Sleepless in Seattle
Seattle in general.
Seattle is the biggest city of Washington state and it´s located on the West coast of the US.
The capital city of Washington is Olympia.
Local characteristic of residents: “passive aggressive”.
Size of the city: 369,2 km²
Population: 574 000 people
Let´s compare Seattle with my hometown Bratislava:
Size of the city: 367,661 km ²
Population: 476 000 people
Myth about Seattle: it rains all the time here.
I spent in Seattle only three months and yes, sometimes it was sprinkling, cloudy or foggy, but I was also being told that the rain was just about to come. My host family told me that it really rains here during December through March but it is more like sprinkling as I said. People don´t use umbrellas here because all they need is a waterproof jacket and I found it weird but very practical. But mostly I felt weird because it was basically raining at me.
By the way, I loved the smell after a rain. You can smell very intensively pines, lavenders or weed which is legalized in Washington.
Don´t even go to America if you don´t have a compass!
Another interesting thing I can´t get used to is navigation. If you ask somebody on a way how to get somewhere you might get an answer “use the Google” or they´ll tell you that you need to go to the NE and three blocks later turn left. That was the best advice I have ever got. So Seattle goes from the North to the South and there is a big highway crossing Seattle that leads from Canada to Mexico. Most of the streets and avenues are tagged with shortcuts N, S, E, W or by combinations NE, NW, SE, SW – because you need to know on which point of the compass you´re located.
Since repeating is the mother of knowledge, I am going to repeat myself: don´t even go to America if you don´t have a compass! Or Google maps…
Hills, hills, so many hills…
Since Seattle is located in the US which is well-known for the rectangle street architecture, you´ll find it here as well. Actually it´s very practical – especially if your orientation sense is terrible as mine.
Seattle is also a very hilly city. My friend once told me: “Well, at that time when they were building this city they didn´t expect that so many people will come to live here.” And I guess he was right. On the other side Seattle belongs to the TOP 10 US big cities where people don´t struggle with obesity. Maybe those hills are the reason why haha. From my own experience I didn´t enjoy driving a car up those hills because I felt like that hill would flip me over. And one more note to the hills: thanks God that like 98% of the US cars have automatic clutch. It would be a nightmare to drive a manual here.
Thumbs up to the public transportation here. They have buses, trolleybuses, trams, ferry and a subway. Buses and trolleybuses have unique bus stops in the city center (like in the middle of a steep hill) but let me tell you a first-hand story. Drivers like to talk to you and they have no problem to give you an advice how you can reach your final destination. There isn´t anything that would separate them from the crowd of people inside the bus (like a barrier) and as you get into the bus they greet you! It had happened to me few times that I spent the whole drive by chatting with the bus driver…
You have two options how to get a bus ticket. You can either buy it at the driver or use your ORCA card (public transportation card). If I´m not wrong, one drive with ORCA (no matter how many times you change buses, the price is related to 2 hours of drive) costs $2,75. That’s is not bad at all.
Houses and parks in the Rat City
One thing that you´ll notice after you come to the US are the typical American houses. No matter if it´s apartment buildings or old houses which we know from American movies. It is here in front of you and they´re amazing!
Seattle is also well-known by having a lot of parks and green fields. Over 12% of the city area are parks. There are squirrels everywhere and in the houses you´ll find huge spiders. Population of squirrels, spiders and rats (Seattle´s nickname is “Rat City”) is high as annual population of pigeons and mosquitos during the summer days in Slovakia.
Let´s talk about sports
As laic I can tell that American football is very popular here (Seattle Seahawks and Washington Huskies), soccer (Seattle Sounders) and baseball (Seattle Marines).
I remember what my friend once told me: “You know, we´re the only nation in the world who has football and soccer. Your football is our soccer and our football is American football. And the funniest thing about it is that we don´t even use feet in our football.”
For parkour fans I recommend to follow seattlejumps on Instagram and if you ever be here and want to jump text them and they´ll show you all cool places around Seattle!
That´s all I can tell about sports here.
