As of lately, if you don’t have a great interest in Chicago, you haven’t had much to read on my blog. Now I still have many posts to write about the „Second City“ of the US, but I don’t want to bore you and instead keep diversion on my blog. Because of this, I am going to mix it up a little again in the future. I have some great posts in store. Nonetheless, I feel like my Chicago-adventures deserve an all-embracing post that rounds it all up for now. So today I will tell you the five reasons why Chicago quickly stole my heart and became my favourite city of all the ones that I have visited in the US.
1. Walkability and Public Transport
My most influential US experience, as I have mentioned, has been in El Paso, Texas. In El Paso it is virtually impossible to walk anywhere at all, and I was never allowed to use public transport for my hostmum’s fear of someone mugging me or the likes. In Chicago, not only are the sidewalks, but with the cta, Chicago Transit Authority, there is a magnificent system of metros (called the L, short for ELevated) and busses that will make every part of the city easily accessible. Convenient day-, three-day- and seven-day-passes make it a joy to move about the city. Apart from that, a lot of the stations on the L show the charms of days long past with their wooden platforms and cast-iron banisters.
My readers know that I am a fan of the medieval red brick beauty of Northern European Hanseatic cities. But Chicago has shown to me what urban beauty in a large metropolis can truly mean. Skyscrapers don’t have to be glass boxes without creative form or shape. They come in neo gothic, neo classicist, and in round, triangular, and square shapes in all creative combinations. I might not want to live on the 57th floor of any given building, but those skyscrapers are sure impressive. And they can be, I think I have mentioned it before, funnily reminiscent of social realist architecture in Eastern Europe.
Chicago has opened my eyes to a new artform – modern architecture. Thank you!
3. The Greenery
Chicago has a seemingly infinite number of parks. It starts by the great ones downtown, Grant Park and Lincoln Park, that stretch along the entire coastline of Lake Michigan, and continues in uncountable small neighbourhood parks in every part of town. A lot of them have lagoons that add a freshness and wideness to the urbanity you find downtown. They are lively places where people from different communities seem to come together to have a good time, and people watching is a wonderful pastime here.
Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not the girl who goes abroad to shop. In all honesty, I don’t even like shopping very much at home, and it is beyond me why someone would spend precious time in a foreign place with an activity as tedious as running through shops that look the same in all the Western world anyway. But… when there’s shops like in Chicago, it is different. There are unique places like the above Coffee and Tea Exchange that feels like what in German would be called a Kolonialwarenladen – one of the general shops of yore that would mainly sell items from the colonies. And there is an amazing vintage shop culture for ANYthing – clothes, records, and of course, books!
5. The Lake
Finally, Chicago’s biggest selling point to a water girl like me is bound to be Lake Michigan. Being from Hamburg, I appreciate water in a city more than anything. Being at the shore of a river, a lake or an ocean clears my head and makes me happy. Usually I wouldn’t have thought that a lake would really do it for me – too static. But Lake Michigan is different because it feels like the sea. Its colours change between a Baltic grey and a Mediterranean bright blue, it has angry big waves and quiet glassy clear days. If you get out of the immediate city, you will come across beaches that are well worth a holiday.
I appreciate Chicago’s urbanity, its excitement and all the convenience that it has to offer. But the beauty of it is that it doesn’t only offer that, but also the opportunity to easily get away from it all and feel yourself in nature. It seems that the city has it all.
What about you? Have you ever been to Chicago? Does it seem like somewhere you would want to go? Have you got a favourite city in the US?