in the heart of Savannah’s historic district. After speaking with the hotel concierge, we decided to
take the hop-on-hop-off trolley tour that would take us to the main tourist destinations. Starved, we walked for ten minutes and stopped at one of the most famous restaurants in Savannah: The Pirate’s House. The Pirate’s House: An old building that seems to be made of bricks and wooden planks, t he Pirate’s House cuts an otherworldly picture. The main building is 250 years old, and t he attached smaller structure is considered as the oldest building in Georgia. The hotel used to be a notorious den for pirates, criminals and crooks, back in the day, and drunken revelry often led to fights, mayhem and murder. There are stories that people would get drunk, pass out and wake up on a ship, miles away from the shore, realising they have been kidnapped to work on the ship. Legend says that an underground tunnel connected the basement of the Pirate’s House to River Street, and it is through this tunnel that men were smuggled onto ships for forced labour. There are also tales of ghosts haunting the Pirate’s House and though the tunnels have long been sealed and nobody now knows where they existed, there are stories that shadows and apparitions had been seen in the tunnel. As we sat and enjoyed a lunch buffet and a delicious peach cobbler, in the hustle and bustle of a packed restaurant, we did not sense any spooky phenomena. The restaurant is famous for its seafood, which my mother and the family friend enjoyed quite a bit. For my part, being a vegetarian, I munched on some beans and rice and have no complains. Post l unch, we boarded a bright orange trolley bus from Pirate’s House, and off we went to explore the city of Savannah. The bus passed through the crowded, maze-like historic district of Savannah, and for our first stop, we got down at Forsyth Park. Forsyth Park: One of the most famous tourist destinations in Savannah, Forsyth park is like walking into a scene from a long-lost era; moss laden ancient oak trees come across as wise, ancient creatures from an alien planet that have strange, wondrous powers that benefit the soul. There’s something very surreal about the trees and as I passed
by, their gigantic dimensions and elegant form put me under a spell. In the distance, all around the park, stood mansions with stunning architecture that reminded me of Victorian, Roman, Greek, Gothic eras. As I walked through the oak lined boulevard, awestruck, I soon came across the famed fountain that’s represented on most pictures of Forsyth Park. Inspired by Parisian architecture, the fountain was built in 1858 as a thing of beauty and it truly stands as an epic monument, dazzling in white, spewing water, with the statue of a robed woman surrounded by statues of a strange creature that appears as half man and half fish, considered i n Greek mythology as messenger of the sea. The oak tree pathway leading up to the fountain is quite an epic, picture-perfect kind of scene. Dusk is the best time to visit. Historic District: Exhausted from an hour of walking, we got back to the bus stop and hopped on the bus, and returned to our hotel. After relaxing for an hour or two, off we went to simply stroll through t he historic district of Savannah. The Historic
District is home to 22 squares where oak trees and eighteenth and nineteenth century architecture comes alive with a vengeance, and you feel like you have been transported back in history by a time machine. The squares are packed with tourists and locals; people lounge about on benches, painters paint, booklovers read and musicians play music. Soon, we made our way to the iconic River Street: a cobblestoned walkway alongside the Savannah River. River Street: A fascinating street, packed to the brim with shops, cafes, restaurants, tourists and locals, River Street will charm your senses. As soon as we arrived at River Street, it began to pour, and we took cover in one of the souvenir shops. After waiting for a few minutes, when we came out, we were treated to a surreal scene; a beautiful rainbow sparkled across the sky. I stood in awe, gaping and taking pictures. Soon, the sun began to set and the cloudy sky turned into an orange pink ocean, and the moon, the rainbow, the clouds and the stars put on a beautiful celestial show. As we gazed at this wondrous scene, a bunch of tourists asked us: why were we looking at the sky, and they were amazed when we pointed out the epic scene to them. As it got dark, we walked on for a bit and the place looked like a carnival. We took an escalator that brought us from River Street to the Historic District and as we walked on, we sat at a bench on the side of the road and observed the scenery; old historic buildings and oak trees loomed large, cars zoomed by and people walked on, the moon shined brightly and a surreal otherworldliness prevailed in the air. Soon, we made our way to our hotel and crashed for the night. Chippewa Square: The next morning, we were back on the trolley, and we ended up at Chippewa Square; a beautiful square with larger than life oak trees, mindboggling mansions and old-fashioned street lamps. A bench at the park entrance is where Tom Hanks sits and narrates his life story in the movie, Forrest Gump. As we walked on, we stumbled upon the famous Six Pence Pub, a British style restaurant, with sidewalk seating and delicious grub and beer menu. Outside Six Pence is a bright red phone booth, which I found amusing and interesting. One of the scenes from the Julia Roberts movie, Something to Talk About, was shot at Six Pence Pub. Cathedral of St. John the Baptist: One of the most famous tourist destinations, the Cathedral is breathtaking with stained glass paintings on the inside and a Gothic, Roman architecture style with bold shades of gold and white on the outside. As soon as we entered the cathedral, it closed because of a rainstorm warning, and no sooner had we stepped out than it began to rain insanely. We caught a bus, wherein we were stranded for a bit due to zero visibility because of the rain, and were completely astounded as the lady driving the bus navigated the streets for a bit in zero visibility and a few minutes later, when we reached our hotel, we left Savannah. Savannah feels like a place from Anne Rice’s novels where vampires and werewolves and strange creatures would loom in the shadows at dark. There are many ghost tours available, along with tours of the most famous cemetery, the Bonaventure Cemetery. The Historic District is hauntingly beautiful, and you can pretty much explore the entire Historic District on your feet and get lost in the surreal beauty of this place.
Starfish at Georgia Aquarium
Sea Lions at Georgia Aquarium
Historic District Square
Forsyth Park Fountain
Savannah Historic District
Inside CNN Headquarters
Inside CNN Centre
Inside CNN Centre