Space Needle or…
… Columbia Center? I´ve heard that the view is the same and it worth it to go there in the evening when you can see all the lights. During the day there is also a big probability that you won´t see anything because of the weather (fog, rain…). Now we have a question: Space Needle or Columbia Center? I´ve heard that the view is nice from both. The difference is the price. A ticket to the Space Needle costs $37,50 (view from 184m) and ticket from the Sky View Observatory Columbia Center costs $20 (285m). So make your own decision…
Tip: certified! Local rumors say that if you go to Columbia Tower and you tell the receptionist that you came to the Starbucks which is on 40th floor they´ll let you go up there. You can get a cheap tea and you get a view for free. But they´re closed during the weekends and I assume that view from Space Needle or Observatory is completely different experience…!
Free walking tour Seattle 101 and Market Experience
When the founders of this project came back from their honeymoon in Europe they decided to start a project Seattle free walking tours. It works on the same principle as in Europe but you have to register in advance. The tours are for free and at the end of the tour it is up to you if you decide to tip the guide or not.
Seatle 101 is a 2hours long walking tour around Downtown. You´ll learn about Victor Steingbueck, discover the Pike Market Place, get tips where to eat for cheap, why it worth it to do an Underground Tour, you´ll get a lot of bar tips and tips for cultural activities, learn about the history of Seattle, discover Pioneer Square where is a replica of Alaska totem and you´ll finish the tour in a port at the Seatlle Great Wheel.
Market Experience is a 1hour long tour in Pike Market Place. During the tour you´ll also get degustation samples of salmon and fruit of local sellers. Yummy!
In Ballard Lock Salmon Viewing you can observe migrating salmons during September. They swim from Alaska down to local rivers to make babies. The peak season of migration is in September. I came here on October 1st and the only salmon I saw was a dead one. So if you want to see them, you need to come earlier. Also the best hours are in the morning or late evening. I don´t know why but that´s what they told us…
Also if you are in Seattle, stop by at Pike Market Place where local salmon sellers make a show “throwing the salmon”. One of the sellers stays at the cashier and another one goes to the crowd of people and they throw a dead salmon to each other for several times. They do this show several times a day, every day. This show and Space Needle are two things you should experience while you´re in Seattle. And salmons and crabs are local traditional food and I recommend you to taste both of them (and I don´t like seafood but those were delicious).
When age is not just a number.
If you want to drive a car in the US, you have to be at least 15,5 years old. If you want to smoke and join the army you can do that in 18 (smoking age varies in different states) and if you want to drink or go to the night club (there are some exceptions) you need to be 21. Same if you want to smoke weed. At the bar entrances there is always somebody (or a bartender) who asks you for your ID and if you´re not 21 yet (or if you forgot ID at home as I did once) they´ll send you home. You can prove yourself with American ID, driving license (that is the most common way) or by passport. The day I forgot my passport at home and I didn´t have American driving license yet, I just had a permission that said that I am allowed to drive in the US but it didn´t help me. Neither a picture of m passport and Slovak ID in my phone and so my evening ended pretty early that night…
Talking about bars in Seattle there is a law that between 2am and 6am nobody can sell any alcohol (not even in bars). In every bar there are special clocks that go few minutes ahead. The reason is that you can order your drinks before 2am. They won´t even sell you alcohol in shops…
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
It is a must-see place in Seattle. You will need about 3-4 hours to see the whole exhibition and there is a lot to admire.
I came here during Indian festival Diwali when the entrance was for free. During the walking tour I got information that local people are focused on education and there is nothing like fixed entrance fee there. If you can´t afford the full price, you will pay as much as you can and they will let you in! That is progressive thinking!
Another interesting museums in Seattle are:
MoPOP – Museum of Pop culture
Museum of glass
Pacific Science Center
As I was being told, Capitol Hill (neighborhood where I lived) is within Seattle the best place for celebrating Halloween. Unfortunately I can´t to compare it with another neighborhoods but check out my gallery and let me know if it seems to be fun or not!
So these are my experiences and memories from Seattle and next time I will text you from… I don´t even know where!
But I hope I won´t have to change the continent yet!